Archive for netTALK

netTALK Appears To Be Refusing To Port Phone Numbers Out Of Their Service

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 12, 2018 by itnerd

Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been tracking an issue where netTALK seems unable or unwilling to release phone numbers to be ported to another service. Over the weekend, I had someone by the name of Laura Vogel reach out to me on Twitter:

I reached out to her and she sent over some communications between her and netTALK. I have to admit that I’ve seen some bad and brutal customer service, but this is the worst that I have ever seen. Based on the emails that I read, netTALK goes long periods of time without responding to queries. And it seems that she had to complain to the FCC to get any response.

The problem is that she seems not to be alone. A quick perusal of Twitter shows that this problem has existed for at least a year a half. Here are some examples:

Now why would they be basically holding phone numbers hostage? Well, I think that this highlights something that I said here. netTALK has never, ever made money. Thus you could make an argument that they’re trying to lock their customers into their service by holding their numbers hostage. After all, your phone number is often part of your identity. So if you can’t port your number off their service, you keep paying them. If that’s true, that’s pretty cynical. There may be other reasons behind this as well, but when I reached out to netTALK on Twitter to find out what their side of the story is, they chose not to respond. I think that tells you all you need to know about netTALK.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s a reason why netTALK is one of two companies that I pulled my recommendation of their products in the history of this blog. In short, this company doesn’t pass the smell test. The fact that they aren’t letting people port their numbers off their service should be a major red flag for anyone thinking of doing business with them. Now, if you’re one of the people that are in this situation, I would recommend filing an FCC complaint if you’re in the US, or a complaint with the CRTC if you are in Canada. Why go this route? It’s simple. netTALK doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and deserves to have a very uncomfortable light shown on their behavior.

I will continue to follow this story and report on any developments.

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netTALK Does Things A Bit Better, But Still Serves Up A #Fail

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 5, 2017 by itnerd

You might recall that just before New Years, I was helping a customer with a defective netTALK unit, and the interaction with their customer service was….. less than optimal. Well, I knew that I would have to go back and finish the job once the customer’s replacement unit arrived. And I will give netTALK credit for this: They shipped it on the 29th of December which was the next day. It arrived on January 4th via post. That’s pretty good. While overnight is better, I can find little fault in how it was shipped.

However, they promptly went back into the bad category by having a note like this inside the box:

IMG_0071.JPG

So that to me means that I should be able to plug this in, have it connect to the customer’s network and it should work. Well, it did connect to the network, but you couldn’t call the netTALK unit using the customer’s phone number. Not only that, the customer’s voice mail was gone as well.

#Fail

So seeing as they didn’t deliver on that front, I had to contact them via their chat window. The one that was infuriating to deal with the last time I had to use it. But this time, when I reached out to them, they responded within a minute and their responses were timely. Since I was dealing with the same person from whatever contact center in the Philippines that netTALK uses, I can only assume that he had been spoken to because it is highly likely that netTALK read my last post. He asked for my phone number and the MAC addresses of the old and new devices. Within 5 minutes, the customer was up and running. The voice mail had to be re-recorded, but other than that it was working.

Not that’s the interaction that should have happened in the first place.

But let’s circle back to the note in the box. It’s quite frankly stupid to put a note in the box saying that the account transfer had been done when it clearly hadn’t been done. Which then forces a customer to hop through an additional hoop to get things working. This didn’t go unnoticed by the customer, who is now leaning towards Ooma when they switch their VoIP phone service away from netTALK. That will likely happen in the next few months as they get closer to the renewal date of their netTALK service.

Net result: While netTALK did improve in some areas. They failed in one important one. And as a result they are still going to lose a customer.

Too bad netTALK.

 

netTALK Is Back…. And Serves Up A Customer Service #Fail

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 29, 2016 by itnerd

One of the stories that dominated space on this blog this year was netTALK. Not only did they get into a dispute with a company called Iristel and in the process deprive thousands of their Canadian customers of phone service for almost a week, it became clear that they were a company to avoid on two fronts. First, they were non-compliant with the CCTS. And strangely the CCTS nor the CRTC did anything about it. And second, netTALK is bleeding money. That made many people in Canada ditch them as their home phone provider.

But last night I got a call from a customer of mine who was still using them as a phone provider. Now in her case, this was a phone that she used to phone long distance cheaply as this was a cheaper option than phone with her main provider of home phone service. She said that there was a constant blinking orange light on her netTALK device. Thanks to Google, I was able to determine that the device was trying to connect to the network and couldn’t. What was weird was the fact that this was connected via Ethernet. Thus it should connect almost instantly to her network. Since she was 15 minutes away, I drove over to have a look. After doing some troubleshooting, I figured out why it couldn’t get onto the network. It was not getting a local network address from her router. In fact, she had a second router lying around which I used to prove that it was not the router that was causing the issue. Rather, it was the netTALK device. Resetting the device didn’t help things. Thus we both concluded it was dead and netTALK would have to replace it.

