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6 Years On – UK ISP Supanet Chase Former Customers for Unpaid Bills

Saturday, February 9th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 5,126
customer service and support UK complaints

A number of former Supanet (Supatel / TimeTalk) customers have been in contact to complain that the ISP has recently started chasing them for alleged unpaid bills, some of which include vague demands for up to nearly £800. In most cases those being targeted left the broadband provider 4-6 years ago.

Supanet, which ambitiously describes itself as being “one of the fastest growing ethical ISPs in the UK” on their website and claims to have “registered over a million subscribers to date” (we haven’t seen evidence of that), is actually the trading name for a Cyprus registered company called Supatel (Supanet was acquired by them in 2010).

Back in 2013 Ofcom fined the broadband and phone provider Supatel £60,000 for mis-selling (slamming) after they were found guilty of having switched 83 customers from one ISP to another without the individuals knowledge (here). Prior to that there was no shortage of complaints about the provider and many people have since chosen to jump ship.

Fast forward several years and some of those who switched away from Supanet / TimeTalk are now being hit with vague demands for an “unpaid” balance, which seem to range from around £90 to £800 (purely based on those gripes we’ve received). Many of those being targeted won’t have any paperwork left from such a long time ago (handy for Supanet) but deny that they owe the ISP anything. All of them say this is the first time they’ve heard of an outstanding bill.

Sample Complaint 1

“This originally started with a text out the blue and then I went onto their site and had a live chat with them before I was cut off. I threatened them with ofcom and I was told it wasn’t for internet so they wouldn’t do anything. It was for non closure of my account and seemingly there was a charge for me having a supanet.com email address.

I believe this is the tip of the iceberg and it’s only starting. I had only ever used them as my original pc came from them around 20 years ago. Due to the size of Time retail there must be thousands of people who will have these dormant accounts and will be getting contacted in due course.”

Sample Complaint 2

“I cancelled my contract with Supanet in March 2013. This month I received a text from supanet asking me to contact them regarding an outstanding balance. I ignored it. A few days later I received a letter informing me of a debt of £***.**. Needless to say I was a little shocked. I rang the number on the letter to ask for an address (as the letter only had a Cyprus HQ address on the bottom) to send a subject access request to.”

Sample Complaint 3

“I’ve just received a letter from Supanet saying I owe them almost £***. I finished my term of provision with them in April 2013. They say they’ve referred the case to Quick Collect, yet not once in the intervening period have they contacted me to say there’s an issue outstanding? There’s no quantification in the letter as to what this all relates to, it looks a bit amateurish to me, and I smell a scam or an attempt to put frighteners on.”

Digging deeper, at least some of the outstanding balances appear to be attributed to allegedly unclosed accounts or the use of a supanet.com email address. In other cases we’ve seen people being charged £69 for non-return of an ancient and rather naff router, which many will have long since thrown away.

At this point we note that the letter (see our copy at the bottom) directs its recipients to contact their “collection agency” – Quick Collect – within 30 days on 01204 978010 or it warns that the matter “ultimately escalates to legal action“. However they fail to provide a postal contact for Quick Collect (it’s wise to keep related correspondences in writing for legal reasons – not giving an address is thus bad practice).

We did a search for the collection company and the only one that we found with such a name in the UK was dissolved in 2016 (here). Meanwhile Supanet itself is listed as a dormant company (here) and another company called Biometrix appears to exist at the same address (here); the latter was once called Supatel. Time Group (here) and Time Holdings (here) also share the address and some directors. Quite the web of companies.

NOTE: A search for 01204 978010 found lots of similar complaints here and here.

Ordinarily in this sort of situation we’d be advising customers to pay and then dispute the charge afterwards through an Alternative Dispute Resolution (details below) handler or the courts, but in this case the approach leaves too many questions (it could easily be viewed by some as a scam) and a more robust challenge may thus be appropriate.

Challenging the Provider

Broadly speaking Supanet’s letter struggles to conform to the new Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims (see here for a good summary), which was introduced in 2017 and advises on what information both sides are required to provide (they’ve left a lot of detail out and we haven’t been able to confirm that Quick Collect is even a registered debt collector). We’ll also highlight the Citizens Advice guidance on debt collection harassment, in case it ever becomes relevant (here). Plus the National Debt Helpline has some sample complaint letters.

