I have been using Skype for many years now, and I have increasingly begun to use their service to make international phone calls. With the introduction of their unlimited call subscriptions, I leapt in and subscribed to the Unlimited Europe package.

Initially I bought 3 months in advance with my Skype credit and it worked really well. For £3.39 a month I get 10,000 minutes to landlines in the UK and Europe, an online number so that people can call me on Skype via a real geographic phone number, a Skype to Go number so that I can call abroad from my mobile phone, and free Skype voicemail. A rather good deal, I think. Or rather, thought.

It worked well for the first three months, until the initial subscription was nearing expiry. I received a flurry of separate emails informing me that my voicemail, online number, and subscription were expiring. An email for each feature. So I headed over to the Skype website to renew. But alas, there was no button or link on my account page that said “Renew”! I had to let it expire. Not good.

I then decided that I would pay each month via PayPal. I bought a subscription for August, and reattached my online and Skype to Go numbers from my account pages, and used it for the month, until the annoying emails telling me that this and that were due to expire unless I renewed. Again, I just couldn’t find a link to renew my subscription! I had hoped, since this is a subscription, that I would be automatically charged via PayPal. Not so.

So my subscription lapsed, and since I needed to use it, I bought it again (a terrible way to ‘renew’). Or at least I tried to. My PayPal payment failed. There was no financial reason why this might have happened, so I contacted PayPal. They confirmed that there was no reason why the payment should not have gone through, and to contact Skype.

So I had a look in the Skype forums, and found that it was recommended to detach and reattach my PayPal account to my Skype account. Thankfully this time it worked, and payment went through on 27th August. And lo, my subscription was extended until 30th September. Except my Skype subscription account summary displayed no payments since July, and it still doesn’t.

Skype subscription page

As you can see from this screen grab, it says that my subscription has been cancelled, as I have cancelled a preapproved agreement. And where’s that renew button again?

It gets better (well, worse actually). After renewing at the end of August, I set about the tedious task of reattaching my Skype to Go number.

Skype to Go

Great! I can just click “Attach to your subscription”. Or can I?

Skype Account Internal Error

No, I can’t. I great bit red “internal error” message. Great.

So what about reattaching my Online Number? This should be easy as they reserve it for you for 90 days.

Reactivate Skype Online Number

Hurrah, I can just activate it and attach it to my subscription. Or can I?

Charges for Skype Online Number

It seems as if it’s not quite so simple. Something in Skype’s accounting system hasn’t worked out that I have a subscription, so it wants to charge me full price for getting my number back. Time for a little Customer Support request. They’ll get back to me in 48 hours or so, so hopefully it’ll all get fixed.

I sent a message detailing these points on 31st August. I got no reply except the automatic response.

Because the majority of requests require research to resolve, it can sometimes take us up to 72 hours to respond, though we make every effort to get back to you as quickly as possible and most queries are answered within 48 hours.

I followed it up on 10th September, and again received the automatic email receipt of my query. This is, by my calculation, is 240 hours. A fair bit more than their stated 48-72 hours.

On 12th September, I received a response from Skype. It was terribly written, and began by apologising for the delay. It was quite a lengthy response, so to save time I’ll summarise it here in bullets with quotes:

  • To make sure my account renews I should buy one more month on my credit card, and subsquently it will renew automatically. Or I should buy 5 months or more in advance (!)
  • They explained how to reattach my Skype to Go number in very detailed steps (which I know anyway) then said “This steps normally work properly. However, you precised us having encountered an “error” message  at the end of your Skype to Go number set up. The problem you experienced has already happened in very few accounts and is unfortunately due to a temporary technical issue.” Then, they claim that this is fixed, and I should be able to reattach it. However, when I tried again, it wasn’t fixed.
  • To reattach my Online Number “Go on “Reserved numbers” and reactivate your SkypeOnline number. Your account does not indicate any Skype Online number currently.“. Great. This is exactly what I did, and it doesn’t work, which is why I emailed them in the first place. I tried again, and it still doesn’t work. Fail.

I immediately wrote, on the 12th of September, a polite reply pointing out that I did in fact wish to pay by PayPal on a monthly basis (however, I’m flexible, but since they do offer this method of payment, it should work correctly), Skype to Go still doesn’t work, and that I tried to reattach my Online Number, and it still doesn’t work as the system wants to charge me separately rather than attach it to my subscription. I also didn’t have the “manage numbers” link that I was asked to use, and I pointed this out.

