The Cablecom Debacle

The story of our Cablecom episode began when we looked into the possibilities of additional English cable channels at home in the Bernese Oberland. After several years of having just the most basic and outdated BBC Prime, which runs episodes of shows like Keeping Up Appearances and Dalziel and Pascoe as repeats several times per day, we decided it was time for a change. Finding that we could sign up with national cable television provider Cablecom and get channels like BBC 1, BBC2, ITV1 and ITV2, we jumped at the chance and within a couple of weeks, we were enjoying the best that the low-frequency channels were able to offer. (Our building’s cable conversion equipment is very old and can’t handle high-frequency channels… like BBC 1 and 2.)

Then, a couple of months after having the service installed, we received a letter from Cablecom to thank us for our letter and to confirm that the service cancellation was going ahead. Er… what? Sorry? Why??? What had actually happened was that we’d also ordered internet and digital telephone services as part of a three-point package from Cablecom, which were unavailable in our building due to the aforementioned aged convertor. So, we cancelled those two services and explicitly requested that the digital t.v. service was to remain in place.

Immediately on receiving the letter from Cablecom, I both wrote back (via the online contact centre) and telephoned to confirm that we wanted to continue receiving digital t.v. service. All seemed to be well, despite having never received a response or any more confirmation than a basic acknowledgement over the phone. Then, a few weeks later (in mid-October), all we saw on the t.v. screen was a message to say that a “setup procedure” was being carried out and that the service would be available within a few hours. We waited patiently, even into the next day. Still no television. I called the customer service centre: again, big apologies and a confirmation that the service would be back up and running soon. A few days later, still no joy, so I called again.

“Oh, Mr. Howells-Mead. Yes, the service has been cancelled, that’s right.”

Wait just a minute: didn’t I confirm twice that the service wasn’t being cancelled? I retrieved the customer support “case number” and read it out over the phone: no big surprise that the number wasn’t known by the customer support system. Once again, another half hour on the phone confirming receiver numbers, card numbers, house numbers, phone numbers: in fact, potentially more information than I had provided when I originally signed up for the service! After another two weeks, still no joy so I called again, to have to go through the whole process again (this being the fourth time) and again having to quote all of the information all over again. A promise that the service would be back up again within a couple of days.

Finally, at the end of my tether, I speak to the local company REGAS, who are responsible for the physical cable connection and who have, through this debacle, been very good and done their absolute best to help us recover our t.v. service. They check on their systems, contact Cablecom, and confirm that our service is still cancelled. No action has been taken. All of the tales that I have heard about Cablecom, all the online reports of terrible customer service suddenly become explicable; tales which we have now been personally involved in. The letter which many have seen in recent weeks is no longer just funny, but a recitation of sadly familiar circumstances.

I have now accepted that Cablecom are unfit to provide us with service and am only glad that we didn’t change the telephone and internet service after all. It has now been two months without full t.v. service, during which time we could have also been without telephone and internet services. We would continue be locked in to Cablecom for t.v. services if it weren’t for the digital offerings through Swisscom, the communications company on whom we rely for VDSL internet access and our land line telephone. We will be receiving our new t.v. package from them at the beginning of next week which means that we will not only benefit from the new VDSL service, to which which we have been upgraded at no charge, but will also be able to avoid problems with old cable t.v. technologies and have the U.K. channels and additional HD channels which we’ve been wanting these past years.

As I write, I have three copies of a very snotty letter on my desk, waiting to be dispatched. A letter of dissatisfaction and of disappointment. A letter to finally close off a lesson learned: one which I hope you will learn from if you are considering joining the ranks of dissatisfied and annoyed Cablecom customers. A lesson which I had learned before starting on this abortive journey, by reading such articles online such as this one in German, which is classically and representatively called “How Cablecom became the enemy of the nation”.

Don’t use Cablecom Switzerland for your t.v., internet or telephone services, if you need a reliable service. As a few colleagues have said recently: Cablecom services are fine when they’re working. The trouble is that when they don’t, it’s practically impossible to get them back.