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Big Plusnet UK Billing Upgrade Suffers Bugs and Personal Data Leak

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 (7:38 am) - Score 6,594
plusnet uk

Customers of budget broadband ISP Plusnet appear to have experienced a turbulent weekend after a major migration of their billing system, which the provider had described as being “one of the biggest projects the company has undertaken“, suffered bugs and a small personal data leak.

Historically migrations or upgrades of major database driven systems (email, billing etc.) rarely complete without causing a few headaches, which is perhaps to be expected given the vast amounts of data involved and the tendency for all sorts of unusual errors to occur along the way.

The upgrade process itself – classed as “routine maintenance” – began on Friday 31st August and meant that their advisors weren’t “able to deal with account specific queries and some of our web pages are unavailable” (e.g. customer account pages). The process was only supposed to last until Saturday morning but the disruption continued into Sunday and the same notice is still present on their Service Status page this morning.

The reason for this delay soon became apparent as both former and existing customers alike began reporting problems, such as receiving incorrect billing notices or payment requests. Unfortunately the system outage meant that not even Plusnet’s support staff could initially chase up those complaints.

Now The Register has reported that Plusnet’s upgrade also resulted in a seemingly minor personal data leak, which meant that a “handful” of customers were able to view the contact details (name, address etc.) of other users at the same ISP (note: it’s possible this may have affected more than a handful of accounts as that only seems to be the ones they’ve identified). Thankfully this didn’t include any financial data.

A Spokesperson for Plusnet said:

“We’d like to reassure all our customers that we immediately prevented access to the My Account section of the website and we quickly fixed the problem.

We take the protection of our customers’ data extremely seriously, and have informed the relevant authorities [Information Commissioners Office].”

In fairness it’s possible that Plusnet may have actually done a better job of the upgrade process than you might think. We’ve seen plenty of similar large-scale billing migrations occur over the years and the fallout is often far worse and much more vocal, while this one passed by with only a relatively small number of gripes.

We’d be surprised if the ICO hit Plusnet with a significant financial penalty for the internal data leak, given the context, although this may depend upon whether or not the leak was truly isolated to only a “handful” of users.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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27 Responses
  1. Simon

    AGAIN!?

    don’t you lot EVER learn!?

    Once upon a time, back in the day when people were PROUD to work there (my included) I stopped you being sued by a solicitor who’s data you had leaked, that was a ball ache and the worst 3 weeks of my time there – now as an ex customer if I find you have leaked MY info I will be making sure the next call you get from a Solicitor will be on my behalf.

  2. Mark

    Signed up to Plusnet last month, we switch over on the 7/8th from their sister company BT. And I’m loving this new billing system, especially because it says..

    Last bill: £23.99
    Next bill date: 03-Jan-2037

    /shrug

  3. Raymond cook

    I have been with Plusnet for almost 12 months and they have not got my bills right yet. On my last bill they have now charged me for fibre broadband, which I don’t have. It is useless trying to reason with them, they are ALWAYS right.

  4. Victor Van Der Williams

    (Thinking they’re always right) That’s the problem. If they make any consessions, you will be lucky if they perform any promises. Am having the same problem as I was due to be refund just £15 from the previous contract after they over charged me – almost double when my contract ended and they placed me on the rolling contract (without notification that the contract had ended) I argued with the manager that while they have no duty to notify customers, the law of contract requires them to adhere to good business practices. I paid £20 extra every month for 6 months until I complained about the excessive bills. At the end of your contract they will slam you with a huge bill (with their deranged policy- once a bill is processed, you have to pay). They gave me two conditions, Cancel the rolling contract by paying this wrong bill or renew and upgrade to fibre and get a refund. Until now they have failed to refund the £15 the manager promised in writing after I upgraded to fibre. It’s coming to two months. They just keep saying sorry our policies have now changed. Yet we customers continue to lose money, they keep getting richer. Hopefully due to this personal data leakage I will have an opportunity to rescind this contract. Perhaps a solicitor out there will bring a tort claim on our behalf.
    Arguments with Plusnet never end and customers continue to suffer. Now with this billing problem, I would imagine the vulnerable population is going to suffer. Many people will continue paying excessive bills by direct debit. And I doubt they will have the courtesy to compensate customers given their new policies we can’t access.

  5. occasionally factual

    You missed out the bit where the web site only showed invoices in the Edge web browser. Although it has been fixed today 4th September.
    But it is still not showing the payment history – just the last one. Should show the last 15 months.
    Makes you wonder how it was tested.

  6. V Cahill

    Been with plusnet for several years. Quite honestly a lot better than my previous provider TalkTalk, never had any billing issues

  7. occasionally factual

    Oh and it might be nice if the staff, especially the Community Leader Jono, actually went into the threads on their own website about this subject and answered the customers questions.
    All you get are the superfans (sorry superusers) answering.
    Doesn’t bode well for the community future if the staff aren’t engaging with the paying customers.

  8. occasionally factual

    And the latest confirmed issue with the new system is that it is marking people’s accounts as closing! And it doesn’t care if you are on a customer account or staff account, it will mark the account to be closed.

    Ops.

    I wonder how many people will get disconnected by this bug?