This is where the “fun” begins.

Now netTALK does not have any means to phone them. You have to use a chat window to access their support. And at the time of day we were using the chat window, it went to the Philippines. Now I have nothing against the Philippines, but this is clearly a cost saving move by netTALK as when I reviewed their product, they had phone support which I gave them points for having at the time. Now I never used their phone support before. But this Philippine based chat window left a lot to be desired. I started the chat by giving a description of the problem and detailed steps of what I did to troubleshoot it. I also related the fact that nothing had been changed on the network prior to the failure of the netTALK device.

Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Twenty five minutes later I got a response. The person at the other end asked me for the MAC address of the device which I provided. Then he asked me to go through some troubleshooting steps. The problem was that 80% were steps that I told him up front that I did.

#Fail.

I pointed that out to him and after waiting 10 minutes, he came back with a list of ports that he wanted me to open. The only problem with that question was that it had been working previously and no changes had been made to the network. I pointed that out to him and after waiting another 15 minutes, I got a response asking for my external IP. Now I have to admit that part of me was suspicious of this request. But I provided it anyway as the other part of me suspected that netTALK keeps track of this info. The person on the other end then asked for the model of the router. At this point my “Spidey Sense” was going off as I thought that was being hustled. I gave a router make and model that the customer didn’t own, and then forcefully pointed out that everything had been working fine with no changes to the network. Plus the device could not get a local network address from her router, and I had confirmed that it was the netTALK device by trying it on a second router. After a 30 minute wait, he finally conceded that the device had to be replaced.

But strangely, we were not finished with this fun yet.

The person at the other end of the chat window tried to sell me a brand new netTALK device that was further down the food chain from the one that she had. You read that right. My customer had a broken device. But they tried to sell her a new one. I blew that off and insisted for a like for like replacement for free. After five minutes, he agreed and responded with a request for a shipping address and a phone number. I provided both on behalf of the customer. I also asked for a time frame for when the new device would be delivered and a case number (hint: ALWAYS get a case number when you deal with any contact center for any reason). I got the response that it would take 3 to 7 days to get the new device instantly. But he blew off my request for a case number. So I insisted and insisted again. After 15 minutes, he gave me a case number. For all I know, he made up a bunch of numbers to get me off the chat window. But I guess I will find out as I have to contact them again when the new device arrives so that service can be resumed using the new device.

Total time: 100 minutes. This is a process that should of taken 10 minutes or less. Thus proving that their chat window doesn’t work and their attempt to outsource their technical support may save them money. But it doesn’t help their customers.

Speaking of customers, my customer was so stunned by this that she gave me a task to do. Which was to find a VoIP provider for her to switch to that had way better customer service than what she saw on display. In my mind, there were two. Vonage, and Oooma. But I will do my due diligence to see if there are any others who could be on that list. Another thing that she wanted was to port the number that she had associated with her netTALK device to whatever VoIP service that she decides to go with. I did confirm that the number can be ported. Thus that part may be easy. I say may because I have heard stories of netTALK making this process difficult. And I warned her of that.

The net result is that netTALK is on its way to losing a customer because of this display of customer service. Frankly, this was shambolic and is likely indicative of how netTALK treats their customers. So on top of everything else that I mentioned at the start of this story, customer service, or the lack of quality customer service is one more reason to avoid netTALK.

 

 

CRTC Fails Miserably To Address Compliance Issues With netTALK

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 25, 2016 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about netTALK, the VoIP provider who in a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. In my last story on this topic, Jeremy Cooperstock wrote a letter to the CRTC in regards to netTALK being a non-compliant provider according to the CRTC and CCTS, and the fact that netTALK failed to deliver on their promise of one year of free service. Mr Cooperstock got a reply from the CRTC via Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Here it is: 

Dear Mr. Cooperstock:

As discussed on Friday over the phone, the issue in question is not within the CRTC’s purview. Should you wish to pursue the matter, we would advise you to seek legal representation.

So… At this point you have to ask what good is the CRTC? After all, thousands of Canadians had their phone service offline for days. And it’s not like the fact that netTALK is a non-compliant telco is a new discoveryThere’s no way that should be acceptable to the CRTC, but clearly it is. And that quite frankly an #EpicFail. Canadians deserve better from their telco regulators. One wonders if better will ever come.

Now when it comes to netTALK, my advice remains the same. They are a non-compliant member of the CCTS. From what I can tell, they have never made a penny. Plus they don’t follow through on their promises. Avoid them at all costs as they are a telco that won’t be around in the long term. That will only hurt you in the end.

