Metronet and PlusNet customer service

This is a cautionary customer-service tale about the UK ISP Metronet; that company’s owned by PlusNet, who I therefore assume are bad in precisely the same ways.

My parents currently use Metronet as their ISP; that’s because I was a Metronet customer at the time they got an internet connection, and was happy with the service. I stopped using Metronet when they changed their pricing plans in a way that made it clear my custom wasn’t important to them; but my parents’ usage was still reasonably well served by Metronet, and keeping them on Metronet was by far the easiest option.

However, my parents are moving house shortly, and I want to take the opportunity to switch them to a different ISP. I had to fight with their suboptimal customer-service website for a little, trying to find a “cancel my account” button. Eventually, a series of lucky guesses led me to a “contact us” form which allowed me to request account cancellation.

Of course, that form encouraged me to tell them why I wanted to cancel. Frankly, I have much better things to do with my life than discuss this sort of issue with anyone’s retention department, so I kept it as generic as possible: “no longer required”. I specified the date I wanted the service to cease, and submitted the form.

A day later, they emailed me saying

I tried to call you today to discuss your cancellation request, however you weren’t available.

We will try and contact you again, however if you wish to discuss this issue further please feel free to give us a call on redacted, or you can reply to this ticket.

As a much valued customer is there anything that we can do to keep your custom or any issues we can resolve quickly for you?

There were already two problems here. First, they had not attempted to call me; they may have attempted to call the phone line which has the ADSL service, but that’s not the contact number I’d given them. Secondly, they were clearly already trying to put me through the retention process — something I’m very resistant to.

These problems were clearly minor, but I found it a source of concern that they weren’t just doing what I’d asked.

So, I replied to the ticket:

I do not wish to discuss my reasons for cancelling this account. Please could you just cancel the account, and all services associated with it, with effect from Monday 7th April, as I have requested. Thanks.

The reply I got really made my blood boil:

As we have not been able to make contact with you, we cannot place a cease because there are outstanding charges on your account. We need your authorisation to take the final payment which is: redacted.

Please contact us on redacted or reply to this ticket to cancel your account. If you no longer wish to cancel then you don’t need to respond as we’ll continue to bill you normally.

Please ensure that your debit/credit card details are up to date on the account so that the payment can be taken. We are unable to take one off fees such as these from direct debit.

This ticket will be closed in 14 days time if you do not reply or contact our support team.

To summarise:

  • They’re still claiming to be trying and failing to contact me, despite having never tried to call my contact phone number
  • I’ve never paid by direct debit; that’s a complete red herring
  • They have my credit-card details on file (and indeed, automated billing had successfully taken payment from that card only a couple of days beforehand)
  • They already have a mandate to collect payments from that credit card
  • Their default position is to assume that I’ve changed my mind about cancelling, despite the fact that I’ve already asked them twice to just cancel the account

This gave me the distinct impression of a bad-faith attempt to retain me as a customer, against my express wishes, by making it so hard to cancel that I’d give up and allow them to continue to bill me for services I don’t use.

It’s possible I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just that they made a series of small mistakes in handling this specific request, and normally they react quickly and professionally when customers ask to cancel. But the thing I find particularly damning is that they’re apparently happy to use my stored credit card to take regular payments, but not to use it to take final payments for closing the account. To what extent is that the behaviour of an honest company?

This warning should be taken with the same pinch of salt you’d use with any such rant — it is after all a single anecdote, rather than a careful study. But I feel compelled to issue the warning anyway: Metronet managed to convince me that their customer service is bad, and quite possibly dishonest.

Update, 27 March: It’s been pointed out to me that BT own PlusNet. I don’t think that substantively changes my point, but, hey, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Furthermore, I’m not the only person to have observed that Metronet make cancellation hard.