*long rant alert*
I've dealt with some bad ISP companies in my time (BT, Telewest, Virgin Media) but Sky stands out as the worst of the worst by far. Some of their business practices are blatantly unethical and in my opinion, OfCom should be all over that company with fines.
Just like other individuals on this forum have posted, Sky sales are LIARS and will say ANYTHING to hook you into a contract. I strongly suspect by the language and tactics they use, that Sky sales operate on a commission basis. They really try hard to get new customers, like their earnings depend on it.
I had a very bad vibe about Sky right from the start when they bought O2 Broadband who I happened to be with and at the end of my 12 month contract with them (as luck would have it). Sky were so arrogant they just wrote to all O2 customers announcing they had bought O2 Broadband and we were now *their* customers and would eventually be transistioned to Sky Broadband. Didn't even bother to ask if we *wanted* to be their customers. Just assumed everyone would. Well I was determined that I would not be entering into a 12 month contract with Sky. I telephoned them to let them know, so that they didn't automatically roll my O2 contact into another 12 months contract (under the Sky brand). That is a common tactic unethical broadband providers do, rolling 12 month contracts without consulting customers or giving them a proper cooling off period.
So, I call up Sky on their freephone sales number to inform them I won't be renewing my 12 months contract now Sky has acquired O2. (as it happened, I already made the decision not to renew with O2 regardless of Sky's acquiring it, since the service although great for the first 8-9 months, went down hill fast during the last few months.
I made it crystal clear I was not at all interested in any offer, any deal, and no sales pitch would work on me. I would NOT be having broadband with O2 and definitely not with Sky I informed them.
The Sky sales woman would not take NO for answer. First she suggested I remain with O2 and assured me that O2 would be managed as a separate business, with all the existing staff and infrastructure and no interference from Sky (for those O2 customers who prefer that, which seems rather dubious considering their literature and letters suggested the opposite). No I said. So then she suggested I move across to Sky and give them a try. Absolutely NO WAY I said.
She laughed and quizzed me about why I disliked Sky so much. I answered with "Rupert Murdock, major shareholder?" She then spent a good 5 minutes assuring me Mr Murdock would not be taking over or running Sky and had nothing to do with the business or its business strategy. She asked if I had any other reasons that would at prevent me trying Sky?.
I said, yeah plenty, but here's the main ones:
1) No static IP address (which I absolutely need as I run a business and servers from home).
2) No experience or knowledge of your ability to operate a broadband service, and since I need a reliable connection and can't risk frequent disconnections being a forex-trader and hosting websites, I'm not prepared to take a gamble on an unknown.
3) I need the freedom to move ISP at will. I don't want to be locked into a 12-month contract and have to pay a huge penalty to exit if I find your service isn't up to scratch.
She went through each of my concerns as follows:
1) Static IP addresses is something a lot of O2 customers have been requesting and it's something we're "actively working on providing". I pushed her for a time scale, but all I could get was "very soon hopefully", indicating it wouldn't be long. That sounded promising so thinking I could wait a month or two, I asked her if their dynamic IP addresses changed often, "no, not to my knowledge she assured me"
(first two lies)
2) She told me she had used Sky herself for many years, and had very rarely been disconnected, and that hardly any Sky users she heard of complained of being frequented disconnected.
3) She understood my concern about being locked into a 12 month contract and needing the freedom to exit if the service went downhill so offered a compromise. Sky would offer me a "unique deal" of unlimited broadband for just £2.50 a month for a full 12 months, with no router charge or even a delivery charge. And if I wanted to leave, all I had to do was pay the remaining months off. This peaked my interest, with the service offered so cheap (substantially cheaper than the £10.50/month half price deal I had previously with O2's unlimited broadband)
To sweeten the deal further and reassure beyond any doubt I was making a wise and safe decision switching over to Sky, she made me another "unique deal" and invited me to try the service for 30 days, "with absolutely no cost or obligation whatsoever". They would set everything up free of charge, supply a router free of charge, and if any time during, or at the end of the trial, I wasn't happy with the service and found it disconnected or changed IP etc, I could simply cancel the service, not enter into any contract and walk away. The only cost I'd have is returning the router.
(fifth lie and biggest lie of all)
The only condition was, I had to transfer my phone service to Sky Talk else I couldn't use their broadband, it won't work on normal BT lines she explained.
At this point she had me. It would seem silly to turn down her offer, since I had nothing to lose and I quickly needed to make a decision on my broadband and telephone service, since my O2 contract had ended. Sky assured me, they could transfer it very quickly in a few days without stopping my O2 service (which in fairness they did).
After trying the service for 10-12 days, I soon realised I'd be conned and the service was everything I thought it would be, appalling. Not only did the connection constantly drop (sometimes several times a day), but the IP address also changed. Often the router would just reboot itself randomly.
I went onto the Sky support forum (Sky is another big ISP like Virgin that shunts its support out to a forum for its users to deal with the problems rather than actually answering the telephone, or providing a decent service) to find out the situation about the frequent disconnections and constantly changing IP address, and also to query Sky sales' pledge of "static IP addresses coming very soon". The Sky forum technical staff were singing a totally different tune to the sales staff. There would be no static IP addresses they informed me. Not now, nor in the future likely. It was not something Sky was looking at offering. I looked at the Sky router Web admin interface and noticed it had ONE dynamic IP updating service built into it (conveniently it's a monthly-fee pay for service. Presumably Sky has some commercial relationship with them, since when I posted about other Dynamic IP address updating services and queried why Sky doesn't release newer router firmer with free DNS updating services, those posts were promptly removed by Sky Staff for being "against house rules" due to mentioning third party services (Youtube, Google, Skype etc is fine it seems, but DNS provider services are a no no).
I'm only a light broadband user but the download speed I experienced from Sky Broadband was also slow with a weird "caching" message whenever I accessed websites that normally loaded instantly on O2. Also lots of "buffering" whenever watching streaming video on Lovefilm or 4oD that previously worked fine on O2.
Then the phone line fun. As mentioned, the catch in the excellent broadband deal was that Sky insisted I could only have unlimited Sky broadband for £2.50 if I moved my phone service over to Sky Talk. I was reluctant to do, but since it's just a phone line, I figured what can go wrong and trusted Sky. Sky also offered me a line rental discount if I paid annually in advance making it competitively priced.
Here's where the phone line catch turned out to be the major con:
I've always used the service 18185 which for anyone who doesn't know, is a superb FREE VOIP service which lets you make unlimited any-time of the day UK landline calls free, plus HUGE savings on international calls (US just 1/2p a min for example, and 1p a minute to India). Since I make a lot of calls, especially overseas for business, I have come to rely on 18185 and use it daily. Whenever I tried to use it on my new Sky Talk service, I got an engaged/busy signal. At first I thought it was 18185, but on testing it on my mobile and (dialling numbers directly), I got connected instantly. I contacted 18185 and they informed me Sky blocks their service with a "busy" signal. I phoned up Sky customer services and they TOTALLY DENIED blocking 18185 with a busy signal, but said it was "not supported" and calls were "chargeable". Now 18185 have a way of dealing with this. They also offer a FREEPHONE number you can call, before dialling your number, and they route the call that way instead. A call to a freephone number, should be free on ANY phone network, right? Not on Sky Talk it isn't. Yep, you guessed it, Sky CHARGED for all the calls I made to 18185's freephone number. Unbeknown to me, I was running up an ENORMOUS phone bill. When I complained and suggested it can't be fair charging customers for calls to a freephone service (and not at least advising them with a recorded announcement or something) they disagreed and suggested I change my Sky Talk package to one with free talk mins.
That for me, was the final straw and I made up my mind right then, I would not be entering into a contract with Sky for broadband and that I would exercise my right (under the 30 day trial offer) to terminate my Sky Talk phone and Sky broadband, and would get a refund on the remainder of the line rental I had paid up front, cut my losses on the phone bill and move elsewhere.
It's at this point, Sky sales lies and unethical business practices started to become abundantly clear.
My first call to Sky's dedicated cancellation line went rather smoothly. Although they did try and persuade me to stay and asked what problems I had experienced, I replied "your service is unfit for purpose, and nothing you can say or do, will change that, so let's just get on with the cancellation" They accepted that and informed me the "cancellation order" was placed, and since I was still within my 30 day trial (by a week) they would cancel it within 3 days before the end. I'd owe nothing, except my call charges they told me. They offered (under protest) to not charge for the calls I made to the 18185 freephone 0808 number (one call was for £15), but said that the other 18185 prefixed calls would be charged. I decided to just wait for the final bill, and agreed, glad to be free of Sky.
Three days later, and nothing. Then I get an e-mail saying I need to call Sky cancellations team to "undergo some security questions" before they can action my request to cancel services. Since it was a chargeable number, I responded by e-mail saying any security questions they wanted answering, they could either ask by e-mail, or call me on my mobile. I didn't see why I should call them, when they had already assured me it would be cancelled.
Several days pass, and no response or call. As the 30 day trial is drawing to an end, I suspect what they're up to. They would no doubt claim I never formally cancelled the service and probably deny the phone conservation took place (which I foolishly didn't record) and then say I'm now in a 12 month contract. So I e-mailed a cancellation notice and followed up with a call, repeating what they said before about cancelling in 3 days and asked them to proceed with their security checks. Which they did. They assured me again, that the service would be cancelled and I'd receive a final bill shortly.
FINALLY I believed the matter was settled and proceeded to start looking for a new telecom provider and new broadband provider. I decided to go back to Primus Saver (the cheapest landline provider and a straightforward company to deal with whom I wish I'd never left). I also wanted to try Xilo/Uno for broadband who offer some very good deals, with static IP address from £12.50/month.
Anyways, when I entered my telephone number into Xilo's website (as I had done previously with Primus and been offered the full range of services) to my shock and horror it came up with a big red message "This number is no longer on the BT network and we cannot provide any broadband services to it".
