Is Pipex (Tiscali) the Worst ISP in the UK?

On September 16th I received a letter from Pipex telling me that they were going to be moving some account management servers, this move would commence at the end of October (a suitably vague date) and would be completed by November 30th. This letter detailed the changes (they were all administrative so I didn’t care) and threw in some free offers (for stuff I didn’t want so ignored). The letter did not mention any down time whatsoever, so I gave it little attention.

At the end of October my internet connection broke. I ran some diagnostics on my router and could see that the DSL circuit was working and that the router was attempting to contact the Pipex account server and that authentication was failing. It seemed pretty obvious that either there was a fault with the account server or that my credentials had been reset.

I telephoned Pipex support and navigated the telephone menu system until I was put in contact with a non native speaking person based (I’m guessing) in Bangalore. I explained what my problem was and asked if he could check if the account server was indeed down or if my credentials had been reset. Like all such first line support people, this person had had all free will removed from him and was unable to do anything other than walk me through the diagnostic steps outlined in his script. Therefore I spent the next 15 minutes pretending to follow his instructions regarding ensuring that the router was powered up, rebooting it, and checking settings etc. Eventually we got to the point where he told me that either my credentials had been reset or that the account server was down (the fact that I told him that within the first ten seconds of the call seemed to be lost on him) and that he would have an engineer call me the next day.

The next day came and went with no call, a pattern that I was to get used to over the next three weeks. I phoned the support line back and asked for an update on the call. I found it very difficult to make myself understood or to understand what was being said to me as the agent was, once again, a non native English speaker. Now I don’t blame the support person for this, as his English was much better than my Urdu or Punjabi. I do however blame Pipex for this. If you are going to take the upside of moving your support to an area of the world where you benefit from ultra low rates of pay, then you also have to take the hit on the other side of the coin, which is that your UK based customers, calling a UK based company will have to struggle like holiday makers visiting Mongolia to make themselves understood. In short, your customer service will suck!

I finally got the answer that there was a problem that they were aware of, although the support person was unable to tell me what it was, and that it would be fixed by the end of the weekend. The weekend came and went with no fix, I phoned back to be told that it would be fixed within 48 hours; 48 hours came and went with no fix, I phoned back… you get the idea yeah? This went on until I had to leave for TechED EMEA, I’d be gone for a week and surely my connection would be fixed by the time I got back, right?

Wrong! I came back to yet more non connectivity. By now I’ve had enough so I phone the support department yet again and asked for an update. The person explained that he was unable to provide me with an update as the call had now been passed to second line support and they were supposed to update the call with progress but hadn’t bothered and since they hadn’t bothered to update the call then he was unable to give me any update. For an update I’d have to speak to the engineer. Cool I thought and asked for the number. Good grief, I was told, we don’t give out that kind of information! What? The only way I can get an update is to speak to the engineer but you can’t tell me the number to allow me to do that? Correct! Sigh, okay I thought, I’ll play this game, so how do I get to speak to the engineer? It turns out that to speak to the engineer, just to get un update on an outstanding call, you have to make an appointment for him to call you. So I did.

Now it turns out that the purpose of making the appointment is to let the engineer know at what time he must not call no matter what happens! The appointed time comes and goes, as does the rest of the appointed day, with no call. Early the next morning, I can’t remember the time exactly, but I was still in bed, the engineer calls and tells me there is no update to my call other than to tell me I’m still without connectivity (no shit Sherlock!) and that my fault would be fixed within 48 hours (fat chance!).

After breakfast I search (without success) for contact information for Pipex complaints department. Failing to  find anything I call their support desk (by now it’s on frigging speed dial) and ask them for the number and / or email address. I was told there was no such thing but I could make my complaint to him. What?! If I want to complain about you, I have to complain to you?! Yes sir that is correct. I asked if he was serious, he replied that he was and asked if I wanted to make a complaint. I said that I would make one in the next 48 hours, apparently the joke was wasted. Next I asked for an update on my call and went round the “don’t  call us, we’ll call you” loop.

By this time I had no confidence that Pipex were ever going to be competent enough to restore my connection so I asked for a MAC code so I could move to a more reliable supplier, someone like a student running an ISP out of his bedroom for example, and I had resigned myself to the idea that I’d get no more connectivity until such times as I switched.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, I got a call from Pipex asking me to make an appointment for the engineer to call in order to complete the last steps to bring me back online. Woo hoo! I thought great, and told him to phone anytime before Thursday as I was going to be away for the week end. So I’m standing in Heathrow on Thursday morning when the telephone rings and a cheery ethnic chap tells me, good news Mr. Short, he is about to connect me to the internet; bet you’re not thinks I! He tells me that he will wait whilst I power on my PC and he will instruct me on the steps required. I ask if he can hold the line ‘til Monday. Not surprisingly he can’t so we make arrangements for someone to call me back on Monday.

