Superstore chain Tempo has hit teething problems with its free internet access service less than a month after its introduction.
The retailer has claimed that BT was unable to cope with the torrent of customers that were deserting the telecom titan for the Tempo-Localtel, Screaming.net service.
Tempo partnered with reseller Localtel to launch Screaming.net in April (PC Dealer, 28 April). The service offers free access at weekends and evenings and has already attracted 50,000 registrations.
However, Surrey reseller Localtel has been caught out by an apparent lack of resources at BT, which was unable to handle the high level of customers - understood to be about 10,000 customers per day - who wanted to disconnect from BT's service and join the reseller's cheap internet and telephony offer.
A representative at Tempo revealed: 'Basically, we had 50,000 subscribers in the first five days so when BT was receiving 10,000 emails a day from customers asking to be cut off from its service, it could not cope. BT said it could only deal with 250 per day.' She added that any delay for subscribers would hopefully be short.
However, there was a worry that those accessing the Net during the Bank Holiday weekend would not be aware if they were BT or Localtel customers and subsequently if they would be charged or not.
It was understood that BT and Localtel have entered emergency talks to resolve the problems for the consumers. An outcome of the talks is expected within the next few weeks.
A representative for BT was unavailable to comment.
Meanwhile, industry watchdog Oftel has been informed about the problems between Tempo and BT. A representative for Oftel revealed: 'We are aware of the situation, although a formal complaint has not been received yet.
We will be looking closely at it.'
Adam Daum, analyst at Inteco, said: 'BT does not have a huge incentive to do this quickly. If BT stands there wide-eyed and innocent, it is still Screaming.net that has to deal with dissatisfied customers.'
Daum added that while Localtel's strategy was a feasible one, he warned that there could be pitfalls. 'It's difficult to be the first into a sector in a big way - many are watching to learn from mistakes,' he said.
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