Telephone warning for start-ups and all small businesses

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When we start our shiny new businesses we are eager to get all the basic services in place, and these days that includes our telephone and broadband services.

Read the small print

It is tempting to choose the best price over recommendations from others. After all, cash flow is important. What you need to know is that the telecoms giants may expect you to agree a contract for twelve months or longer. You might say that is fair enough. After all, most business customers would expect to be tied for a reasonable term to make it worthwhile. Make sure you don’t find yourself or your business being billed for a penalty charge when you give notice that you wish to change provider.

Unfair competition

You may find that your business is supposedly on a twelve month rolling contract, which probably means that you have to give twelve months notice of termination, especially if you are within the first two years or so of your contract. If you don’t, the telecoms company will expect to make a penalty charge for taking your services away. Yet how can you give twelve months’ notice in the expectation of shopping around in nearly a year’s time? Would you not worry about continuation of service? A loss of service is every business’s nightmare.

Hope on the horizon

Fortunately, the rules may be about to change. The UK regulator, OFCOM, stated via press release on 3rd March this year:

“Ofcom is concerned that rollover contracts make it harder for customers to switch providers and consequently reduce the benefits of competitive choice.
For individual customers, this can mean that switching is made unattractive as the costs involved are unexpectedly high.

For the market generally, it means less competition as it is harder for competing providers to attract customers on rollover contracts and therefore their ability and incentive to create lower cost and higher quality services is reduced.

Ofcom is proposing to amend its existing rules in relation to contract terms to prohibit opt-out contract renewals in any form in the land-line and broadband sectors.”

Caveat emptor

The messages to take are:

  • Be very careful of the conditions of any contract with a telecoms provider.
  • Complain to OFTEL if you find yourself in a rolling contract with a penalty clause if you don’t give a long period of notice.
  • As with all purchases, take care. Buyer beware!

I would be very interested to know if you have had this sort of problem with a telecoms company and how you managed to resolve it. Is this a problem in countries other than the UK?

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Cut off from the world

We have been travelling recently and within the past week unexpectedly I have been completely cut off from any broadband or internet connection. As I run several small businesses, at first I felt complete withdrawal symptoms.

It is strange not being in touch with the world of business, and yet I guess had I been in business for myself fifteen or twenty years ago I would have thought nothing of it or at least would simply have relied on the phone to stay in touch. Now of course we are accustomed to having a continuous stream of information 24/7 if we want it.

Having re-established connection with the world, of course nothing is awry. It shouldn’t be, because I have arrangements to make sure that all important matters are dealt with in my absence, my phones are answered and there is really nothing that should go wrong.

I will be away for a while yet. I don’t need to worry about business, because although it doesn’t actually take care of itself, I have provided for it to be taken care of.

It really is important to take a step back and relax sometimes. I knew that already, but am pleased to have had the timely reminder. Have a good holiday now if it is your vacation time, or have one when you have time off. Make sure you do have time off, though, because you will be better for it.

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