Essentially, their response resolved nothing.

5 days later (120 hours later – and only thanks to a prod from Peter Parkes via Twitter!), on 19th September, I recieved another response.

Unbelievably, it told me:

Depending on which subscription you have purchased, one or several Skype online numbers can be offered along with other great benefits. As part or your Unlimited Europe subscription, you shall benefit from one Skype online number free of charge with your account.

According to our system, your previous Skype Online number is still reserved for you since the 31st of July 2008 (3 months reservation).

In order to activate your Skype online number, please sign in to your account:

Then, select “Manage numbers” underneath the online number at the top right of the page. If online number(s) are included in your subscription, you will see a section with the amount of numbers available to attach. From there, you will be able to either attach an existing online number to your subscription by clicking on the “Attach this number to your subscription” link or get a new number by clicking on the “Get a new number” button.

But that’s the point! The system won’t let me attach the number to my subscription! And my Skype to Go number still can’t be attached – they are still having problems:

Regarding the Skype To Go number, we regret to inform you that the problem you experienced in the set up conclusion is temporary and due to a technical issue. We regret to inform you that our IT, development and technical teams are still working hard on resolving somehow this bug in Skype to Go set up, which we only encounter for a few new set up. Thus, please be sure that the issue will be fixed within best delays, unfortunately we cannot inform you in the exact date yet.

Please note that if you only signed up for a monthly subscription in order to benefit from Skype To Go service, we shall offer you to cancel and refund it onto your Skype account if the issue should last too long. Kindly, let us know.

I’m really rather disappointed in the 19 days that it had taken to get this far, that nothing has been resolved. I responded with this message:

Many thanks for your reply.

I understand that I will not be able to use Skype to Go until you have
fixed the problem.

However, regarding my Online Number, as stated in all previous
correspondence, I cannot renew it!

According to your instructions, I should have a “Manage Numbers” link
underneath the Online Numbers section. I do not have this link, just
“Get an Online Number”. Clicking this takes me through to a page where
my old number is shown as reserved. If I click “Activate” your system
says that I will be charged £7.

It should not. I am paying for a subscription. I do not want to pay £7
for an online number, as it should be included in my subscription.

As I see it, my account is in a mess. My account overview says that my
subscription will run out on 30th September. Going into the “Your
Subscriptions” section on my account page reports that my last payment
was on July 31st. This can’t be true, if my subscription runs out on
30th September.

What I would like to see is my account restored to a working state,
with my Online Number reinstated, my Skype to Go number reinstated,
and automatic renewal from PayPal set up, so I can just use the
services without worrying about expiry. I would like you to do this
for me, and instead of the refund that you have offered to me, I would
like you to extend my subscription until the end of October.

If you are unable to action this, please can you advise me of your
supervisor’s contact details?

I think that’s a fair request, given how long this has lasted? So, as usual, the automated reply confirms my message has been received, and I have nothing since. That was 11 days ago. I have checked my junk mail folder just to make sure.

So how does that make me feel about Skype? I’m deeply disappointed, in short. Such huge delays in responding to my messages is inexcusable, especially since I am paying for a service that I am not getting. I am frustrated that after such long gaps between responses, the Skype staff member (whose name I haven’t disclosed) did not even read (or understand) whole parts of my message.

Shall I be recommending Skype to others? At the moment, certainly not. My subscription runs out today, and given that it’s only 4pm, all traces of my subscription have disappeared from my account pages.

Time to have a look at Gizmo5 or others, perhaps…

[UPDATE] I received compensation from Skype – despite there still being some confusion. The €30 vouchers will certainly go a long way to making things up between Skype and I, but there is still a claim that I had no subscription for the whole of September, despite a screenshot above claiming otherwise..! Let’s hope that they do some kind of overhaul to their billing system and this doesn’t happen again.

[UPDATE: 8th July 2009] I’ve now closed comments on this post, as hundreds of you are requesting help. It’s just too overwhelming. The only thing I can suggest if you can’t get your problems resolved through regular Skype support channels is to hunt down one of Skype’s bloggers and ask for help, or to write about your problems on your own blog. Skype need to know how frustrating many people find their customer services, and the only way to change things is to let them know where they’ve gone wrong (when things haven’t been resolved via CS) in a very public manner. Good luck!