I will continue to monitor this for any new developments from either the CRTC or netTALK.

netTALK Back In The News For All The Wrong Reasons

Posted in Commentary with tags , on October 1, 2016 by itnerd

It’s been a few months since I wrote anything about VoIP provider netTALK who last made the news because they got into a dispute with a company called Iristel, and as a side effect to that, they took the phone service of thousands of Canadians offline for several days. One of the things that I discovered that the CRTC threatened netTALK with “enforcement action” back in 2013 because they didn’t join the CCTS which is something that netTALK has to do. But here we are in 2016 and no “enforcement action” appears to have been taken to date. 

Well, one person wants to know why. I was alerted to a letter written by Jeremy Cooperstock to Patrick Desjardins who is the Information Officer of the CRTC. Among other things, Mr. Copperstock mentions this: 

As we discussed on Friday, I understand from the CCTS that netTALK is a non-compliant provider whom they referred to the CRTC in April for enforcement action. When I asked the CCTS “But do [netTALK’s] customers still have no recourse for the broken promises?”, I was referred to the June 8 letter from the CRTC and directed to contact you.

If you click on the first link, you will see that there is clear evidence that netTALK continues to be a non-compliant provider and nothing has been done about it by the CRTC or CCTS. If you click the second link, you will notice that the CRTC has decided to do nothing about the fact that thousands of Canadians had their phone service taken offline for days. That further highlights the fact that there needs to be a telecommunications regulator in Canada who is prepared to hold telcos accountable for the actions.

There’s one other thing that I need to point out in this letter:

As for my own situation, after complaining on September 24 that the service renewal letter I received did not include any compensation for being deprived of telephone service for five days in January of this year, I was only offered, in response, a single month of free service (a value of approximately $4).

And:

Needless to say, this is a clear breach of the earlier offer of one year of free service as compensation for the outage that deprived approximately 27,000 Canadians of their telephone service.

It is one thing for netTALK and Iristel to engage in mudslinging during a commercial dispute, but quite another when netTALK issues a written commitment to its customers and then reneges on this undertaking.

What he’s referring to is the fact that during this dispute, netTALK promised a year of free service, then appeared to backtrack on that once service was restored to affected customers. That left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. And this is one among many reasons why netTALK needs to be avoided at all costs.

I will monitor this to see where this goes as clearly this story is far from over and it will be interesting to see if the CRTC and CCTS do the right thing and do some sort of “enforcement action” against netTALK. If they don’t, it tells you all you need to know about both of those regulatory bodies. As in, they don’t work for the interests of Canadians.

netTALK Appears To Go Back On Their Promise Of 1 Year Of Free Service [UPDATED x3]

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 22, 2016 by itnerd

It seems that the netTALK outage saga won’t die. You’ll recall from this story that netTALK was sending out Tweets like this during the outage that cost 75,000 Canadians their phone service for 5 days or so:

But in the same story, they sent me a statement that said this:

In the meantime, Canadian Customers will be offered an additional number and six months of free service.

The tweet came on the 18th of January, the statement was sent to me on the next day. Clearly there was a disconnect there. Now this disconnect is getting worse. Check out this exchange on Twitter:

So it appears that the information, or rather mis-information seeing as I have three different statements from the same company on display above, was not an isolated incident. It seems that netTALK is backing away from from the free year that they promised Canadian customers during the outage. I am reaching out to the user that posted this on Twitter to get their side of the story. But I’d be interested in hearing what netTALK has to say as well. But I have to say that the optics of this situation suck for netTALK. And keep in mind that this is not a company that can not afford to have any PR fails going forward if they wish to survive.

More info as it comes.

UPDATE: The reaction from the Twitterverse has been quick:

This is sure to come back to haunt netTALK:

And from the person who started it all:

I have not seen any reaction from netTALK as of yet though. But this is not going well for them.

UPDATE #2: A Twitter user sent me a screen shot of an e-mail from Anastasios “Takis” Kyriakides who is the CEO of netTALK which shows the promise 1 year of free service.

Over to you netTALK. This seems pretty clear cut to me.

UPDATE #3: It seems that the deal has been altered. A Twitter user has forwarded me this screenshot:

So it looks like the length of the free service depends on what you do with your phone number. None of them are the year that they originally promised. I’ve reached out to other Canadian netTALK customers and they are seeing similar offers in their netTALK account management portal. And it is clear that they want you to move to a new number. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. A number change for most people is a non-starter. Oh yeah, you need to make a choice by February 1st. Charming.

