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Problems with PRIMUS ISTERRA long distance phone service

 

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This is a report by a -now- unhappy customer with Primus Isterra. Formerly I used to be a happy customer of Primus Isterra Long Distance Phone Service.

In 2002 or 2003, I chose Primus Isterra as my residential long distance phone service provider because of their good rates, I liked both their international calling plans(I frequently call from the United States to Germany), and their domestic rates to other states (I live in California and frequently make calls to Nevada).

I gave them my credit card information, and they billed me every month - usually around $15 each time.

Everything was fine. In 2005 I discovered that I could buy calling cards in Chinese stores that would offer calls to Germany for 2 or 2.4 cents per minute while Primus Isterra charged 6.5 cents per minute.
I started using the calling card for some calls, but kept Primus Isterra.

In October 2005 they sent out an email (!) that if your bill would be less than $10 in any month, they would add a $5 basic service fee in that month.

A friend of mine closed her account with Primus Isterra on the day she received this email. She did not make many phone calls and her bill was usually around $7 a month.

3 days later she got her scheduled monthly bill, and sure enough, it had already the $5 penalty because she was under $10. She tried to fight Primus Isterra for a long time until they gave up her $5. (Unlike me, she had not set up for automatic billing to her credit card.)

Good job, Primus Isterra!

In December I also closed my account because I had found a 10-10 prefix that would offer me 2.9 cents per minute for calls to Germany. By the way, so far I am quite satisfied with this 10-10-565 service; they announce the rate per minute at the beginning of every call.

I received my last bill from Primus Isterra some time at the end of December or early January, they billed my credit card and everything was fine.

I no longer have long distace service any more. I can easily verify that by calling a non-local number from my home phone.

On April 3rd 2006, Primus Isterra suddenly sent me an email that I should log in to their web site and view my bill.
The email looked like this:



Ref:Account Number--8167xxxx

Your current Primus statement is now available online at http://www.ia.primustel.com

If you require assistance, please contact us at the Customer Service number listed on the first page of your invoice or email us at usacs@ia.primustel.com.

Thank you for using Primus' Online Account Services.




I wrote them that my account had been closed and they actually answered my email the same day:




[200643-960756] RE: Re: Primus Invoice Notification

I closed my account several months ago and am surprised to get such an email. Please confirm that my account is closed.
=========================================================
Dear Peter,

Thank you for taking time out and writing to Primus. We appreciate you informing us about your concern.

Peter, As per your message, I have checked the account number 81675441 and your account is cancelled as of December 12 2005 but I check that calls are still going through our network so I have forwarded the issue to the concerned department so that you will not receive invoice from Primus in future also I have given you credit for $49.20.

For any further assistance, please feel free to write back to us.

Peter, please assist us by giving your valuable feedback in filling out the customer satisfaction survey form. This enhances our capabilities in knowing the areas of opportunities that can be worked upon.

It was a great pleasure assisting you.

Sincerely,

Karan Oberoi,
Customer Service Representative,
Primus Customer Service Team.

Internal Reference [960756]



AFTER THEY SENT ME THIS EMAIL, they charged my Discover Credit Card $49.20

The question is, why do they keep my credit card info on file after I close my account?

I waited a few days and emailed again, when will they refund me the $49.20?

Answer: we will credit you the $49.20 to your credit card in the next pay cycle, that will be in 4 to 8 weeks depending on [blah blah]

I thought that was not ok, called Discover and disputed this issue. Discover issued a temporary credit, and on 4/14/2006 Primus Isterra credited me the $49.20


Today is 5/5/2006, and guess what is in my email?

Right, another invitation to visit http://www.ia.primustel.com and view my bill online.
The best feature: I do not need to send money because they conveniently bill my credit card automatically!



I can understand that a company makes a mistake in billing once here or there, but this is too much.

If you still want to have long distance service from Primus Isterra, I recommend not to permit them to bill your credit card automatically. It might turn into a hassle should you ever decide to leave them.


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Comments:

