Determinations

TDR Case Note T004121 (2010)

Issue

Termination of contract for internet services, offensive conduct from customer.

Background

The customer subscribed to internet services with the Scheme Member Provider (Provider).

In February 2009, the provider received a complaint that the customer had used inappropriate language on an internet blog site.  After being reminded by the provider that this could be a breach of the provider’s terms and conditions, the customer agreed to be careful with his online language in the future and the provider therefore did not take any further action.

In March 2009, the provider received another complaint about the customer on the same ground. Following receipt of a formal email from one of the provider’s employees regarding the complaint, the customer posted a message on a newsgroup site giving out that employee’s email address and encouraging readers to send spam messages. The employee received a large number of spam emails as a result, some of which were threatening and abusive. The provider consequently terminated the customer’s contract for internet services on 2 April 2009.

The customer contended that the provider had wrongly accepted the complainant’s allegations, and that the complainant had fabricated evidence to bolster the complaint against him. The customer lodged a complaint with the TDR service and sought reconnection of his internet services as well as compensation for loss of business.

The provider responded that it had reminded the customer of the relevant terms and conditions regarding his use of language online after receiving the first complaint in February 2009.  At that time the customer had agreed to refrain from using inappropriate language and the provider was therefore prepared to continue to provide him with internet services.  The provider however received a further complaint in March 2009.  Furthermore, the customer published the contact details of the employee who was dealing with him, and encouraged other people to spam that employee.  The provider submitted that it was justified in disconnecting the customer’s service. 

Adjudicator’s decision

The adjudicator found that the essential issue was whether the provider was correct in terminating the customer’s contract for the provision of internet services.

The material on file showed that the provider had received complaints about the customer’s language.  The adjudicator found that after agreeing to be more careful in his future use of language, one of the customer’s newsgroup posts was threatening in nature. The customer also published the provider’s employee’s contact details with an invitation to ‘spam’ her, and she ultimately received at least one threatening message.  The adjudicator therefore considered that the customer’s actions may well have been malicious and in breach of the Harassment Act 1997 (ss 3 and 4).

Clause 13.6 of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code) states that the provider may “disconnect customers without notice” where it reasonably deems that customer activity may pose a material threat to the provider’s network or other users. In addition, the provider’s terms and conditions provide that customers may “not use our service in any way which may be offensive or a nuisance to someone else”. The adjudicator found that the customer’s actions were sufficient to breach his contractual responsibility and therefore termination of his services without notice was justified.

Final outcome

The adjudicator dismissed the customer’s complaint and concluded that the customer had breached the requirements of the contract between the parties and that it was reasonable for the provider to terminate the provision of internet services to the customer.