How can they treat customers that way? Part Two

August 8 2007 by Ellen Roseman

Recruiting Animal, a long-time blogger, asked me if I was interested in doing a story about Facebook. The social networking site has disabled people’s accounts without warning if they tried to use it for commercial purposes. Harry Joiner, a recruiter, tried to invite his entire network of 4,600 names to join Facebook and link to him.

“I can see the concern about spam invitations,” says the Animal, “but to withdraw service in an insensitive manner is just plain arrogant.”

My response? Companies do this all the time. They make the rules and enforce the rules and customers have to play along if they want the product or service. Check the emails below from readers whose Internet service was cut off by Rogers because they were using the wrong routers. Again, little or no warning, just punitive action.

Huffington Post, a well-known U.S. blog, picked up the Facebook story this week. And if you check the comments from readers, most are sympathetic to Facebook. But the writer stands by her argument, which I think has merit, that Harry deserved a warning.

16 comments

  1. Bob P

    Aug 8 2007

    In April, I decided to buy a laptop and bought one from the MDG store in Mississauga. The actual computer is fine, but it is the router that they sold me that is the story, a Belkin 2.4ghz wireless router.

    When they offered me free Internet, I told them that I was connected with Rogers High Speed. I had never used a router, knew nothing about them, so I bought the Belkin router, came home, hooked it up and for the first few days, enjoyed the mobility of using my new laptop anywhere in the house.

    Then one morning, I was surfing the Net. Suddenly, I was not surfing the Net. The connection seemed to be down. I went to my computer room and noticed the power light on my computer modem was flashing. I called Rogers tech support. They immediately patched me through to security. The security division explained that the particular router that I had purchased was sending too many requests to the modem and Rogers had disabled the modem.

    They provided me with a link to Belkin, which Rogers claimed would resolve the issue with a firmware update. I tried to update the firmware, but got nowhere. Rogers agreed to turn my modem on again. Rogers claims — and I don’t remember this warning — that if the router continued to send too many requests to the modem, they would suspend my service for a longer period of time.

    A few days after I had my modem disabled by Rogers, they suspended my Internet for one week. I tried to reason with them, but they claimed that I had been warned and that this was a penalty for using a router that interfered with their system. I am not a techie type person, so I might have some of this wrong. Anyway, I spent countless hours on the phone with Rogers, but to no avail. They held their ground.

    I would like some help getting some compensation for the one-week Internet suspension. Rogers charges their customers for the suspension, so you pay even though you are not connected to the Internet.

    I consulted a couple of knowledgeable computer people and they advised me to cut my losses and buy another brand of modem that would work with Rogers. I called Rogers back and asked them which brand of router would not give me any problems. One of their personnel was very helpful and I have not had any problems since — with my Internet connection.

    I decided that now that I had a new router I didn’t need the one from Belkin, so I took it back to the store. They refused to give me my money back, but offered me a set of speakers, which I do not need. I didn’t have a lot of choice here. I took the speakers, although I am really not satisfied with all of this.

    Thanks to you, I received an email from the Vice-President of Communications at Rogers apologizing for the inconvenience. Rogers said that although my problem wasn’t really with them, they would give me a $25 credit.

    I didn’t like the way I was treated (hostile, as if I had committed some kind of crime), but I understood Rogers’ position that they cannot support a host of routers and third party peripherals that adversely affect a customer’s connection. Still, I think they could be more gracious and understanding when someone, through sheer ignorance, runs afoul of their rules and regulations.

  2. BL

    Aug 8 2007

    I subscribe to Rogers High-Speed Internet and have been provided with a modem from Rogers. I also own a Motorola wireless router, which I use to access the net from my laptop.

    On June 24, I got a recorded message from Rogers advising me that the internet connection was temporarily suspended owing to some security issues. When I called back Rogers, they described the problem caused by my wireless router on the lines described below. At my request, they reinstated the internet connection and I got in touch with Motorola, who did some troubleshooting and suggested reverting to original factory settings. Everything seemed to work fine for the rest of the day.

