Dealing with an ISP dispute

Tips & Hints

Disputes with Internet and phone providers can be frustrating and complex.

Posted 30 July, 2004

Computers are complex and probably the most complex area is the Internet. Because of this, it's quite common to find yourself in a dispute with your ISP. Dealing with these problems can be complex as well.

The most common diputes are about excessive bills. Complaints about slow or unreliable connections are frequent as well. Increasingly, we're hearing of people finding their service cut off because the ISP has decided the customer has been involved in illegal file sharing, spamming or has a virus infection.

The problem is that many Internet providers are quick to act without informing the customer. Most of them are quick to assume that the customer is always wrong. To make it worse, many ISPs systems seem to be designed to make it difficult to resolve problems.

While it can be difficult to settle a problem with an Internet provider, there are ways to make it easier. We've put together a list of how to get some results when dealing with a problem. The aim is to get the dispute resolved with the provider as quickly as possible so that you can get on with surfing the net.

Call them.

The first step when you realise you have a problem is to call them. This is the quickest and easiest way to resolve things. If you can solve the problem at this point, you will save a lot of time, money and frustration.

When dealing with any call centre, there are a few important things to remember. You must remain polite, you must never make threats and you should note everything. A lot of this is easier said than done.

Take notes

From the first call, you must take notes. Every time you speak to them you must note the date and time you have made the call, the time they answered, the name of the person you spoke to, what you discussed, what was agreed (if anything) and the time the call ended. Any important discussions should be confirmed in writing.

Be Polite

At every stage of the process you must stay cool and polite. Do not lose your temper and do not abuse people. If you find the person you are dealing with is rude, provocative, or find your blood pressure rising then politely finish the conversation and call back later later.

Don’t Make Threats

Making threats will hurt your argument and draw the process out . Threatening people only makes their attitude harder or locks them into a position where they cannot negotiate with you. Suing the ISP, complaining to the TIO, going to the media or calling consumer affairs are all options but the aim is to settle the matter quickly and amicably.

If you make physical threats against the operators or the company then forget settling the matter. You have lost and probably didn't have much of a case. Don't even joke about these sort of actions when you speak to the ISPs representatives.

Do it in writing

It is important to confirm everything in writing. All too often people believe that a matter has been settled only to find it is still a problem months or years later. Follow up any important conversations with a letter confirming the details including the time, date and person you discussed the issue with.

This is very important if you have reached an agreement settling the dispute. Write a letter confirming the details and the agreement. It must be sent it by registered post to the ISP, any faxes or emails should be followed up by a letter.

Any emails about the matter should be printed out. Despite the claims of a paperless world, the only thing that really matters is on paper. Make sure you keep the full story in writing.

Follow the ISPs complaint procedure.

If dealing with the dispute informally through the ISPs support and billing departments, you may need to start a formal complaint within the ISPs internal complaints or appeals procedures. For smaller ISPs there may not be any formal procedures. A letter to the senior management may be necessary to get the right person to respond.

Contact the ISPs management

If the ISP doesn't have a formal dispute procedure, or if it doesn't respond, forward your complaints with all the supporting documentation to the directors and CEO of the company concerned. Generally directors and senior managers hate this and will make their displeasure known to the people responsible within their organisation. Again, be polite and respectful, make no threats and express your desire to settle the matter.

Pay the bill

Some ISPs will call in the debt collectors at an early stage. This complicates the matter and can also affect your credit record. If it appears that may happen it may be a good idea to pay any disputed amounts and then continue arguing about the facts of the dispute.

If you have direct debits with the ISP it may be necessary to stop these to avoid further disputed debits to your account. Do this in writing to the both the isp and your bank with a cover letter informing them the direct debit has stopped. If you do this, make sure you are within your contract and you have a backup Internet service as the ISP will almost certainly stop your service immediately.

Complain to the TIO

If you are still unhappy, complain to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Make sure you send them copies of all correspondence, the original bill or notification, any contracts and a summary of the calls you have made to the ISP.

Further complaints

Despite all of the above, it's still possible not to have resolved the problem with an ISP. The next step is to complain to your state consumer affairs department or the ACCC. You can also seek advice from your solicitor or local community legal centre.

The aim with any dispute is to settle it quickly and amicably. The important thing is to contact your provider quickly if you have a problem. Internet providers be difficult to deal with but with a combination of patience, persistence, good record keeping and a cool temper, it can be done.

PC Rescue Pty Ltd, Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Phone 0415 967 017
ACN 082 635 765
ŠPC Rescue Pty Ltd, 2004
PC Rescue Pty Ltd, Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 36 082 635 765
ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2008