Let’s start with some context. I have moved recently. After a period of searching I have found an apartment that I liked and that was within my budget. Fast forward a bit to the point after I had moved in and was in the process of organizing an Internet connection. That’s how I arrived at this post.
Update: 2018-08-07 - added new information, updated timeline, added table
I called UPC since I had a running contract there for the previous apartment. I was excited to order their 125Mb/s package for ~ €31/month. Sadly, the helpful operator told me that this is not available at the specified address. I was floored, but after a short time of sulking I was reconsidering my options.
A1 – a fusion of a mobile phone provider and one of our oldest Internet service providers in Austria – had a tempting offer. Theoretical 150Mb/s using both DSL (which goes to a maximum of about 40Mb/s via telephone cable) augmented by LTE, in the same box, using a technique called Bonding which is also used for servers. My first encounter with it was when reading about the networking that is done for the yearly CCC meetings in Germany. This offer is for ~ €60/month though. Considerably harder to argue, but still tempting.
It happens that I ventured to one of their stores on Saturday to sign the contract. For reasons I’ll explain later, that might not have been the best idea. I was told that I’ll receive a box with everything I need to set up the connection myself within 3 working days. With that said and the contract in my bag, I left. What was strange though was the employee’s reaction upon me asking the following question: “What do I do if I am not satisfied with the quality of the product? What do I do if it doesn’t work?” He looked at my as if I was an alien. Apparently their equipment and network not living up to the full expectation of the customer is not part of the training the shopkeepers receive. Or is it and I didn’t realize?
Of course, if a company says “It will be there after 3 working days” what they really mean is “There’s a slight chance that it will be there after 3 working days, but 5 is more likely”. After the postman woke me up in the morning I opened the package, connected everything, waited the recommended amount of time and nothing. So, I called the support hotline even though I strongly dislike calling support for any reason. After a bit of to and fro the person on the other side of the line said “but you had a technician connect the line for you”.
My answer: “No.”
Him: “But it says here that an appointment for the technician was arranged for [date 3 days in the past], that he was there and everything was handled properly.”
Me: “I assure you, I had no appointment and nobody was ever at my place. Your colleague in the shop also failed to mention that I need an appointment for a technician.”
Him: “Alright, please stay on the line, I need to clear this internally.”
After some waiting time, he assured me that a technician would contact me for an appointment. I got a call in the afternoon and we fixed an appointment for the morning of the next day.
The next day, the technician arrived, did their job in a few minutes and left. Again, I waited for a while and then tried if I had a connection. I had working Internet! However, I was far from the theoretical 150 Mb/s I paid for, getting only ~ 35 Mb/s. That is less than the physical limit of the DSL connection (that being around 40-42 Mb/s according to my research), never mind the possible augmentation through LTE.
Since I didn’t get the full speed I paid for even after an hour of waiting, I called support again. They told me that the modem needs about 24 hours of searching for cellphone towers to be properly configured. To be honest, this came with an immediate feeling of disbelief to me. I mean, this is based on cellphone technology and we surely don’t need to wait a full day before we can use our mobile Internet connection after moving a few kilometers. However, I was running out of time as well as patience and went to work. On the way there I checked my postbox and found an advertisement by UPC which offers great cheap Internet, except that they didn’t offer the product on the flyer at my address so I felt just a little taunted. Just a lil’.
However, I didn’t have time to look into this after 24 hours because by then I was traveling.
The Waiting Game
So, rather, I gave it more than 48 hours and checked upon returning on Sunday. Of course, no significant changes had happened. I called support and the technician ran tests, then acknowledged there was a problem. She understood that I would be paying too much for the performance provided and wanted to send me an antenna which functions as accessory for the device to improve cellphone reception. However, A1 had internal IT issues on that weekend. She asked me to call again the next day and ask to specifically be connected to her so I wouldn’t have to explain the issue another time. What she, for some reason, didn’t realize is that with their system it is technically impossible to reach a certain individual inside their support group.
The next day, I did as told and called support asking for the technician in question. I was told that it’s not possible to connect me directly and they would leave a note for her to call me back.
After some time, I received a call from another person saying the technician in question was sick on that day and they would take over. I was told that yes, I did need an antenna and they could send it to me. It would take several days – to which I replied that I could just pick it up at the store since it’s nearby. I would not need to pay the €35 for shipping.
I headed over to the store. The customer representative told me that they had an antenna, but they could only send them via mail, else I would have to buy one and that would be €60. I was told I should call support again.
I returned home and called support again. Support assured me that the treatment I received was very unfortunate and they were working on it. They would call me back.
I received another call from support. They were still working on the issue and just wanted to let me know that I had not been forgotten. I would receive another call.
Meanwhile I found out that I would’ve been able to cut down the minimum contract length from the brazen 24 months to a mere 6 months had I told them that I was a student. I swore and felt another pang of buyer’s remorse.