At this point the usual approach applies. 1) Find out where the debt has come from by asking the agency to send you a detailed summary that fully explains the charge, 2) Request a copy of your original agreement and, 3) Tell them that you wish to only be contacted by post (request their address and also company details to help confirm it’s not a scam). Essentially, get as much detail as possible.

Furthermore it might be useful to phone Supanet directly in order to confirm the debt action (here) and at the same time we’d be inclined to drop Ofcom a complaint (here). The regulator, which incidentally informed us that they “haven’t seen a particular trend in complaints about Supanet” (i.e. not enough people have told them about this.. yet), also has a useful page on disputing bills (here).

NOTE: The GDPR law enables customers to make a Subject Access Request (SAR), which may help to find out what personal data is held on you.

After this you may wish to write a letter that formally disputes the charge and at the same time we’d notify them of your move to open a complaint via Supanet’s Ofcom approved ADR provider – Ombudsman Services: Communication, which can investigate the complaint on your behalf at no cost to yourself. Supanet also has a document for their complaints procedure (here) and check our own Complaints Guide for extra help.

Some former customers inform us that Supanet caved in after they opened an ADR complaint (probably because it’s free for the end-user but costs the ISP hundreds of pounds). However if all of the above avenues fail and you continue to feel as if Supanet’s demand is unfounded then the Small Claims Court is often an effective weapon of last resort. Such courts may well take issue with how they’ve handled this.

Strictly speaking Supanet are within their rights to chase former customers for unpaid bills, even up to 6 years after the event, although this kind of approach will undoubtedly be viewed with contempt by many of those targeted. Similarly the fact that the ISP does not seem to have previously apprised those customers of any such debt only reinforces that viewpoint.

We have repeatedly tried to contact Supanet over the past couple of weeks but all to no avail.

supanet quick collect unpaid bill claim letter uk isp

Supatel’s Registered Office
STADYL Building
Corner Them.
Dervis-Florinis Street,
CY-1065 Nicosia,
Cyprus

Supanet Complaints Department
TCS Support Centre,
Time Technology Park,
Blackburn Road,
Burnley,
BB12 7TW

UPDATE 6:39am

Credits to some of our readers for spotting in the comments that the Quick Collect number appears to be linked to Internexus (company details), which previously used the Supanet name and are also linked to IX Wireless Ltd. (here). Interestingly the Internexus Group seems to be in an on-going state of liquidation (expected to be dissolved on 5th May 2019).

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

    I suspect ‘statute barred’ is a phrase that’s going to crop up somewhat here, alongside ‘prove it’.

    • davidj

      Indeed if its for debt more than 6 years old its unlikely they will even be able to take anyone to court for it.
      In this case its actually probably best anyone concerned does not acknowledge the creditor (or the bebt collection agency) as the limitation period begins again from the date of the acknowledgement. Which will then mean they can drag you to court, which is probably what they are hoping for considering the time frame.

    • mike

      Once a debt has reached 6 years old, even if you acknowledge it the clock doesn’t get reset. However if you acknowledge it before it is 6 years old, the clock is reset.

      After six years a creditor can still pursue a debt, as it still exists, but cannot take a debtor to court.

    • davidj

      I would not risk it. Typically once a debt has been acknowledged by the debtor, the limitation period begins again from the date of the acknowledgement. Whether or not that still applies after a 6 year period or changes have been made to the limitations act, or if they could still take you to court is another matter. If my debt was more than 6 years old, i would not admit anything to them.

      Any payment you make, offer to make or admission in any way of the debt could be seen as you knowing the debt existed even after the 6 year period. Court may not occur after that but chance are you will still be pestered by the parasites.

      In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the debt remains in existence but a creditor is typically unable to initiate court proceedings to recover it. (Hence the collection agencies and the threatening letters).

      In Scotland the law is far more clear for debts like this, the majority of unsecured debts are statute barred after 5 years and a debt that is statute barred is ‘extinguished,’ which means that it no longer exists in law.

      I wonder if they have tried pulling this on any EX-Scottish customers? In their case they may actually have a case for harassment against Supanet (or whatever they or their collectors now want to call thereself).