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2006-10-10, 20:44:17
anonymous from United States  
yes im getting charged 99.36 10/05 for some service which i hadnot ordered an i would like to let me know that this matter will be taken care of A.S.A.P. thank you an sry about your reply;;; salljoan @yahoo.com
2006-10-10, 20:45:21
anonymous from United States  
rating
2006-11-19, 11:10:56
[hidden] from United States  
Today's date is Nov 19 2006. In Feb 2002, I chose PRIMUS ISTERRA, formerly known as ISTERRA, as my long distance provider, and they charged me about 4.0 cents per minute. 2 years later, in Feb 2004, I called and wrote to ISTERRA to cancel my service with them, and was assured in the telephone conversation with them that my account was closed. I then assumed my service was cancelled. Fast forward to today. Today I received 60, yes that's 60 email notifications, from PRIMUS ISTERRA, about one email per minute for the last hour (they continue coming in as I write this, however I intend to start blocking them) all with an identical short message informing me that my credit card has expired and they are unable to bill me, inviting me to visit their website to update my credit card with a valid non-expired credit card number. Which to me can mean only one thing: that without any kind of notification to me, PRIMUS ISTERRA has continued to bill my credit card each month from Feb 2004 until last month, October 2006, a period of 32 billing cycles, probably charging me the minimum $15 each month, totalling about $480 in credit card charges, without my authorization or consent. If my assumption proves to be accurate, they've taken a lot of money and provided nothing in return. I intend to check every one of my credit card statements for the past 3 years to verify these overcharges. If I see any charges made by them or paid to them, I intend to send PRIMUS ISTERRA a bill for every cent they've charged me since the day I closed my account with them in Feb 2004, and add interest to the total. It's little wonder why they've changed their name from ISTERRA to PRIMUS. I checked the PRIMUS website today, and found the following statement: 'PRIMUS may charge a monthly fee of $4.95 per month that applies to PRIMUS accounts that bill less than $50.00 per month (excluding taxes and other fees).' In this business, 'may' usually means 'will.' I would look at the competition before I'd agree to use their services again, with these questionable billing practices and with their inadequate communication with present and past customers, especially concerning continued billing for services no longer being rendered. Their SEC filing shows that PRIMUS is headquartered in Maclean, Virginia, USA.
2007-01-13, 11:28:58
anonymous from United States  
I have the same issues with Isterra. One should be rewarded for using low minutes (and not tying-up lines), not penalized with $5.00. It is a bogus charge and just one way that utilities use to gain extra capital...sad, but true. One can always try Vonage...
2007-08-01, 17:10:46
[hidden] from United States  
I emailed and cancelled my service and am still receiveing bills from them. I can't seem to get a response when I ask if they got my original message. I wasn't happy with the $5 UNDER YOUR LIMIT FEE either. Seems like they realy don't want customers.
They keep telling me to refer to my paper statement to get a phone number to contact them about the bill. I pay on line and have no phone number. They won't send it to me so I can call them.
They started out as a nice company but certainly haven't kept up the standard of service that I had in the begining.
With so many other companies out there you would think they would want to keep customers happy and keep the business, I guess not!
2007-10-03, 09:02:56
anonymous from Fond Du Lac, United States  
Here's the customer 'no service' phone number 1-800-393-7881 if you still need it.

Here's one for ya...once had ISTERRA(now Primus) several years ago, because they had no $5.00 'junk fee' and was listed on www.clarkhoward.com as one of the no 'junk fee' telecoms. (I believe he has a new list if anyone's interested.) At the time, you had to order it online; they did not accept voice registrations. I was happy with them and used to recommend them to many people. Then my wife and I switched over to cell phones and no longer needed a land-line phone. I called Isterra(now Primus) and my local phone service to cancel the services.

It's now several years later, and someone else has apparently taken over my old land line phone number. Last month I recieved a bill, so both I and my wife talked to a CSR and were told they never received a cancelation request (even though it has now been several years since their last billing to us). The CSR said that they would 'take care of it' by canceling the service and canceling the charges, but now we've received another bill (with the previous balance still on there, plus newly added charges)...what a joke. I guess even if you have the proper phone number, they don't do anything anyways.

The fact is that years ago, long distance companies put up so much phone wire, and then innovation made each wire 200 times more effective, so now they have more capacity than can be used. This means that if you spend less than $20 per month with their company, (maybe down to $10 by now), you get a 'junk fee' (AKA a service fee) to make up for the fact that they're not making any profit otherwise.

BTW, Now we are with Vonage VOIP service for approx. $30/mo with all taxes and no worry of long distance fees. Although we don't subscribe, AT&T is now our area's local service provider and bundles free long distance, just like the VOIP services do. Apparently Isterra/Primus has joined the VOIP bandwagon, so I do not undertand why they are being jerks about their bills.
2007-10-21, 15:25:25
anonymous from United States  
I would like to cancel my account effective today.
Please answer to me as soon as possible.
Thanks.
Edmee O'Farrill
2008-01-04, 07:42:07   (updated: 2008-01-04, 07:52:05)
[hidden] from Atkinson, United States  
rating
Found this message thread by Googling the Primus/Isterra support phone number, and learned about the low usage fee charge. Since my LD is routinely $30/mo. I've never seen the charge on my bill, until this month when my total LD was just $7.79 ... after their taxes and surcharges and late fee, the bill came to $17.79.

I've known for awhile that there are better rates and plans since I first signed up with Primus/Isterra in 2001 or so, but stayed with them because they offered a (then) FREE toll free number that my kids used to call me. Now that the kids have cell phones with unlimited night and weekend minutes, they don't use the toll free number any more. Thanks to this post, I gave my bill a closer look, and see that Primus/Isterra is charging $1/mo. for the toll free number. I do not know when that started.