I figured this must be because I was using Sky Talk and that a simple switch to a new telecom provider on the BT exchange would solve it. Wrong. I called Primus Saver/Newcall Telecom to switch my phone service, they informed it wasn't that simple. My phone line couldn't be taken over by them as it was no longer on the BT network and was now wired onto Sky's network. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. At no time had Sky explained to me that switching to Sky Talk would permanently lock my phone service to Sky and render it useless for broadband, other than theirs. I asked what could be done. Primus said the only thing they I could do, would be to switch my line back BT's network which would be like having a line-reconnection by BT. That would cost them £58 from BT engineers who would need to visit. The £58 charge they would have to pass to me, since their line rental is so cheap (£6.50/month) they couldn't afford to absorb the cost. So much for Sky's "oh you can leave at any time during or after 30 days trial, walk away and not pay anything". Seems they forgot to include that walking away would mean leaving my telephone line behind.
And to add insult to injury, I was told I would not be able to keep my phone number, which was now on the Sky network AND it would take at least 3 WEEKS before the transfer back to BT's network could be done according to Primus's checks on the line.
They said the delay was solely down to Sky, not them.
Absolutely furious, I called up Sky and put all this to them. Questioning why I should be out of pocket £58 just to get my phone line back to how it was before I accepted Sky's "30 day no risk trial". Sky acted all innocent and said "that doesn't sound right or fair" and suggested I call BT to confirm it was a BT charge (no apologies for hijacking my phone line and nor explaining to me the implications of switching to Sky Talk). I hung up and called BT, and they confirmed that they do charge to reinstate phone lines from Sky back to BT because it requires engineers work. Incidentally, BT also had nothing good to say about Sky or their business practices and seemed to be inundated with complaints over phone line switch problems. When I explained to BT that I needed my phone line back on the BT network in DAYS, not weeks, so I could switch broadband provider, they suggested I have a new line installed which could be done in 3-4 days, thus by-passing the whole Sky mess. There would however, be a £40 charge. The alternative they said, was I could ask Sky to completely deactivate my phone line, and BT would reconnect it on their network, free of charge (if I agreed to pay 12 months line rental with BT).
Since the cost saving with Primus Saver was lost (due to the £58 charge) and it would take 3 WEEKS to get my line back with Primus, going with BT and a new line seemed the only sensible option, as there was only £5 price difference and BT claimed it would be done in a matter of days. The BT chap was very friendly, and suggested I could avoid the £40 charge and a new line, if I just switched my existing line to BT which wouldn't take more than a week.
However, more dubious business practices and lies from Sky would scupper this. On placing my order with BT for a reactivation, they informed me that Sky would had not scheduled the termination of the line until 17th September. Two weeks after their original "within 3 days" and well beyond their 30 day trial period. BT said their hands were tied until Sky terminated service. They suggested I call Sky and vent my anger on them!
I called up Sky today even more furious than ever. I was absolutely livid and gave it them with both barrels. I asked why they had lied, not once, but twice, over the cancellation schedule and why they were dragging their feet. All I got was a patronising "cancellation and termination are different things" and "you're required to give 30 days notice before you can terminate services, and that 30 days ends on 17th September". I told them, that was utter [censored] since I was not in a legal contract with them, and thus, had no such "30 days" notice" legal obligation. In fact the opposite was true. They had offered ME a 30 day no obligation trial, assuring me I could cancel at ANY time. I screamed blue murder at them down the phone, demanded they cease service to my line in 3 days or face OfCom and legal action/costs for a new landline installation. All to no avail. I even threatened to utterly destroy their reputation online whenever the opportunity arose. They just couldn't care less and stood firm. 17th September they repeated. I asked them where they were getting this "30 days notice" stuff from, since I hadn't entered into a contract with them and had no obligation to them. That was met with a long silence. Finally they suggested it was "on their website". I informed them that they can put whatever they liked on their website. It doesn't constitute a legally binding contract and that I would challenge them via OfCom. They then bizarrely claimed it was OfCom who required ISPs customers to give 30 days notice (including those who aren't even in a contract yet and were offered a "30 day no obligation trial?!) which just seems absurd and an outright lie to me. I gave them one last chance to cancel the service within 3 days, as originally promised, or it would be all-out war on their company. They stood firm, and said they wouldn't cancel until 17th September. Presumeably they think I'm then liable for more line rental for September and a months broadband (when I actually cancelled in August).
Conclusion: Sky lies to get new customers. They're dishonest in their business practices, not open or forthcoming about the costs involved in leaving Sky and outright obstructive. And their only interest is, new customers and contracts, which they will say virtually anything to secure. Sky does not care about customers at all and certainly doesn't have their best interests at heart when it says "believe in better". It clearly doesn't care about its reputation or is just extremely arrogant. Which is clearly apparent by the way they treat exiting customers with utter contempt while milking them as far as they can possible. I wouldn't last 5 minutes if I conducted my business like Sky does theirs and treated my customers as they do theirs. Because they're big, they think they can get away with it.
Edited by morphix (Wed 04-Sep-13 00:13:28)