Orange restores broadband customers' e-mail account access but loses data

A problem with Orange e-mail – which locked out broadband customers – has been partly fixed as access to the accounts is restored, but weeks of e-mails may be lost.

A problem with Orange e-mail has been partly fixed as accounts are restored, but weeks of e-mails may be lost.

Earlier this month Computer Weekly reported that a problem with an Orange application had locked broadband customers out of their e-mail accounts. A call centre worker said many customers were affected, but Orange claimed it was only a few.

The call centre support worker described the outage, which began in July, as a serious problem. "There are many customers facing this problem. The problem is with the Orange application and the case has been assigned to engineers," he said.

At the time an Orange spokesperson confirmed the problems, but said the numbers affected are small. "We are aware that this issue has affected a small number of our broadband customers. We are taking this very seriously, and we have already begun the process to restore the service to those customers who have been affected."

According to one customer, the service is now up again, but data has been lost.

The customer, who uses a Freeserve account, originally contacted Computer Weekly about the issue. She said: "Mysteriously, after Computer Weekly wrote the article, the e-mail account came back online. It has now turned out that Orange has lost all the data for the weeks it was down." She said she runs several small businesses from the account, so the loss of data proved very damaging.

The outage has caused problems for customers' businesses that use Orange e-mail: "Potential customers have not been able to contact me and others have thought we run a bogus business because the e-mail does not currently exist."

Freeserve became part of the Orange group in 2000 when Wanadoo acquired Freeserve for £1.6bn. Freeserve was the UK's largest internet service provider at the time.

One customer who works in IT said he was without Freeserve for weeks. "I was in touch with Orange on the phone and via e-mail. First conversation said it would be back by midnight. It wasn't. Next conversation said they were working on it. E-mail said the same," he said. "Totally unacceptable that I've now been without e-mail for more than 20 days. I now have companies calling me up to ask for alternate e-mail addresses because they're seeing the mails bounce back. I work in IT and taking this long to fix a serious problem is just bonkers."

Another Orange e-mail customer commented: "I recently went to China for two weeks, met loads of new friends that asked me for my Freeserve mail address, returned late July to this mess and no friendly e-mails. I am now only in contact with those friends that gave me their e-mail address."

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