Admittedly, I've never examined the misc. charges on the bill that closely as my focus has always been the list of calls made and received through the toll free number. Periodically, there would be a charge to the toll free number section that was from some odd ball place. Since only my kids knew the number and always called from their landlines, I would dispute those calls from strange places and Primus removed them from my bill.

Recently however, we've had phone trouble of the annoying sort; several times during the middle of the night, the phone would ring and wake me out of a sound sleep. As soon as I'd answer, the caller would hang up. I do not have a 'caller ID' package (like $8/mo. here) so suspecting it was coming from the toll free number, I just logged the calls and waited for my Primus bill. Sure enough, those annoying middle of the night phone calls were through the toll free number, originating from several different phone numbers in Brownsville, Texas.

The combination of the low usage fee and charging for my once free toll free number was enough to push me to change LD carriers. As it works out, my average phone use is such that Verizon's Freedom Unlimited plan works best for me - there's no net change in the average total phone bill per month and has the advantage of allowing me to go over my 'average' without incurring more charges. Another factor in deciding to switch carriers, was trying to call a friend in the United Kingdom several times last October. Primus could/did not complete the direct dialed calls. On my end of the call, I waited for a ring tone and heard nothing, while my friend said (via email) that his phone rang, he answered, but there was no one there. At least in that experience, I found out Primus is unreliable for international calls.

This morning, when I called Primus to cancel, it was clear I was speaking with a foreign call center operator over an internet phone line - the operator's accent was east indian. They obviously read from a script, as it threw them that I had ALREADY switched LD service before calling them to cancel. There was nothing for them to do but cancel the account and issue a confirmation number for cancellation. A member of their 'account cancellation team' ;^) is supposed to call me for verification or whatever. The operator did say there would be a 'low usage' fee on my final bill. I doubt I'll pay it, as I consider it a rather 'CS' thing to do on a partial month billing for account closure.

Anyway, thanks for the 'heads up' on the low usage fee, I'd probably never have noticed it if not for reading about it here! And if anybody calls for me from Brownsville, Texas, don't tell them where to find me! ;^) ;^)
2008-03-09, 09:02:35
[hidden] from United States  
rating
Just what is this low usage fee. It has been tacked on without any warning to me. Seems like a 45 second phone call cost me $7.14 last month. This will not keep me with your company.
2008-05-25, 13:23:02
anonymous from United States  
Yeah, it seems that Primus can now be classified as scam :( They used to provide very good service. Then suddenly my cell phone long distance calls started getting disconnected every minute and finally I was unable to make any long distance calls. I am trying to cancel my account with them for 5-th month now. Stay away from this company.
2008-12-17, 18:05:40
anonymous from Canada  
In Canada, Primus requires 30 day written notice of cancellation or they charge you a full month's bill (~$25) to cancel the service. I've never heard of such a thing! Even though I called their customer service centre, I was not informed of this until I finally got frustrated trying to actually talk to someone and emailed them instead. Lesson learned... never become a Primus customer in the first place!
2009-01-06, 17:49:30
anonymous from Mississauga, Canada  
BE AWARE BEFORE STARTING SERVICE WITH PRIMUS CANADA!!!!!!
I been Primus Canada customer for few months and I am really glad that I cancelled this service. During my service tenure, I had to wait almost an hour before talking with Customer Service Rep. Also Rep. is from India and unable to understand. Also they charging $4.95 for long distance service which I never used and no explaination or refund for such charges. There were service interruption including completely dead phone line for days and could not talk to customer service even.

After painful period, when I requested to cancelled services, there were horrible experience to process my cancellation request. Note, that there is $9.95 charge to cancel Internet service, so call Hardware handling charge. As they charge in beginning of month, I had to call few times to get my credit back for Internet and Phone service. CUSTOMER SERVICE TOLD ME THAT THEY WILL NOT REFUND YOU AMOUNT $11 AS THERE ARE LOT MORE CHARGES INVOLVED. At the same time, they can charge for amount less than $5. What a rediculus rules!!!!! Even refund processed, I haven't received any single penny for my refund. God knows when I gonna get my credit money back but writing this to make readers aware of such spams. For any small inquiry, you have to wait for almost an hour on phone and then lucky if you could talk to right person who can really understand and resolve your problem.