    Next day at 10 a.m., I got another message from Rogers. This time, I was told that my internet connection has been suspended for one week because I had violated the end user agreement. This happened because my router was flooding their server with IP requests. I once again contacted Motorola, which provided me with a firmware upgrade and suggested that I should contact Rogers and get them to check if the problem persisted.

    To my utter shock and disbelief, upon contacting Rogers, I was rudely told by their technical support team member that Rogers was not an IT testing company and that their suspension was final. No one in Rogers could make them change their decision. If I wanted to, I could cancel my services. I explained that the problem had to do with the router hardware over which I simply have no control.

    The level of arrogance at Rogers is truly unbelievable. I could not believe my ears the things that I heard from them. They made me feel like I was a criminal or something causing a security risk for Rogers. During the time the service was suspended summarily, I was in the midst of a personal medical emergency concerning my daughter – I pleaded with Rogers team even at the office of the president, but to no avail.

    They resumed their services after 7 days and 7 hours. I protested that they could not keep the services suspended for longer than 7 days. They said that they would resume the services only at 5 pm, after extracting an assurance from me that such occurences would not be repeated.

    My questions that remain unanswered are:

    1. How does Rogers expect customers to control a problem that is beyond their capacity? Granted that it is hardware owned by me, but should they not give me sufficient time to fix the problem?

    2. What is the purpose of one-week suspension – when there is no means of verifying if the problem has been resolved or not?

    3. Should Rogers not have the techncial capability to meet these kind of challenges – obviously such situations are not uncommon?

    4. What recourse does a subscriber have to an internet service provider in these kind of situations?

  3. MP

    Aug 8 2007

    I have been with Rogers for over 7 years (I’m 28) and have been satisfied with their service — until this year.

    After getting an email and a pre-recorded voicemail regarding a possible virus that could have been caused by a faulty router sometime in January, I called Rogers Tech Support. I was told that I had to upgrade my router’s firmware and that I would be monitored for a week or so. If I complied with the Terms of Service (re: multiple DHCP requests), I would not lose my account.

    After a week of normal use and no further threats from Rogers, I assume everything was okay. But it happened again in April, except this time after receiving a pre-recorded voice mail (no email to my rogers.com email account), my service was disconnected. I was told I would have to wait 7 days to have it reconnected, provided I could prove the same DHCP problem wouldn’t happen again.

    I told them I had gotten the latest firmware (as requested by Rogers Tech Support) and had done a full virus scan (with the virus tool that Rogers provided). But alas, my pleading fell on deaf ears and my service remained cancelled.

    I switched to High Speed cable Internet offered by 3Web and was very pleased. However, a month after switching, I received another voice mail regarding the same DHCP error, even though I am no longer a customer of Rogers High Speed Internet. I called Rogers to complain. The gentleman I spoke to was very apologetic and very pleasant on the phone.

    I am also a client of Rogers Home Phone after it was bought from Sprint. I was asked in a letter to switch my existing service provided over a phone line to one that works over Rogers’ cable service. After agreeing to switch, the lady had told me that Rogers will need to do some service at my house to facilitate the switch and I had an appointment lined up. The appointment was rescheduled the night before, after I had asked my sister to come home from work early to show the technician around. The rescheduled appointment was also rescheduled twice more and each time it was done the day before and we were told of it via a voice mail and no attempt was made to speak to me in person regarding another appointment. I was an early client of Sprint due to its competitive pricing, but now I’m beginning to rethink my decision.

  4. PW

    Aug 8 2007

    A few weeks ago, I got an email from Rogers telling me that my router was generating an excessive number of DHCP messages. They attached an extract of those messages. They informed me that I had approximately 48 hours to fix this problem or they would disconnect my service.

    I called their support number and asked a service technician if I could get some more information (such as how long it had been happening or how frequently) to help me identify the cause of this problem. All he would say is that the network security group identifies customers with this problem but Level 1 support staff have no additional information and that it probably was a firmware problem with my router. However, my router has the most current firmware available and my computer is a Mac so it is unlikely (not impossible) to have a virus.

    They refused to give me any feedback about the results of any changes I might make. I’m reasonably technical but as far as I know there is no way that I could determine that these DHCP messages were being sent. It seemed that the only way I would know was if they disconnected my service again. They told me that my options were to upgrade the firmware or replace my router. I did not want to replace a perfectly good router without some assurance that a new router would not have the same problem. (I had asked them if they knew which routers were OK but they did not have any suggestions.)

    Three days later, my service was disconnected. After I called their technical support department, the technician asked me what I had done. I told him that I had checked that the firmware was the most current version and I had reset the router. He said that he would reconnect the service. He did not make any other suggestions. He did read me some “script” but his English was not clear, so it was hard to hear. I gather that it did contain some “warning” about what might happen if the situation was not resolved but I came away from the call under the impression that they understood that I had done my best and were satisfied with that.

    Approximately 24 hours later, my service was disconnected again. Once again I called them and was informed that because this was my third warning, this time my service would be disconnected for seven days. There was absolutely nothing that I could do to change this. I asked to speak to a manager and was told there was no manager in the security department. I asked to speak to any other manager and was told that I could leave my request and I would be called back within 48 hours.

    At this point, I decided that there was no solution other than to switch to another service which I have since done.

    A later conversation with a customer service representative revealed that this problem had only surfaced a few days before they issued their first warning. But this representative also could do nothing to restore our service.

    Like one of your correspondents, I was told I would have to pay a $30 cancellation fee because I had agreed to a two-year contract. I had no recollection of ever agreeing to such a contract and when I disputed this I was told that since they had no record of my agreeing they would not charge me the fee.

    In my experience, Rogers has some of the worst service I have had the misfortune to deal with. Unfortunately, they are in a near monopoly situation so they do not have to treat their customers with respect.

  5. Last Minute Guy

    Aug 9 2007

    Wow – and I thought I was miserable using Sympatico! I feel sorry for you Rogers clients.

    Regarding Facebook – I think Harry should have at least received a warning. I left a longer explanation with my reasoning as a comment on the other blog you mention.

    I had almost the same experience with Upcoming.org (owned by Yahoo!) The difference was that I DID have permission to use the service for commercial purposes. I even spent money having a developer create a application that allowed me to upload our last minute training seminar deals automatically to the service. It was working great and then one day ‘poof’ our listing disappeared. With no warning at all. When I inquired I was told that an Upcoming user had complained that I was posting to many events and flooding the RSS feed.

    I didn’t seem to matter that we were getting more than 400 inquiries a month from Upcoming users, one or two complaints was all it took.

    And it also didn’t seem to matter that the actual events that caused the problems were ‘free’ events that we had posted as a favor for someone else. When we did it we thought we were adding value to the Upcoming community.

    To be fair, Upcoming was very polite and they did tell us that if we removed all the free events and limited the number of new events they would think about reinstating our account.

    But really, would it have hurt to have sent an email first inquiring, or at least letting me know, instead of just shutting down my account?

    It’s only good common customer service sense.

    But we the consumers are at fault, by believing that we are only one customer and our business doesn’t mean anything we are creating our own self fulfilling prophecy. We need to start standing up for ourselves and our economic power.

  6. BG

    Aug 10 2007

    I’ve had two experiences with car rental agencies that made me question whether they were making honest mistakes or trying to pull a scam on me.

    Last September, I had a car rental problem while driving in Newfoundland. I didn’t check the outgoing odometer reading when I took the vehicle and was on a limited mileage contract. I failed to check the odometer when I took the car (my bad) and chalked up the experience to an expensive yet valuble lesson.

    Fast forward to Aug 9, 2007. I rented a car at the Avis located at Sheppard Centre. On the phone, I asked for a subcompact for a 24-hour rental. The agent quoted me a daily rate of $60 for unlimited kms. I arrived to pick up the vehicle and initialed the contract, but the agent did not point out that the contract called for 20 cents per km.

    When I went to the garage to get the vehicle, the attendant told me I was on a limited kms contract, but did not show me the odometer reading. I told the attendant I’d asked for unlimited kms. He said the company had recently departed from the usual standard of unlimited kms and had begun going back to charging per km.