Saturday morning comes, and whilst I’m in a session at DDD, I get a voice mail telling me that the Pipex engineer is sorry that I’ve missed my appointment (WTF!) and I should call him back to make another appointment. I call him back and repeat the arrangements that were already in place.

Sunday afternoon sees myself and the guys travelling back up the road from reading, when I get a call giving me the good news that I am but a few short steps from being reconnected to the Internet and that the same cheery ethnic chappy will hold whilst I power on my PC. I tell him cool, I’m on the M6 so it’ll just take me 6 hours to get there, is that okay? Apparently its not and so we make yet anther arrangement for him to call back on MONDAY!!!

Monday morning and I’m waiting by my desk, I can almost sense the surge of information on the digital highway as it shoots past my house totally invisible and useless to me. The phone goes! It’s the chirpy chappy from Pipex! He tells me after three weeks of work, by some of the brightest minds at Pipex, we have a solution! He asks me to open the settings page on my router and, in the username, change a 3 to a 5 and I’m in!

Needless to say, I now consider Pipex to be a joke and am moving my account. But I truly believe that Pipex are, at the moment at least, the worst ISP in the UK. Unless that is, you know differently…

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9 Responses to Is Pipex (Tiscali) the Worst ISP in the UK?

  1. William says:

    I’d have cancelled the account at the first failed call, how annoying. These remote Call Centres are doing a lot of damage to the image of the host countries. I wonder how long it will be before big business realise the virtue of using local idiots instead.

  2. terry evans says:

    Pipex is the worst company I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. I was cut off in june and my details tranferred to another company for no reason. I have been hounded for payments for a service I do not have. I think they are all non-skilled staf with not a brain between them. They should be taken off the market as soon as possible

  3. Dan says:

    We have had such a load of **** from Pipex, I can totally empathise with this account. However, in all honesty, my sense of humour was quashed so early on that I’ve forgotten where it is now. We were to move address after being Pipex customers for 3 years, during which time they never failed to take our money… One week before moving, Pipex (whom we had informed about the move a month before the pending date) cut off our phone connection. For some reason, they kept the internet connected for a further week. During that week we made countless calls (via our mobile to their premium rate number) to their infamous call centre out in Mongolia where the natives speak barely any English. During these calls we were informed that they could not help us, but would send an email to their ‘moving house’ department detailing our problems. The department in England would then call us. They called twice. Once nobody was home and the second time I was, but not being the account holder, the girl would not speak to me. I asked if she’d call back. No. Could she give me her direct line so a call could be made to her by the account holder? No. Each time we missed their call or days later when we had still had no contact, we had to go back to the premium rate number in Mongolia. This was tiresome and expensive! Finally, after a week we wrote 4 email complaints via the contact option on their website. In these complaints, we clearly stated that as we were paying for a service that we were evidently not getting, we considered that they had broken their contract with us and would no longer require their services when we moved, but would seek alternative arrangements. This was in December 08. We have still not had a reply! However, a week after the phone was disconnected, so was the internet, so now our only means of communication was our mobile phone. And we were still trying to inform people of our moving arrangements. A stressful time (moving house) had just gotten more stressful!
    Once we moved to our new address, which we had given to Pipex as we were expecting to remain with them, we awaited our new BT line, but were informed by BT that they could not connect broadband as there was a tag on our line. After some research (and deduction that would have made Sherlock proud!) we discover it was Pipex. BT confirmed this. We contacted Pipex to request its removal. ‘We do not have a tag on your line’ was the constant reply, no matter which department or the seniority of the personnel. We discovered by talking to Ofcom (who told us they do not get involved with tags) and BT that we needed a MAC code. Could we get this from Pipex? No. There was no tag on our line. Of course there wasn’t! Dim wits! After one month of this and no support from Ofcom, a very helpful guy in BT finally got the tag removed. Yes, it did exist. But apparently, Pipex have IT software that does not allow all Users to see all levels of access and the tag is invisible to most staff!
    Now, a month after resolving the tag issue and getting our broadband connected, no thanks to Pipex. Pipex are threatening to sue us for not paying their last invoice. This invoice first came to us with a deficit of £50, a week later it was revised to £100. No breakdown of costs, nothing. After further efforts to ‘communicate’ with Pipex, we received a breakdown. The cost was for setting us up with their service at our new address (yes, the service we informed them 4 times a week before the move that we did not want!) After speaking to ‘customer relations’ (what a joke), they informed us that they would take off £50 of the bill and compensate us £50, which they would set off against the rest of the bill. Big deal. We owed nothing and so compensation equalled 0. A couple of weeks after this ?resolution, we received a phone call from the debt collectors saying they had been instructed to retrieve the dept and Pipex were willing to take us to court if we did not pay within a week. We have received no letters from Pipex to warn us of this decision or allow us to pay before taking action. Probably because they know what we would say: ‘We do not owe you any monies; your customer relations have confirmed this; your complaints department have acknowledged this…’
    I have not written all the to-ing and throwing we have been through; otherwise I would be here all week and then some. But you get the picture. When will it all end?!