While this deal fits what they sent me in the statement from the 19th of January, it contradicts the tweets from the day before and the e-mail sent by netTALK’s CEO. None of this really inspires confidence in netTALK at this point and the optics truly suck for them.

netTALK / Iristel: What We Now Know Now That This Appears To Be Over [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on January 21, 2016 by itnerd

Now that it appears that 75,000 Canadian netTALK customers have their phone service back, I think it’s time to take a look at this whole situation and see what we now know from this experience.

The first thing that we now know is that netTALK’s as a company isn’t on stable ground. And that comes through by its own admission in documents filed with the SEC. In fact, a lot of their dirty laundry got exposed as part of this, and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. That combined with the fact that Walmart and Best Buy have allegedly stopped selling their products in Canada (Please note that I am still awaiting confirmation of that) and all the negative press they’ve received means one simple thing: They will have trouble retaining customers and attracting new customers will be difficult, if not impossible. Now to be fair, they have promised to compensate Canadian customers who were affected by this outage, but that may not mean much if they aren’t around to follow through. And it may be too late as many of those consumers are considering other VoIP options. And that may hasten netTALK’s demise. One other thing that’s worth considering is the fact that netTALK is now in bed with Primus who just went into Chapter 15 bankruptcy. That has to give one cause to pause.

The second thing that we know is that a company by the name of Iristel exists. Prior to this episode I have never heard of this company, and I am sure the average Canadian hadn’t heard of them either. But as part of looking into this matter, I ended up talking to their PR guy, their VP of Operations, and trading Tweets with their CEO. On the upside, they came across for the most part as straight shooters, and everything they said was on the level for the most part. The downers in this were the fact that they let netTALK run up a $2 million bill before pulling the plug and starting this whole nightmare. That was likely not the smartest thing for them to do. Though I suspect, the prior relationship of Samer Bishay with netTALK as he was at one time the President of netTALK and is now the CEO of Iristel has something to do with that. Not to mention that Bishay’s bombastic style of tweeting rubbed people the wrong way. On that front, my advice to him is to get someone else to do his social media for him. In any event, this company is now on the map. But I suspect not in an entirely positive way. They will have some fence mending to do with the Canadian public going forward. Good luck with that.

The third thing that came of this is the CRTC and the CCTS and their lack of will and ability in terms of making sure that Canadians have reliable telecommunication services. I discovered that the CRTC threatened netTALK with “enforcement action” back in 2013 because they didn’t join the CCTS. But here we are in 2016 and no “enforcement action” appears to have been taken. You have to wonder why that was and if it could have stopped this whole gong show from happening? Plus during this whole debacle, you never got the sense that the CRTC had no ability or will to resolve this other than putting out a few Tweets saying that they were talking to the parties involved. As for the CCTS, I got numerous e-mails, comments, and even a complete chat log from a reader where he recorded a conversation between him and the CCTS where the CCTS said that they couldn’t help in this situation. That means that both of Canada’s telecommunications regulatory bodies are broken and are in desperate need of reform. Something that frequent readers of this blog know that I have been saying for years. This episode highlights the fact that Canadians need change in that area and we need it now. I hope that the Federal Government is listening and will take action on that front because Canadians deserve better.

The final thing that came out of this is the fact that you have to choose your VoIP provider carefully. People go to VoIP to save money as these are very difficult economic times. I get that. But you have to do your homework. First of all, see if the provider that you want to use is a part of the CCTS participating providers list. Though the CCTS is kind of useless, at least a provider on this list is trying to be a reputable player in the Canadian telecommunications industry. But that isn’t the only place to look. In this regard, the search engine of your choice is your friend. Everything I found out about netTALK and Iristel was found via Google very easily. You can really find out a lot about a telecom provider just by spending the time to look. Finally, if the price is too good to be true, it likely is. After all, being a telecom isn’t a low cost business. The price that you pay has to reflect that. So If the VoIP service that you’re considering is substantially lower than others, that should make you say “hmmmm.”

Finally, I would like to say thanks to all the people who read this blog and follow me on Twitter. A special thanks go to those who sent me feedback and tips on this issue. The tips that you provided allowed me to follow this story and uncover new information for you. I really appreciate each and every single one of you and I hope I’ve been of service to you in this matter. I also hope to be of service to you going forward.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging and reviewing of everything from smartphones to cars. I hope.

UPDATE: Primus reached out to me tonight to say this:

Just wanted to clarify one point in your blog where you write:
“One other thing that’s worth considering is the fact that netTALK is now in bed with Primus who just went into Chapter 15 bankruptcy. That has to give one cause to pause.”
Primus is seeking creditor protection in both the U.S. and Canada to facilitate its sale to Birch. Primus is not bankrupt, which you’ll appreciate is a very different legal condition and undertaking. 
Okay. Point taken.
UPDATE #2: Best Buy Canada has confirmed that they aren’t selling netTALK products: