or … how certain companies are ruining this world
In the previous part I told you the story of how couriers, in my case UPS, but it had happened before and will happen again, are just profiting of the general confusion created by Brexit, hoping that customers will just be not determined enough to react. Once, a student of mine bought a beautiful cello from China on eBay, paying about 150 EUR on shipping, handling, VAT and fees. Everything was included, everything. When he got the package, the Italian courier asked him to pay 200 EUR of customs fees. They paid because, even with that, the instrument was still of a better value for the price of anything they could have found here in Italy, but still, this is outrageous beyond belief. I have watched a few videos on YouTube made by companies based in the UK who want to reassure their customer about the future of their international trades. One file-rouge between all of them is: packages to Italy have issues and result in unexpected and inexplicable extra fees.
Now, let’s turn the page to something which is way more widespread.
The long odyssey of ISPs
As you possibly know if you have followed my updates on Gumroad, I have moved away from my previous home in July following the shortsighted works in the flat above mine which caused the subsequent collapse of our roof. At the time, my ISP was Fastweb, the Italian brand of the Swiss provider Swisscom. It was generally fine with them as they brought Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) connectivity to my XVIII century home, with speeds of 55/20 Mbps (not bad, coming from 11/0.5 before). Needing to move out with urgency I cancelled my contract, which made me pay for an extra month because of, rules—that is, no one cares if the reason for your moving is a terrible accident, you will just have to pay. I recall when there was that terrible earthquake in L’Aquila, where homeless people kept being charged for SKY cable TV and for not returning their TV decoders, which were buried under tons of rubbles. Typical Italian? Maybe. Shameful for sure, and you will let me know in the comments if in your country it works the same.
Don’t change the winning team
Regardless of this extra month, I was happy with my ISP, especially because it was very stable, and it helped me and my girlfriend teach from home during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. So, I activated a new line with them in the new apartment. Long story short, it didn’t work: their new router was more akin to a toaster, and it didn’t deliver the 200/20 Mbps speed they promised. Luckily, there was a “30-days satisfied or refunded” policy so, after seven days from the activation, I cancelled my contract. This was the 12th of August 2021. As usual, the deactivation of the contract takes up to 30 days (why so much?), so, at the beginning of September, I got the invoice for the months of September and October, which automatically charged my credit card. I discovered too late that while you can remove your bank account from automatic billing, you cannot do the same with your credit card, unless you block it faking a theft. I called them, and they said I will be regularly reimbursed of everything, as per contract. At least, their customer service has still been impeccable.
How has it gone?
As of the time of writing, December 28, 2021, I have not yet received a proper refund, just an email saying a refund had been issued and a “credit” invoice for the first 12 days of September I had been wrongly charged. Now, brace on for the funny part.
The refund got approved on November 15, 2021, and, according to support, it had one month to be paid, so December 15, which has failed. But it is December and, as you know, in August and December you can get nothing done in Italy. I will wait until January and then call them. For the last invoice, which is due by the end of November, the support said that they have two months to process it (so end of January 2022) and an extra month to actually pay it.
In short, for this kind of things, we cannot expect a reasonable solution within the first 6 months, during which the whole world could have collapsed. Talking coherence: why does the user have to pay in advance for services they have not used, and the company does not have to pay immediately back?
Because that is the way of the world!
It is only so if we let it be so, the world is nothing on its own but beautiful!
Finally, the true fibre, but at what cost?
I live in a small town, 16k people, Medieval layout, so getting the fibre is quite hard if you are not in the center or in the newly built outskirts. A local provider, Isiline, born a decade ago, worked hard to bring fibre connectivity to as many of those not covered before. They were the same ISP I had before Fastweb, so I said, why not? Or, well, do I really have any alternative?
I signed the contract, which ensured activation in the next two months, but also ensured that they took the first two months of service in advance. I didn’t like it but, at this point, I had no choice because signing that contract also brought in a fee if I rescinded from the contract before 24 months had passed. In the contract they said that invoices would have been paid in advance, just they didn’t say how much in advance. Turns out that, few days after the activation, end of September, I got a second invoice. For what, you may ask? For December and January, of course! I did not protest, as I was initially happy with how fast this connection was (up to 600/300 Mbps, the fastest I had ever had). When the first stability issues arose, my positivity and patience were challenged to the core.
Then, at the beginning of December, I got yet another invoice, to be paid (automatically, of course, by draining my bank account) by December 16, covering February and March 2022. Outraged, I wrote support, asking them to stop this unacceptable policy: they called me back, just to say that this was the way it was…
You see? It’s the way of the world!
… that they would give me back everything if I ever cancelled the subscription. The funny part is that they also have a 30 days cancellation policy in place exactly as the other providers, so it is very possible that, in those 30 days, I will get charged for two months I will never use. And then, I will need to wait 6 months for the refund.
But why is this allowed? Basically, because they are the best alternative here. TIM, Vodafone, Wind, are not better, they are just bigger and there are some advantages for sure, but since the cables are all owned by TIM, there may be no point at all.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
I think there is.
My mobile phone provider, Iliad, known in France as the Free provider, has been the first ever to give: fixed rates, forever policies, 4-page total contracts (instead of the usual ninety pages of so from other providers), unlimited calls/SMS and a generous amount of data, for a very honest price. For this, Italy is still a happy island, since my current contract has unlimited calls/SMS and 50 GB in 4G (I have an iPhone XS, so I do not need 5G, besides it being laughably overrated) for just EUR 7,99 per month. This has brought a revolution in the mobile phone providers in Italy, as Iliad has eroded about 8 million customers in the last 4 years of so from the competition.
In France, they already offer DSL services, and they are actively working to bring it to Italy. This could be an even bigger earthquake, and I can’t wait to see its effects. I assume this won’t happen before my 24-month contract expired (September 2023) but if it does, I will gladly pay the fee and migrate to an open, serious and coherent provider.
Another option would be Starlink, by Elon Musk, but it is still far too expensive for me, and it does not yet allow moving it from house to house, as I do not plan to stay here forever. But we will see, it surely looks promising.
This is kind of a happy ending to our story, where I looked for coherence and eventually found that it does pay out, just slowly and in the very end. We need to believe in coherence all together, we need to put it as our first goal of our life. Most of all, we need to make ourselves accountable, by accepting criticism when we are not coherent, while also holding other people around us accountable for their behaviour. Only thus we can hope to overturn these companies who, at the time of writing, are just contributing to make a worse place of our beautiful world.
I wish you a Happy New Year, filled with joy and health, and I hope that it may bring all of us the light of coherence in our lives.
I sincerely hope you liked this diversion from my usual topics, I promise we will get back to coding and music notation soon enough. For now, thank you for reading today’s article.
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Thank you so much for reading!
Until the next one, this is Michele, the Music Designer.