  9. helen

    Looked at the new “billing page” today. I didn’t know about the migration, but it took me 2 minutes to find the news report. Bills won’t print correctly, won’t display correctly or completely, no Referrals bill, just a table which doesn’t seem to match previous bills. Lists a “credit limit”, which is OK in theory, only this is the first we have heard of it after years and years of being with Force9/Plusnet. Other errors. Nobody on chat, and “longer than normal wait times.” I hope this is temporary.

    • occasionally factual

      @Helen
      Plusnet has stopped the Live Chat system until some time on Monday at the earliest time.
      This is due to excessive demand by customers, both on chat and the phone lines.
      I wonder why everyone is trying to contact them?
      Could it be the fact that they tried to change the billing system without warning all their customers BEFORE hand. And no a post to the community web site isn’t sufficient Jono!
      And now lots of very confused customers are calling to ask what is happening, why are my bills wrong, why are you double charging me, why cannot I see my bills, why are you closing my account? (These are some of the reported issues from the community web site)

      Basically Plusnet have messed up BIG TIME here.

  10. itsnotmeitsu

    IM SO HAPPY I LEFT THIS COMPANY, PLUSNET USED TO BE AWESOME NOW THEY ARE TERRIBLE…. I WOULD RAHTER GO BACK TO 56K MODEM DIAL UP CONNECTION THAN USE THIS COMPANY AGAIN!!!!!

  11. Lynne

    Getting threatening demands for a bill that isn’t ours. Still unable to contact them! 12/9/18

  12. Lorna McKinnon

    I have gave them my notice to cancel. Absolutely useless and disgraceful customer service. Been disconnected twice over past week for non payment of bill which was actually paid on time…spend over 2 hours on phone to them and was promised a call back 3 days ago that I am still waiting on. Cannot cope with them anymore!

  13. N. Porembski

    I switched from Plusnet on the 14th of August, on the 22nd I received notification of my final bill which included a cancellation fee. I paid the outstanding amount of £10.98 and now I’ve received another bill for £31.02. Talk about inept, I’m just glad I cancelled my direct debit before PN just help themselves to any of my money.

  14. Gwen Large

    I too am part of this awful situation. They cannot find the payment I made on 6th September and have now billed me another £13.26 for failed payment and call barring. They have basically called me a liar and have asked for proof of payment – my bank statement showing my address, account number and sort code, I’ll do that straight away then – in this day and age!! I have been with them for many years and this is the first time I’ve had any problem. I cannot see any previous bills at all. Stuff the pretty invoice. Customer service non existent.

  15. Annoyed Customer

    Spent a month waiting for my bill to be cleared just to be told I’d be getting debt collectors contacting me despite sending proof. Now I have to have a new account after 4 years because they couldn’t monitor my account properly. I’m now planning on potential legal action.

    • Nathan Adkin

      I’ve just had the same letter. I havent been with Plusnet since August. Rang them and they conceded that they were at fault. I’m waiting to see the outcome. Cheeky buggers wanted me to tell the debt collection agency to ring them also. Crazy system.

  16. Caroline

    I have been a customer for several years, they were unable to take my payment although I have tried to pay my bill many times, now they have closed my account and I to have had to open another, which means no phone line or broadband for who knows how long. It is terrible.

  17. Nath

    I’ve just had the debt collection letter from plusnet. I havent been with Plusnet since August. Rang them and they conceded that they were at fault after “not noticing I cancelled my contract within 14 days”. I’m waiting to see the outcome and confirmation email they’ve promised. Cheeky buggers wanted me to tell the debt collection agency to ring them also. Crazy system.

  18. Akara

    Yes, their billing system isn’t working and they have been overcharging me since August as they cannot see my account and need to hire a competent programmer to fix their broken system.

  19. Doris Braukmann-Pugsley

    The problem still seems to exist. Joined #Plusnet a few weeks ago and phone was switched over 14 days ago but not broadband – due to their billing problem apparently they cannot switch me over. The money was taken though — communication difficult — and I thought BT was hopeless at customer service!

  20. Vivienne Harley

    Been with Plusnet for many years but things have gone e haywire in recent years. You have to wait ages to speak to anyone at the moment I am on 35minute wait my 3 rd call of day. 1st call I was assured of a call back waited 2hrs nothing happened, still waiting, made another call, placedo hold nothing happened. Agreed new contract t in Sept but still they are not abiding by the new contract!

    • Papi

      I am on the same boat, I am supposed to be on unlimited fibre and it is capped to 50GB. To top it up, I have to pay the full amount as the discount is not being applied. We will refund you, do not worry about it…it will be fixed soon…they say.
      A total disgrace.

      I tried to cancel the service but I was told that I would have to pay a cancellation fee. How come?

  21. Michelle Manning

    Hi I have had ongoing billing problem since I signed up to PlusNet from July Paid upfront for line rental. Then they have billed me again for two hundred pounds. Still awaiting response from customer services despite countless number of phone calls and waiting to get through . Not a good experience for a new customer. Given up all hope of getting money back or response as each time told we will ring you but never do .I have complained and if in 8 weeks have had no reasonable response will then go to OFCOM to resolve.

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