    I told the attendant I would not take the car unless the contract was changed. I went back to the office and had the contract changed to unlimited kms. Interestingly, even though the agent remembered taking the order from me, he denied saying he offered unlimited kms. However, he changed the contract and honoured the price of $60 a day (plus extra for insurance).

    Now, here’s the kicker. The actual odometer reading on the car was 5,023 kms. But the outgoing odometer reading on the contract was 1,647 km! In other words, if I hadn’t caught the error, I might have been charged $675.20 for the difference.

    Of course, it would have been absurd to suggest I could drive more than 3,300 km in the 24 hours before I returned the car. However, I would not have had a leg to stand on had I not caught the error.

    I can’t be the only one to have had this experience.

  7. Joren

    Aug 11 2007

    Thanks for the heads up about Rogers. Geez, what’s a customer plotting an escape from Bell supposed to do?

    There’s money to be made for someone willing to start a company and actually offer customer service at reasonable prices. Cogeco can’t help as they say Toronto is “run by Rogers”

    After more problems with Bell Shitpatico this week, rude staff, Indian tech support that didn’t know what I was talking about and 2 days without Internet service – I’m history. Cancelled my service for Internet and cable. Will be cancelling my home phone once I move and get settled in.

  8. Alain

    Aug 23 2007

    American Express: Enjoy the Benefits…

    I have just sent a complaint to American Express. For months I have been unable to get customer service (in India) to understand the problem (error in my address) and I was no more successful in contacting American Express HQ in Ontario.

    It’s very simple: I live in a condo building with 200 units. Therefore, Canada Post should be helped as much as possible to have a correct address on the mail.

    Our PH2 became Suite 2, which of course does not exist, so the Canada Post person has to figure out where it goes. Many phone calls from us pointed to Penthouse 2, but no one knows where the error is coming from and no one can help.

    Today, I received a new mailing from AMEX and get this. I now live at PANT HOUSE 2.

    You’ve got to publish this joke. Can you imagine if there was a problem with the account????

  9. mcsteve

    Oct 18 2007

    My problem starts on October 18, 2007 at approx 9am.

    I purchased an Epson printer (Model CX5400) in December of 2004. It is one of the “All in One” printers with a scanner, copier and ink jet printer. I have maintained it well and even took the time to register it when it was purchased. It has served me well as a printer and I have only ever used the OEM ink cartridges. I believe in supporting the manufacturer as they sell the printers at low (and sometimes negative) margins to make their profit on the ink, just like the razor blade companies.

    After returning from a trip this week, I discovered an error on my printer – “Scanner Error”. The printer still worked but the scanner would not. I proceeded to look up the support on Epson’s web site and followed the instructions provided. Had this led me to a message that told me to take it to a service center, or perhaps provided a listing of service centers, I would have probably just chalked it up as time for a new printer or dropped it off for an estimate. I paid about $300 for the printer but comparable models are now available for about $100. Sadly, that is not what happened.

    After walking through some basic instructions on the Epson web site, I was prompted to contact an Epson technical support representative to resolve this problem. I recorded my model number and serial number as requested by the web site and proceeded to contact the number provided (905-709-3839). After answering questions to identify my name, address, phone number and email, the gentleman (Rex) began to ask a series of questions that were remarkably identical to the trouble shooting I had answered on the web site.
    This I had expected to ensure that I had actually done what they had asked, but I did not expect to be asked some rather unrelated questions such as “have you tried another power outlet?”. At the end of the questions, when I expected the actual troubleshooting would begin (8min into the call) I was told I should bring the printer to a service center.

    Although the tech people may not actually be tech people (I confirmed this after waiting on hold for slightly more than 8 minutes to speak with a manager “Leticia”), I did expect at least some level of additional troubleshooting of my issue. I was also very annoyed and put out by the fact that Epson has used this technique to gather my personal information and not to actually help resolve my issue. I could have very easily been provided a list of service centers by the web site and not spent almost 20 minutes of my time on a long distance call during business hours to simply be told nothing additional. Leticia did point out, however, that Rex had provided additional support information by referring me to a service center. Not worth the 20 minutes and the sacrifice of my personal information to an overseas call center.

  10. Ellen Roseman

    Oct 25 2007

    Here’s a great letter from a reader about getting “slammed” three times by three different companies (switched without knowing she had switched).

