Afrihost fined for ADSL network problems

I have been a loyal Afrihost customer for several years, but since August 2014, Afrihost’s internet service deteriorated with many consumers complaining about throughput and the Afrihost executive team skirting the issue for several months without providing anyone with concrete information about the cause of the issues. Insiders attributed the poor network performance to IPC capacity issues as well as network architecture issues (at some point in time even “international experts” where flown in to fix “complicated equipment”).

From February 2015 I started to experience outages, slow network throughput and the service was often unusable. The deal-breaker came around May 2015 when I found myself sitting outside our bidorbuy offices on a Sunday morning at 3am, connecting to our WiFi network as my Afrihost ADSL line could not deliver the 10Mbps speed and throughput I was paying for.

It took months leading up to that day where I found myself sending traceroutes and pings to the technical team at Afrihost and at times those requests for trace-routes and port-resets seem to be just a notion of the engineers to keep me busy with something and to this day I am certain that no-one actually ever did anything about it. The support team patronized me (which I reported to their line managers as I had it in writing) and refused to refund me for services I could not consume.

There was also a lot of finger-pointing – mostly towards Telkom as Afrihost engineers made it sound that Telkom’s ADSL copper line and saturated DSLAM was to blame for my poor experience. It then came as quite a surprise when I switched to VOX Telecom that my ADSL service was performing at full line-speed without any packet drop or the latency experienced with Afrihost (let’s also remember that I just switched my ADSL provider and my Telkom copper line was untouched).

Based on the arrogance demonstrated by Afrihost and their staff (especially their executive team), I decided to submit a formal complaint to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) in June 2015.

The ISPA ruling arrived in October 2015 and Afrihost has been sanctioned by the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) following a complaint over the company’s ability to offer the services it advertises. ISPA ruled that Afrihost was in contravention of Clause 8 of its Code of Conduct, stating that the ISP advertises services beyond its technical and practical abilities.

My complaint argued that Afrihost cannot provide the “Unshaped, Unmetered, Prioritised” Business ADSL services it advertises on its website, as it could not provide a consistent connection.

The adjudicator for ISPA ordered that Afrihost must make it clear on its websites that the company is experiencing technical difficulties, and that its products may not meet the offered service levels at this time.

“This information should be communicated upfront on the website, and proactively to each existing and potential customer until such time as these issues are resolved,” said ISPA.

The adjudicator imposed a suspended fine of R50,000 that will be enforced should Afrihost be found in breach of this clause in the next 24 months.

The full ISPA ruling can be downloaded here: coc-875-adjudication-upheld

I am not satisfied with the ruling of ISPA as it has not addressed all my complaints and I will submit an appeal to the ruling after/if Afrihost decides to appeal this ruling.

How to file an ISPA complaint

Many people asked about the complaints process – here some info:

  • Read and understand the Code of Conduct (CoC) – http://ispa.org.za/code-of-conduct/
  • Understand the complaints process and turn-around-times – http://ispa.org.za/code-of-conduct/procedure/
  • Lodge the complaint – http://ispa.org.za/code-of-conduct/complaints-form/
  • You will notice that the complaints form does not allow you to attach documents. So when you get the COC confirmation and reference, reply to it and attach all supplemental information.
  • In my case I had each COC violation backed up by facts (tickets, charts, outages and feedback)
  • ISPA forwarded my complaint to Afrihost and then forwarded me their response.
  • In my case Afrihost responded to ISPA “We’ve made contact with the client and believe the complaint to be resolved. ”
    • The response was untrue, as I explained to Afrihost that a refund is one aspect but not the cornerstone of the complaint.
  • I then asked ISPA to escalate to an independent adjudicator for review – this step is important if you believe that your issues are not resolved.

Timelines:

  • 8th July: ISPA complaint lodged
  • 13th July: ISPA confirmed that they forwarded the complaint to Afrihost
  • 23rd July: I sent follow-up mail to ISPA as Afrihost should have responded within 5 business days
  • 24th July: ISPA confirmed that they sent a reminder to Afrihost and that they will adjudicate if no response is received COB
  • 24th July: Afrihost phones and said that they will refund 2 x R 997 for business uncapped – initially they wanted to give me credit, but I insisted on a refund on my card
  • 27th July: ISPA sends response from Afrihost: “We’ve reached out to the client and believe the complaint to be resoled.”
  • 27th July: I contested the response to ISPA with further detail
  • 28th July: ISPA forwards my email to Afrihost
  • 3rd Aug: ISPA forwards response from Afrihost “I believe we’ve been fair, open and transparent and have offered to resolve the complaint. As per the client’s mail below, the client’s expectation is that ISPA investigate further. We’re eager and keen to resolve the complaint and would like to get ISPA’s advice.”
  • 4th Aug: Provided ISPA with additional information and escalation for independent review
  • 6th Aug: Received feedback from ISPA that adjudicator will be appointed
  • 14th Oct: Received ruling
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