Thursday, 23 April 2015

Trying to do the right thing

These new migration rules for broadband are a bloody nightmare. We have already had to contact customers for explicit consent to email the notices (thanks to all of those that have confirmed so far). But the next challenge I am facing is the contents of that Notice of Transfer.

One of the things we have to include is details of the amount of the Early Termination Charge due at the expected Migration Date.

This may sound simple, but it is far from it. I'll explain some of my problems here, and what I am thinking of doing.

30 days notice

Our units based tariffs operate on a simple 30 days notice basis. This is simple as the current system of migration code (MAC) is valid for 30 days, so asking for one is giving us 30 days notice and we invoice (or credit) so you are paying up to 30 days time when you request the MAC.

With the new system the first we hear is when we get a notice of transfer, which has a 10 day lead time. Now. if we stick to 30 days notice, does that mean there is a 20 day "early termination charge"? Well no - it is not an early termination charge is it? It applies after one month or after 10 years of service, it is not a charge for terminating "early" in any way.

But we also run in to an issue that someone could "give us notice" on the 1st that they will be migrating at the end of the month, and then start a migrate on 20th (with 10 days lead time) and rightly expect not to pay any extra as they gave notice 30 days before. We are simply not geared up for that, so I expect we will change the logic so there is no "30 days notice" any more, and just a final bill adjusting to the termination date. We may make the units tariff have a 1 month min term in that case.

Minimum term services

This should, surely be simple? We have Home::1 with 6 months minimum term, Office::1 and FTTC with 12 months minimum term. So when you migrate there is the charge for the remainder of the minimum term.

The complication here is that if the service has already been billed to the end of the month, or quarter, is the "early termination charge" the value of the final invoice you get, extending that to the minimum term, or is it the charge from the migration date to the end of the minimum term which includes some you have already been billed?

Also, if you ask to migrate on say the 28th of the month, you get a regular month's invoice on 1st, and then migrate on say the 7th of next month, should the bill you have not yet had when you start the migration be considered part of the early termination charge?

My current plan is to specify that you are migrating on date A, and the min term is the later date B, and so the charges from A to B are X months at £Y making an "early termination charge" of £Z, and then noting that you have already been charged up to date C and so some of that charge has already been invoiced. Even that is complicated and may need a further note that you will get your regular invoice for services from date D as normal which may be before date A. How the hell we word this in a way that is clear to the end user is not easy.

This is with what I consider a "simple" system that is just a minimum term.

Combined services

This is where is gets really complicated. We have PSTN lines / copper pairs provided only for broadband service, so you have two services. We could get migration notice for one or the other, or both.

For a start, if we get a notice for the broadband we have to warn the end use that we will cease the copper pair when the leave, killing their migrated broadband if they don't also arrange to migrate the copper pair.

But the "early termination" is complex. The amount we'll charge for minimum term will be for both copper pair and broadband to the end of the min term. So do we tell people that when we get the notice for the broadband? We'll have to explain that both services will stop early.

Of course migrating the copper pair could mean keeping the broadband with us, so maybe that just needs to give notice for the copper pair min term. Though we could possibly not have a minimum term on that aspect of the service - that would be one option. It complicates matters for customers when some parts of the service have a minimum term and some do not.

Multiple lines

Of course, it gets even more complex with multiple line services. Our Office::1 service is two lines minimum. We do not do a single line option, or rather the price for a single line service is same as two lines. So if migrating one line, there is no early termination charge - you just keep paying for the service at full price on the remaining one line service. But do we say that (no termination charge, service continues on one line) for each notice we get? Or do we some how work out that we have had notices for the other line as well or the PSTN for the other lines?

Office::1 requires our PSTN lines, so is a migrate for PSTN to be treated as ceasing that line for broadband too? Maybe migration of any PSTN or broadband on Office::1 should be taken as notice to cease the whole Office::1 package? That may be the simplest approach here.

We have similar issues with units tariffs where the units part applies to the lines collectively. Cancel one line of a set and the units charges carry on - cancelling the final line, and the units charges stop or have some early termination charge. Now this is where making units tariff simply bill/credit to the migrate date and not have an early termination charge is simpler, but making it one month minimum term would still leave a possibility of complications. Maybe simpler for the units not to be refunded - i.e. they are charged in advance and applied in full to the period, full stop. After all, we already have complications if someone has a month of units and uses all of that data and leaves mid month. But is that fair?

I think, simplest option will be, PSTN/copper pair lines have no minimum term, and can be migrated away independently of the broadband (except Office::1). That solves the migrates on that side. I think that any multiple line package with a migrate of broadband should be treated as ceasing the whole multiple line service. That should make the notice clearer and can explain the costs for minimum term on the whole service.

No refunds?

One system we used to have when we first started was a no refunds system. It meant you are billed in advance each month. If you leave by any means during that month, you are not refunded for what you have been billed. This is a much simpler system that 30 days notice, and makes a lot of this easy. It is not an early termination charge, so nothing special needs to be included in the NoT. It would work possible for units billing and services beyond the minimum term, but those within minimum term could still be complex. It creates issues for people paying quarterly. It creates issues with all ceases and migrates being last day of the month. Whilst it is simpler in many ways I suspect it is not that viable.

Trying to be fair...

I wonder how else we can do this and be fair to customers. We do have minimum terms we pay carriers for things like FTTC and even one month on ADSL. The Home::1 and Office::1 are priced on the basis that we have the customer for a minimum term as we make a loss on the set up charges. I suspect we have to change some of the logic for what we do in terms of notice and invoices/credits on leaving. We also have to consider how these changes relate to people who cease services rather than migrate away. We could go for simple 10 day notice for cease to align with the migrate system in the way it works, perhaps.

Other ideas?

One idea was to simply have a fixed price early termination charge on the minimum term services. This would fit the OFCOM model perfectly, but it means OFCOM dictating the terms on which we do business, which is getting silly.



Why the hell do OFCOM have to meddle?!?!

5 comments:

  1. Maybe: No minimum term & setup charge. Free setup if you stay for 6 months*.

    * Will be charged if you leave early.

    Agree it's crazy.

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    Replies
    1. That would not actually meet the definition of an "early termination charge", so would not even have to be notified! Neither would a "cease/migrate" fee or a "30 day notice" charge. Crazy OFCOM, crazy. We would not be that mean, but why do they not thing of these things!

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    2. Did they not consult on this allowing you to put across your problems before they made it a rule?

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    3. Yeh, and I think we replied, but they did not take any notice.

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  2. What's the OFCOM definition of an 'early termination charge'?

    My first thought was to send an email such as:

    >Thank you for cancelling your service. A&A do not charge you an early termination charge (i.e. an additional/penalty charge for terminating your service ahead of the anticipated end date).

    >Accordingly, all you must pay for is our agreeing to provide you with internet services until XXXX-XX-XX.

    ReplyDelete