Later, I did in fact receive another call. They told me that the antenna has already been deducted from my bill and it would cost those €35 in the store. They would not be billed but deducted from the overall bill instead. I still needed to get the antenna. I got a more detailed description of what I was to ask for at the store.
I ventured to the store again, hopeful of finally getting what I need to achieve the Internet performance I paid for. Another clerk told me they knew what I needed but they sold the last one mere minutes ago. I was getting frustrated at that point and lost my cool in the shop. After some very cynical remarks, I left and went home. The clerk had told me that there was no delivery with new antennas until the coming week.
Having arrived at home, I was on the phone with support again. That time, they apologized even more sincerely. The technician checked every avenue he could think of, even checking the inventories of surrounding stores whether any had antennas left. He was also out of antennas in their warehouse. I was told that I would have to wait until Wednesday the following week until they received new antennas. Starting from then it would take three more business days for the antenna to arrive at my place.
Now, if I were a cynical man, I’d suggest that this company is playing the long game hoping that I’m willing to stick with their bullshit until I can’t cancel the contract. However, the joke’s already on me because I signed the contract at their store, which means I don’t have the usual 14 days of cancellation rights you get when ordering online.
I was assured that A1 would arrange for an antenna for me since I have one of their most expensive consumer products. They would decide whether my payments might be reduced due to reduced service, but really it didn’t make a difference. I mean, all their products of this line cost the same amount during the initial 3 months phase.
Research & more calls
Understandably, my patience was wearing extremely thin at that point. I vented my frustration via chat to a friend. She did a bit of research and found out that T-Mobile, another mobile service provider, had a similar offer with the same theoretical speed for €15 less per month. I was even more frustrated and checkout out the product page. I considered canceling right then and there, but opened the customer chat instead. I received the following information.
- no technician is necessary to switch if there already is a working DSL connection
- no antenna is shipped with the device
- they offer a testing phase which starts with the DSL connection
- their product retrieves its configuration via LTE (whereas the A1 modem does so via DSL and disables its LTE completely without DSL as I have seen during testing)
- they can cancel my service with another company for me
- when I cancel such a contract, the service ends immediately but one still needs to pay the full sum of all remaining payments. (
remainining_months * monthly_payments). From a customer’s point of view, this is insane. From any ISPs point of view, this is standard procedure. Can you tell I dislike ISPs and MSPs?
Angrily, I called another friend who has a background in law and asked for her opinion. She replied that there was little I could do. I needed to give the company the chance to fulfill the contract and wait. Then, if things did still not improve I could talk to them again about either completely canceling it or working out a possible downgrade to an option which is technically possible at my address.
Now I know why the sales rep at the store looked at me as if I were mad when I asked what to do in case I’m not satisfied. If this is how everyone’s experience with A1 is, I’m not sure they even have satisfied customers.
By the time of me publishing this, I have given them ample time to send me an antenna and nothing happened. So I’ll pester A1 again. Until they fix my Internet or openly admit that they can’t give me what I pay them for.
Update: 2018-08-06, more calls and no changes
In the afternoon of the same day I initially published this article, I had yet another phone call with support. They agreed to send me the external antenna and some cables.
Four days later I picked up the boxes at my local post office, went home, installed them and nothing. It should not even be technically possible, but connecting the antenna changed nothing at all. So I called support again, had them provide instructions, checked the box. We did the remote measurements again, I took more notes and detailed measurements. At least in the second call, since the first one abruptly ended. Then, I was told that “yes, measuring via a WLAN device versus a cable connected device makes a difference” which annoys me since I had several dozen measurements that prove that it hardly makes one. However, I agreed and the difference in speed was negligible (around 5 Mb/s when I’m about ten times that amount).
Additionally, their competitor just so happened to mail me a survey about satisfaction with mobile phone providers the same day. I love how cynical all of this is without me twisting something to fit the narrative.
After which they told me that this is all they can do. Then they found out there’s a damaged cellphone tower in my vicinity and argue this might be the problem. I inquired since when the tower has been damaged and after I got a day, I informed them that my problem has been going back a lot longer, so that is not the issue.
I was enraged and the next day I called the Konsumentenschutz what to do. I’m still incapable of believing they can’t offer one of their flagship products in the city center of Austria’s second largest city. The nice lady told me that there might be a way to cancel the contract if they are clearly not able to offer the performance I’m paying for but I need to get that in writing.
This post will be updated accordingly.
2018-06-16, Saturday - signed contract
2018-06-21, Thursday - received router, call #1, call #2
2018-06-22, Friday - DSL enabled by technician, call #3; got shitty ad from competitor
2018-06-24, Sunday - call #4, antenna is promised but not sent
2018-06-25, Monday - call #5, call #6, store does not give out antenna, call #7, call #8, call #9, store does give out antenna but does not have any left, call #10
2018-07-14, Saturday - article is published, no improvement, no antenna, call #11
2018-07-18, Wednesday - call #12, call #13, got survey from competitor
2018-07-19, Thursday - call to Konsumentenschutz
2018-08-07, Tuesday - article is updated to reflect the current state
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