Before moving to Amsterdam I seriously doubted if I should become a customer of UPC for cable TV. They have a very bad reputation for sending wrong bills, having an incompetent helpdesk and overall administrative chaos. Nevertheless I decided I wanted to have cable TV instead of DVB or IPTV.
Boy, was that a stupid decision. Yesterday some of my worst fears about UPC became a reality.
Even before I moved to Amsterdam, I called UPC to become a customer. That way I would have cable TV right from my first day of ownership of my new apartment on October 20, 2006. They told me their system was not able to send me a confirmation letter to my old address. They could only send mail to the new address which was still occupied by the previous owner at that time.
At the end of September UPC withdrew an amount of 36 euro from my bank account. I wasn't too alarmed because I had heard that you have to pay in advance.
When I moved into the apartment on October 20, 2006 the previous owner told me that no mail in my name from UPC had arrived. On October 29, I asked UPC to resend me the bill corresponding to the withdrawal on September 28. On October 31, I received an e-mail with a PDF for a bill dated October 31. That was not the bill I had asked for and this new bill had not even arrived yet by mail. When I checked my bank account I saw UPC had withdrawn an amount of 79 euros on the same day. Pretty bad practice to withdraw the money BEFORE sending the bill!
The bill dated October 31 stated that it was for the period October 20-December 31, 2006 and it included a one time joiner's fee of 35 euro. Well that pretty much covered everything I should pay to UPC, so I was even more curious what the bill of September was for. So I sent another e-mail inquiring about the double billing. On November 1 I received a response by e-mail that said that UPC had checked their system and noticed I had recently been in contact with the helpdesk, so the problem must have been resolved already. Totally ignoring the fact that this was a very different and newer question!
I called my bank to have the withdrawal of 36 euros on September 29 reversed. They told me I was too late because 30 calendar days had already passed. Me noting that their web site indicates that you have a period of 30 working days for such a reversal didn't help.
So I had to call the UPC helpdesk. They charge you 0.1 euro per minute for waiting until an employee becomes available. Always a good way to treat a customer. The voice response system indicated that it was very busy and that the wait could be long. Happily saying that over 75% of all customer requests can be handled through the UPC web site, so there is no need to call. Apparently I was in the 25% category of loosers that have to call the helpdesk. The voice response system indicated that I could voluntarily participate in a questionnaire about the service of UPC after the call. I could not waive this opportunity to spill my guts with complaints so I pressed the 1 on my phone. Almost immediately after that an employee became available. Could it be that they want to give you a more positive impression if you are willing to participate in the survey and then put you at the front of the queue? Either way, I could speak to a human being. He checked both bills and saw that I had been charged twice for the one-time joiner's fee. For this he had no explanation other than that someone must have f*cked up. Even weirder was an unexplained difference of 1 euro between the joiner's fee and the withdrawal of September 29. Apparently I had been charged for two days in September when I didn't even live in Amsterdam?!
Now comes the really good part. I asked for my money back and the employee agreed that I should get a refund. However, the proposed way to do this was to credit me on the next bill. Since I already paid up till the end of 2006, it would be quite a while before that next bill would arrive. So I asked for an immediate refund. He told me their system does not allow them to do that. There was a manual procedure for it, but it would take 8 weeks!
When I threatened to have the withdrawal of October 31 reversed by my bank to get my money back sooner, he warned me that that would only make matters worse. Their system would really get back at me, because I would be getting back more money than they owed me. If I would manually transfer the difference between the two amounts back to UPC, it would not be processed as a payment. And if the UPC system flags you as not having paid in time, you are really in trouble. They will start adding fines to your bill. Which you can fight of course, because you did pay, but it will cost you a lot of phone calls. After some back and forth's I finally gave in and agreed to wait 90 days and then pay less on my next bill instead of getting my money back ;(
After the call with the employee ended, I was transferred to the survey. The last question of the survery was: "On a scale from 1 to 5, would you recommend UPC to your friends?" Guess what I answered to that question.