Update: It looks like we have come to an agreement - way more than I was expecting to pay, but way less than £20k and just on the level of "less hassle than contacting customers". So you won't get an email from A&A about this.
A&A operate some 07 mobile services. These are services that operate an 07 number for incoming and outgoing calls and SMS, and are normally linked to our SIP2SIM service to relay to/from an actual mobile, or diverted to a mobile. The nice thing is that you can be "in the loop" on the mobile calls and texts and handle them in your own systems - e.g. call recording, logging, etc.
What is going to seem odd is that, shortly, we may be emailing all customers of our 07 numbers asking you to log in to the control pages and request a PAC for your number. A PAC allows you to move to a new retail provider.
Why would we do this?
The answer is simple, we have grown increasingly unhappy with the company we used to handle our 07 numbers. We have a new supplier now, who are really responsive and helpful. One of the main issues with the old supplier was how slow they are to answer any queries.
The way mobile services work is that you can get a PAC and change network, simple. For most operators this is a text that returns an instant PAC you can use. Sadly this company do not do that and we have to email, and wait for reply. Given PACs are meant to be issued within a couple of hours this is a tad frustrating. We were promised an API to get PACs years ago (13th April 2017 was "PACs via the API is a couple of weeks away"). The lack of PAC API is one of many annoyances. The new company do PAC via SMS, and that is indeed instant.
So we want to move a lot of our numbers to a new provider. We can't actually move them all, as some cannot be ported (!). These are numbers with no incoming SMS either, which is why we tried to port them. Yes, that is one of the many annoyances, and was pretty much the last straw to be honest. Yes, OFCOM require porting to be agreed, and the new provider are happy to try and sort a Porting contract for those numbers, but OFCOM do not have any time limit on how long that could take. It could take years, apparently, especially with a supplier this slow at answering any queries...
What we need, for the numbers we can port, is a "bulk PAC", a single PAC for the list of several hundred numbers, we then give to the new provider and they all move. Simple.
Unfortunately, the existing supplier want around £20k to cover the admin of issuing this bulk PAC. Not something we ever agreed in our contract. Basically, unless we agree to this, they won't issue the PAC and won't let us move. In my opinion this seems a lot like "blackmail", holding our customers' numbers ransom unless we agree a huge divorce bill which was never agreed in the contract and is clearly unreasonable (no way £20k is an admin fee), though technically probably not legally "blackmail".
I said "we'll just ask our customers to ask for a PAC and use that", to which I was told that would still be a wholesale move and so the fee applies. I said "I'll make a new company, and ask customers to move to that" making it a retail move. No reply, and no reply to several follow up emails (one of the main reasons we want to leave is lack of replies).
So basically, this is what we are doing. Obviously I am ensuring we are 100% technically correct (the best kind of correct), and am making a new company (subsidiary of A&A), and asking customers to move to that retail provider. Once this is sorted we'll seamlessly move customers back to A&A, no problem, but to ensure we are correct and within the OFCOM rules for issuing individual PACs for free for a "retail move", it will be a separate company (who contract for A&A to do billing). I'll even create the inter company billing (net zero) and file accounts for this short lived new company. All above board and proper. Total cost under £50.
Making a new company is cheap and easy (as you can see with company 12972728). I'll go for a more polite name, maybe ((📱)) LTD perhaps.
So the supplier has a choice - the easy way or the hard way. Either hundreds of separate retail PAC requests, each of which needs to be issued within a couple of hours, and for free, or they can issue the bulk PAC we want. I'm even happy to pay a nominal admin fee of £100 or so for the admin work.
Who is it?
Well, I may publish this - it is a small company since taken over by a larger company, but we think this is one individual being "difficult" for no apparent reason.
We'll notify customers with instructions when we do this.
I hope they do opt for the easy way and we don't have to contact customers. We'll do a status post if we do this behind the scenes but it should be seamless.