    ——————————————————————————————————————–
    In the past few years, I have had THREE of MY utilities/services accounts pirated by brokers or rival companies….without either my consent or my knowledge. Luckily, I have been able to reverse these, but not without a lot of scrambling, letters, and phone calls…..and use of MY time!

    It appears that as a consumer…I have absolutely NO protection, either by the Provincial or Federal Government, as all laws pertaining to this seem to only protect the pirates!

    A synopsis of the theft of my three accounts is related below: (Please note that I am the SOLE account holder for all three of these services.)

    In 2005, a situation involving my telephone service which I have been told by the telephone company occurred because of rules initiated by the CRTC. That year, a member of my household, while on a visit to Toronto, was approached in the Toronto airport, by a company called Primus. Not understanding the full implications, the member of my household was attracted by the promise of “free air miles”, and apparently signed ME up to have Primus be MY long distance provider.

    Primus…WITHOUT MY CONSENT, or KNOWLEDGE….then notified my telephone company…who…WITHOUT EVER contacting me for varification, discontinued my long distance service. The first I was aware of this was several days later, when I tried to make a long distance call…..and no longer had long distance service. A call to my telephone company, as well as questioning the member of my household who was duped by Primus….and forgot to inform me…..my service was restored.

    When I questioned my telephone company as to how they could discontinue my service…WITHOUT my authorization….they advised me that CRTC rules do NOT allow them to contact their customer to varify the change in service…..if they receive notification from Primus, they are required to make the change forthwith!

    And now in 2007, I have had BOTH MY hydro and gas accounts at another home I own, taken over….without either my consent or knowledge by two different brokers.

    My brother and I co-own our family home in Fort Frances, Ontario. All service accounts (hydro, gas etc) are in my name only. Our elderly uncle resides in the home, as neither of us live in Fort Frances at this time.

    On January 19, 2007, a letter was sent to me from the Fort Frances Power Corp. stating “as a result of your recent enrolment with an electricity retailer and closing the above-noted Fort Frances Power Corp. standard supply service electricity retail account(s)……….”. To say that I was both shocked and annoyed is an understatement.

    I contacted my uncle, who indicated that sometime last year (he thought it was in November), people came to the house and he thought he was signing only to have the hydro bill reduced. It turns out that this occurred several months earlier, and was in fact, a ploy to have us change hydro retailers.

    I then contacted the Fort Frances Power Corp., who advised that when they receive a notice from a hydro retailer, cancelling an account, the law requires that they do so…..without question.

    I then contacted the Ontario Energy Savings Corp. and demanded that this account be returned immediately to the Fort Frances Power Corp., and questioned the ethics and legality of their apparent business practises, which looks to me to be bordering on piracy. Their response was to state that they had no control over how their representatives in the communities conducted their business, and tried to distance themselves from the sales pitches being used in the communities. However, they did agree to have the account returned to the Fort Frances Power Corp. and stated it would take 1 or 2 billing cycles before the change occurs.

    And then this past month, I received a notification from an outfit called Direct Energy wanting me to RENEW my contract for natural gas. As far as I knew, my account was with Union Gas. I contacted Union Gas….only to learn that my elderly uncle had been duped 10 years earlier….and in 1997 had switched MY account…again without knowledge to Direct Energy. This was made even more confusing when …you guessed it…good old Ontario Energy Savings knocked on his door on August 11, 2007 and he signed a “contract” to have them take over MY gas service. So now we have one pirate trying to steal MY ACCOUNT from another pirate….and all along, I thought I had an account with Union Gas!

    It’s interesting…and VERY misleading….that the gas bill is still a Union Gas bill…with the same account number….but only on the back of the bill … in much smaller print….does it indicate that the pirates have taken over and are adding a few little charges of their own to the account.

    And so once again, I have had to spend considerable time and effort trying to find out what has happened….and to get MY account out of the clutches of the pirates…and back with a reputable company.

    My questions to the elected representatives of this Province and Country are:

    1. What kind of consumer protection exists, if the laws allow one company to take over a consumer’s account from another company….without the written consent of the account holder?

