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  UPC, David versus Goliath, Customer Support gone wrong 
  Nov 27, 2002, 07:30am EST 
By: Sander Sassen

UPC is one of the largest distributors of cable TV, cable Internet and cable telephony in Europe and especially in the Netherlands, where I reside, they have a very bad rep for their service record, something which I, up until now, only read about in the papers or heard on the news. Granted, I have their deluxe package; Internet access through a cable modem, cable telephony, their Digital TV subscription and naturally they also provide me with my favorite TV channels, thus I might be pushing my luck a little. And I know it sounds as if I’m betting all on one horse here, but for two years everything was fine; speedy internet access, good reception on my TV set and there was nothing wrong with their telephony either and prices were affordable, so why not? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Call it statistics or an evil twist of faith, but something was bound to go wrong when so many people seem to have problems with UPC and I didn’t. Since I got the full package it was probably only a matter of time, or simple statistics, before I too became victim of their illustrious accounting department. I received a rather large invoice last week which simply was the sum of all invoices they forgot to send over the past six months. Although I gave them carte blanche for automatically debiting my bank account every month for the amount I owed them, they simply ‘forgot’ to do that for the past six months. And now all of a sudden they send me this accumulated invoice and specify that I need to pay within a few days or else they’ll cancel all my services and forward the invoice to a collection agency.

For the first few minutes I stared at the invoice in disbelief, wtf? Then I realized that I too have been victimized, even though I went the easy route with the automatic withdrawl, I guess even that didn’t safeguard me for their accounting department going haywire. But I’ve been in worse situations before, as cell phone companies can be rather brutal here in Holland too. So I tried calling them, which I gave up on after being on hold for two hours, then emailed, faxed and sent them a letter by registered mail to explain that they’re contractually obligated to do the automatic withdrawl every month, not every six months and simply can’t expect me to pay up just because their accounting department forgot to do the debit. I proposed to meet them halfway by wiring them a quarter of the total amount due the very same day, and asked them to contact me about an arrangement where I could pay in monthly installments. Furthermore I questioned the validity of some of the amounts on the invoice as I never called anybody in Sweden for more than three hours for example.

A few days later, and still no reply, I got another letter from them saying that my automatic withdrawl for the accumulated amount had failed, that obviously came as no surprise as I cancelled that the moment I got the invoice, what were they thinking!? However the letter also indicated that they’ll cancel my services within two days if I didn’t pay the full amount. I was flabbergasted, haven’t these people received my fax or email? Or does registered mail suddenly also gets tossed aside like another Walmart brochure? At UPC that’s apparently the case as nobody bothered to give me a call, send a reply to my emails or took a moment to check the balance of my past-due account and notice the amount I just wired. Another hour later I hung up the phone, calling them obviously was not going to work, so another email went out the door, accompanied by a fax and yet another letter sent by registered mail, persistence gets the job done, or at least that was what I hoped for.

Two days later I picked up the phone, and heard, nothing. I hung up, and tried again, nothing again. Then it dawned on me, they’ve cancelled my services, although I’ve done all I possibly could, to get them to contact me about the amount overdue. My mission for that day then became very clear; I was heading out to the UPC head office in Amsterdam to get this issue settled once and for all, and I was not about to let them off the hook easily either. Having arrived there it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, apparently UPC has neglected to send a large number of their customers an invoice for the past six months. The line outside their office was about three hours in length and although I very much disliked the fact that I would have to wait for three hours to get this issue dealt with, I joined the line and spent the next three hours looking at people coming from and going into the UPC head office. From the looks upon their faces I was probably in for a long discussion with whomever was about to handle my complaint, or maybe I would have to be escorted out by the security guards, as I saw happen a few times during those three long hours. Not that I didn’t sympathize with the people that lost their temper, if I had a somewhat shorter fuse I too might have gotten verbally abusive with the helpdesk employee. Unfortunately the security guards were quick to remove the people that clearly spoke the mind of many of those waiting in line.

When I finally made it to the front desk I was welcomed with a ‘Hello sir, how may we help you?’ I was about to blurt out ‘Duh? What do you think?’ But kept that private as that probably only would’ve made matters worse. So I explained the situation to the helpdesk employee and after reading all of the faxes I sent he agreed with me that this could’ve been handled so much better by UPC. He then proceeded to tell me that I was eligible for the interest free loan where I could pay the invoice in six monthly installments. I agreed to sign the loan agreement and asked about the wire I sent a few days ago, according to them that wire never arrived. That's rather strange as I brought the bank slip with me indicating that it had been deposited onto their account. Nevertheless they refused to acknowledge that as their illustrious accounting department commented that no such amount has been credited to their account. In order for me to have my services restored I had to pay another fairly large sum of money as a down payment to the monthly installment. Fed up with their total lack of customer service, and lacking the stamina to explain, once more, my situation to the helpdesk employee, as he clearly couldn’t care less, I asked whether that would solve my problem, and get all of my services restored immediately. They guaranteed that after the down payment has been made all of my services would be back in working order.

So this story has a happy end after all right? I made the payment, UPC restored my services and I’m back in business again. Well, not quite! It’s now one day later and I’m still not able to use the phone and again I’ve been unable to reach UPC by calling their customer support number. So guess what? I’ve emailed them again, sent a fax and will probably send another letter by registered mail to be sure, you never know, somebody might actually open it, read the contents and then probably wipe their a** with it. Let me end this by telling you about their slogan, it is ‘Het is te leuk om te stoppen’ in Dutch, which translates to ‘It is too much fun to stop’. Apparently they’re taking that to the extreme and are going off the deep end with their customer service and simply don’t care about customer satisfaction or support at all, and frankly why should they? As they’re virtually impossible to reach anyway. I have however, emailed, faxed, etc. a formal complaint letter stating that they’re in breach of contract for not restoring my services after I upheld my end of the bargain, they’re looking at paying a set amount of money for every day that they do not restore my services to working order. We’ll see what happens, but I think I’d better start looking for alternatives as UPC clearly has not got their act together.

Sander Sassen.


 Last Post 
Re: UPC, David versus Goliath, Customer Support gone wrong Ron Rees 3 replies Sep 22, 2003, 01:07pm EDT
Re: UPC, David versus Goliath, Customer Support gone wrong Greg Havenga 1 replies Nov 28, 2002, 08:26am EST


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