  2. DanielM

    Quick collect is just supanet/timetalk/6g its not a collection agency.

    they tried harrassing me for a balance which i never owned, blocked their number then they started calling on other random numbers from as far as liverpool to top of glasgow. so far i have blocked around 30 different numbers, they eventually gave up.

    They are linked to Internexus Networks Limited of which they also seem to own, so i would block every number owned by Internexus.

    • CarlT

      That kind of behaviour is unlawful. This strikes me as a desperate attempt to secure some cash.

      They are going to end up owing regulators money again with this behaviour.

    • DanielM

      well it was fine because i was using the hiya app and it identified them every time so basically costing them money to call a mobile phone every time

      but yet does it really surprise you considering the past, they also try to distant “6G” and claim they are not related.

  3. DanielM

    To add to the proof that quick collect are also connected to 6g/supanet

    both the numbers are owned by Internexus.

    • Debrob

      You are right as during one of my conversations with Supanet I asked the advisor to inform QC to hold any action whilst in dispute and she said they had been told they were not allowed to do this even though she admitted they were in the same room !

  4. Salek

    is this not the same “Time Computers” that later bought out “Tiny Computers” and flogged their customers/suppliers for literately millions of pounds sometime back in early 2000,

    apparently their original founders ran off to the middle east after declaring bankrupt, probably with all the hidden money, they later emerged as a new business in the uk as supanet and more recently as 6G,

    BE VERY CAUTIOUS OF BEING ONE OF THEIR CUSTOMERS

  5. InTheKnow

    This all relates to former Time Computers and the subsequent string of offshoots, where money (quits a lot actually) moves in and out of the UK via Jersey. Broadly, there is Supanet, Internexus, Tpad and 6G internet. Latterly, agencies have come and gone who manage their installations and to separate potential fraud claims for the Super Connected Cities voucher scheme from a couple of years ago. The business model includes over-promising speeds then charging customers a cancellation fee, having re-financed the installation costs and sold the contracts to a middle Eastern finance company. The founder timidly visits the UK to.meet family in the Blackburn area quite regularly, but as a non-dom, he has to watch his time in the office, as he believes that the Inland Revenue follows him closely.

  6. Stephen Wakeman

    Glad Ofcom are stepping up to the mark here. Oh wait…

    So they got fined 60k for slamming. Tiny amount. If they slammed 120 customers that’s £500 per offense. They would have stood to gain almost that in revenue from each one of them each year. That’s assuming they slammed only 120. Likely far more.

    In this case if there are examples of them chasing for up to nearly 1k per account, how many accounts are they having a crack at?

    I feel sorry for people who they go after. It should not happen. They’re obviously dodgy as all hell. Can’t be reached for contact by an industry journalist. Not playing nicely with laws and customer practices. Where is the protection that UK laws and Ofcom are supposed to provide if they leave these dirty companies to act in a lawless space until enough people complain?

  7. Wharmby

    I have had one of these letters too. Has anyone resolved the situation please?

  8. StJohn Burkett

    The Ombudsman won’t have acknowledged a rise in complaints because you have to wait eight weeks for a deadlock letter.
    When I phoned the number, for ‘Quick Collect’ it was pretty clear they were guessing. At the end they said my debt had increased from £69 to £99. (They had offered a 25% reduction during the call to £51). When I said that I had 30 days according to the letter, they said that my phone call had indicated that I had refused to pay.
    hmmm…

  9. Colin Palfrey

    I received a letter today for a debt of £69.00, apparently because I had not returned the router. I did but as that as 2 years ago and I had heard nothing since I assumed that they had received it, so I no longer have proof of postage. I was with Supanet for maybe 15 years and only left them because I gave up my landline, but that was December 2016. When I rang Quick Collect to find out what the alleged debt related to, I was told that it was actually £99.00 because mine was an older model router. When I told them that I had no intention of paying them anything, they tried to intimidate me by telling me that without proof of postage they would obtain judgement against me and that it would destroy my credit rating, etc. Then they invited me to pay £50 immediately to close the matter. I told them to send me a letter detailing the alleged sum due and that I would take it from there. Will I hear from them again?

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