    2. Why can’t companies such as the Thunder Bay Telephone Co., Fort Frances Power Corp. or Union Gas demand written consent to cancel an account….from the account holder….and not have to automatically comply with the demands of a rival company? Such laws or obvious holes in the laws, not only allow, but they invite such shady business dealings, and acts of piracy.

    3. I see from the Web that neither Ontario Energy Savings Corp. nor Direct Energy are strangers to charges of unethical business practices and have been fined in the past (the parent company of Direct Energy has even been thrown out of the State of Georgia, USA)…..so why are they still in business?

  11. Elizabeth

    Jan 23 2008

    Rogers has a static IP address and Bell Canada has a dynamic IP. Since Rogers is static, if a virus gets in there, no way it can come out.

    A static IP address is a number (in the form of a dotted quad) that is assigned to a computer by an Internet service provider (ISP) to be its permanent address on the Internet. Computers use IP addresses to locate and talk to each other on the Internet, much the same way people use phone numbers to locate and talk to one another on the telephone. When you want to visit whatis.com, your computer asks a domain name system (DNS) server (think telephone information operator) for the correct dotted quad number (think phone number) for whatis.com and your computer uses the answer it receives to connect to the whatis.com server.

  12. Zhi Y.

    Sep 28 2008

    On Sept. 27th, I was at Best Buy (Dundas & Bay) to purchase the Sharp Aquos 1080p 52″ (LC52D64U) along with the current promotion of the $250 credit for trade-in on an old TV. I have noticed that both Future Shop and Audio/Video 2001 have LC52D64U for $1,699 and $1,688, respectively.

    I have attempted a price match, a TV representive (Chez) accepted the price match, but declined to honor the TV trade-in for $250 credit, claiming they are two promotions (TV trade-in and price match).

    I politely stated that a price guarantee is a store policy, not a promotion. Chez continued to refuse, then checked his system and said that they don’t have LC52D64U in stock. I replied that is okay and I don’t mind waiting.

    Then I pointed out that in its flyer, Best Buy has an in-stock policy that guarantees stock availability or a further credit of $50 and free shipping. Chez responded that he could offer free shipping but not the $50 credit. I asked why. Chez was not able to give me a satisfactory response and came back with a manger (Rahul).

    Rahul started off by asking me, “Why don’t you buy it from Audio/Video 2001?” I was shocked at his attitude and the way he questioned a customer. Still, I politely replied that the location is convenient and I have liked the service from Best Buy. I asked Rahul if the Best Buy policy and promotion will be honored. Rahul rudely replied that he doesn’t need to honor anything. He stated that it is not a law and I can take it or leave it.

    I understand the store has the power to make the final decision, but I don’t understand why it would set a policy that if it is not going to be honored. Maybe I have such a high expectation for Best Buy. If that is the case, then my apology.

    The same night, I called Best Buy to ask if the promotion (TV trade-in) excluded the price guarantee. Sammy was very friendly and patiently serviced my order. Although I didn’t get the trade-in discount, because Sammy told me it is in-store only, I still found the service from Sammy was so much pleasant then I had experienced at the store.

  13. San Diego sex crimes lawyer

    Jul 1 2009

    I agree harry should have at least received a warning. But I cant agree with the majority in that Facebook was wrong. They can delete whatever account they like and should not feel the need to explain this.

  14. scrabble help

    Aug 14 2010

    That’s the danger of such company.. they can do what they want at any time…

  15. Coach Dog

    Apr 18 2011

    Great post, Ellen. Although you wrote this a while ago, I know several people who were recently affected by having their accounts closed and permanently banned for supposedly using Fbook for commercial purposes. I guess in 4 years, nothing has changed. :(

  16. bbq smokers

    May 27 2011

    Thanks for writing on this, Ellen. This is the kind of thing we all see every day on Facebook and to be singled out without even being given a warning is just mad.

    Big companies like Facebook really need to ease their grip on power and not just treat every situation in black and white.

    Even if what this person was doing is breaking the rules, they should have at least got some kind of warning before being banned. Maybe they didn’t even know that what they were doing was wrong.

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