For small difference, Bell is better choice!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2009-01-07, 13:52:28   (updated: 2009-01-07, 14:31:28)
maria.necula@att.net from Scarsdale, United States  
I was a customer of Isterra for several years. During 2008, Isterra charged me twice every month for their services, so I ended up having a positive balance of about $199. I stopped using their services, but as I did not request the account cancellation, they continue to charge every month an 'account maintenance / low usage ' fee. In September 2008 I decided to cancel my account. There were $127.66 in my account, which they should refund me. I sent them an e-mail. No reply. I called the customer service 1-800-393-4500, selected the option 'to cancel the account'. I got a voice mail 'leave a message, your phone number and we will call you'. I did. No call. On October 14, I called again and this time I selected a different option and eventually I got somebody on the phone. I requested to cancel my account . I explained that I have a new phone service now that allows me to call internationally very cheap and that's the reason I cancel. They started a ticket. 3 days later I got a call, and I had to explain again why I wish to cancel. I was told that they will refund me by check , but it is taking a very long time. Meanwhile they charged the maintenance fee again , although I requested to cancel the account and get refunded. I called again and again starting with November 26, sometimes I get a voice mail and although I leave a message, no one will call back, sometimes, I get an operator (with a strong east Indian accent) who tells me that a check is on its way. The Isterra company I started business has the following address: Isterra, P.O. Box 3246 ,Milwaukee WI 53201. Recently I filed complaints with Better Business Bureau, with Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce and I wrote a letter to The Sentinel - the Milwaukee local newspaper. I wish that all of us who were scamed by Isterra / Primus were complaining so they can be put out of business as they deserve , considering their dishonest practices.

By searching more on the internet i found that there is a company Affinity Telecom that apparently bought Isterra / Primus. I found their e-mail address and although this is a sales address I reported Isterra to them as well. The address is
primus-sales@affinitytele.com.

2009-07-06, 18:01:55
anonymous  
i JUST GOT A BILL FROM THEM WITHOUT EVEN SIGNING UP WITH THEM.
2009-08-15, 20:10:10
[hidden] from Brookfield, United States  
rating
To whom it may concern at Primus:

If you received this email and are powerless to consider what I am about to say, please forward this message on to a higher authority, because the information contained herein is of prime importance to many people. I must still consider if it is going to cost you my business, as I am very upset with the information that I just received.

My problem revolves around Pimustel's upper management's neglect of how it treats its customers. I had service on two of my 8 or 9 lines terminated due to 'non-payment' on a bill that was due on July 15, 2006 and the same scenario occurred the following month, with the same pattern. Make NO MISTAKE, we pay our bills when they are due and in most cases before they are due, as we did with you. We paid you on-line with a credit card and we come to find out that 'yes', your records reflected that we had paid before the due date, but the payments that you had received had not yet been posted. I was kindly advised by your representative that the way to avoid this situation was to send our payment in five to seven days days before it is due; thus, avoiding termination of service.

Discontinuing someone's long distance under circumstances such as this is an outrageous policy! Are you aware of the heat that has been generated by some banks that had a habit of posting payments that were in their possesion, but not posted until after the due date in order to accumulate late charges? What you have done with my payment is tantamount to the same thing, with the exception that in place of late fees as a penalty, you have penalized me/my business by denying my customers the access that they would normally have to me, which very obviously cost me money.

I trust that whoever this email is ultimately delivered to is intelligent enough to read between the lines of where this kind of shenanigan, whether purposeful or by neglect, can take you legally. I would suggest, for your own legal safety and benefit, that you implement a grace period that meets or exceeds the processing time that your representative claims you have from receipt to posting.

'NOT POSTED?' I was sincerely taken aback, as I wondered how a company the size of Primustel could fail to have its payments posted, when a little 'pip squeak' of a company the size of ours is capable of being managed out of a spare bedroom and has its payments automatically posted and in the bank as of midnight that same day.


Surly something is amiss; this the 21st century, is it not? You have to come into the 21st century or get left behind as so many other companies have or will find that they have. When you have been bypassed, it is generally impossible to get up to speed in time to save yourself. Ask G.M. or Chrysler; they were behind the curve and in spite of the fact that G.M. has the best offerings, world wide in its line up, the perception of its past days have been thus far, impossible to shake off.

I called Wednesday and Thursday, and was apologized to; however, Friday my lines were still disconnected (as of this writing they were finally restored). All in all, I have after many years, become very dissatisfied with Primustel, and that is a shame because I was very high on Primustel and recommended you as a good provider. If I do not change carriers, I will not be able to mention you in a positive light as I have done so many times over the course of what I now discov er to have been a one-way relationship.

You must ask yourselves the following, it was a 'Pip squeak' billing; however, you must also ask yourselves how much will it cost to gain another income flow such as this 'Pip Squeak' was producing for you. The answer is, if I leave, you will never spend enough to regain that which is lost. The best that you can do is to find an extra client, but that in and of itself is not a gain. A gain would have been to take care of your customer and keep him (in this case, me) and still added the new client. That is where you measure growth from.

David F. Roesch
Acct # 81263014
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