  4. Jordan says:

    Pipex has been great for me. Been on for 5 years and never had downtime. When I Called Them there was an english person on tho phone. Could be a Lie.

  5. Dan says:

    A lie, you think? On what basis do you make such an accusation. Just because your experience differs from that of another does not automatically make theirs a lie. What codswallop! We too were with Pipex for five years, we joined when they were still Homecall – an British company. We never had downtime either. However, once we contacted them with our moving details, they made one mess up after another. Yes, we spoke to English speakers once in a while over the following two months. But never were any of them helpful; they promised us all sorts that have never materialised and left us without a phone connection for two months. We still have not received the back-dated phone bills that we requested more times than I can count – bills we had not received since June 08! I wonder that you are on their payroll… I certaintly hope you never find how wrong you are through the experiences we have had. Just don’t move address, is all I can advice as our service was fine ’till then too.

  6. Vikki says:

    We have also been utterly frustrated by Pipex (now owned Tiscali I understand)when moving house. Same promises to call back within 48 hours (why does it take 2 days every time?) when they often failed to call or called when we could not answer – eg at work. When you call them back they will not put you through to the section you need but say they will call back within 48 hours again. Useless.

    After numerous calls to people who can only read from a script, who can’t answer any questions and who are no help at all generally we were told that they had no record of our move request (dispite us having made it at least 5 times over the previous month and a half!)

    Service was fine until we moved house. i.e. it until they had to actually do something. They are a real disgrace and should be ashamed of hiring such poorly trained workers (at a pittance I assume) and having such poor customer service arrangements. Don’t even know if we need a MAC code as they are not suppling us at the monemt and seem unable to tell us what is going on! AARRGGGGG!

  7. Gee says:

    God knows if anyone will ever read this, but all be thankful you are not in my position now.

    I live in block of flats which has free internet. Well, I say free but the truth is that it is included in my rent. Anyway, the ISP is called Sky-Wire who are meant to be this awesome wireless internet company. The only thing they can do is rig a few servers together with wireless capability to store login information so peers can gain internet access.

    So what does this have to do with Pipex I hear you ask? Pipex are the ISP who provide Sky-Wire with a DSL connection. As a result of this farce, I now struggle to browse the internet, get video on demand and play Counterstrike Source and connect to the Steam network in general.

    Here is where it all goes totally downhill for me…

    The building I live in has all the wired infrastructure in place for a phone line to be used. However, the phone is not connected to the exchange and BT still want £122.50 when all they have to do is connect a couple of wires or flick a couple of switches.

    Unfortunately, the preferred cable option is out of the question for me as Virgin’s cable service is not available in my area, otherwise I would leap at the chance to have a cable connection again. Enquiring with Virgin was a waste of time as they wanted a £102 installation fee.

    So, whilst I do feel for you guys getting crap service from Pipex, feel for me for getting crap servicie from everybody. 😦

  8. Danny Poetra says:

    This blog give me information that i need … tx 🙂

  9. Liz says:

    Another unhappy ex-Pipex customer. A year and a half later and still being pursued by Debt collectors when you apply for credit. they actually owe me money but as the rest of you have experienced trying to get through to someone!! I want my life back without that bad smell which is Pipex, lingering in the background. Only came on here to see if their head quarters still exists as I’m sending a letter registered post and am not willing to waste any more time effort or money on them. Steer clear pay more for another company who respond and have engineers in your area. x

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