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Free internet access creates £17,000 phone bill


A Florida boy who signed up for free internet access with a company based in Britain, received a phone bill for £17,000 a month later.

His mum and dad received the bill from MCI WorldCom after their children had been placing transatlantic telephone calls to the site that had been offering free access. The firm originally offered to cut the bill to £10,000 but the family found this too much to pay and the firm later agreed to drop the charges altogether.

MCI WorldCom noticed that there were unusual charges from the household and informed the parents of the childrens activities. A spokesperson stated that they were happy to drop the charges as this was an unusual incident and not the fault of the customer.

TrainingZONE says: Your IT Training Editor has been in a similar situation, signing up to use Freeserve's internet access from home, mainly for research purposes in her spare time. It is all too easy to assume that you have reached an agreement with your ISP and find that in fact you are being charged daily telephone rates for using the internet.

Your editor had signed up to Freeserve's £10.00 per month unlimited access which they started offering July last year in conjunction with BT. The direct debits were set up and she had received the little box that automatically dials a three digit telephone number that allows discounted telephone calls, but this does not give the free internet access.

Your editor needed to download the new signup software process from Freeserve's website which she attempted unsuccessfully as a result of failure of the software from the website and contacted the help line which was impossible to get through on and charges 50p per minute. She then sent an e-mail to Freeserve's time enquiries services which they returned a reply stating that they would look into the situation and shortly get back in touch with her, however that reply never came. Assuming that it would still be all right to use as they were aware of the agreement, the editor continued using the service only to find herself landed with a home telephone bill well over £400.

Upon receiving this bill your editor tried in the one day over 20 times to contact customer services and did not manage to get through, then tried e-mailing on three separate occasions and never received a response to any of these e-mails. She also rang the helpline (which charged 50p per minute) and the call was answered immediately. They resolved the software problem, but could not help the editor regarding the telephone bill. Your editor wrote two letters with a deadline date by which she expected a response for each of them.

They did respond but were still not prepared to pay anything towards the telephone charges even though they had accepted the £10.00 per month fee and stated that whilst we do try to make the upgrade as easy as possible, ultimately it is the responsibility of the user to ensure that their PC is dialling the number that we have supplied. Therefore, your editor was told that it was her responsibility and they did not have to offer any re-imbursement. They apologised for the lack of response to your editor's e-mails and they also stated that where your editor had originally made contact with her e-mails was not the appropriate place to send them, however, the one reply e-mail did not highlight this and did not recommend who the editor should have contacted instead. The fact that the e-mail was sent to the wrong department was only mentioned in the response letters received from Freeserve.

Do you have any incidents with unmetered internet access, TrainingZONE would like to hear them.


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