Friday, December 19, 2008

Problems with Virgin Mobile Broadband Billing

iBurst are shutting down their wireless network in Australia by 19 December 2008. So I signed up for Virgin Mobile Broadband. While the service works fine, there are problems with the billing system. I sent in a paper form to have the monthly amount paid automatically (Virgin doesn't accept online requests for direct debit). However, I got a notice saying to look at my bill on the web site. This says that $10.06 is owing, which is not the correct amount (it should be $39 a month). I am asked to pay by credit card (the direct debit seems to have been lost). When I attempt to look at the bill, I get a file downloaded "iesbc.sso_pt" which my windows system can't open. Mobile phone companies do not seem to be able to get their billing systems to work properly, which may be one reason they are keen on pre-pay services.

9 comments:

James Dellow said...

Tom - I think I must have signed up to Virgin broadband at around the same time as you and I'm having the exact same problem. Slightly different amount (about $2.50), but I can't open the invoice either. Must be a system glitch.

Tom Worthington said...

Virgin's system doesn't put a ".PDF" extension on bills. My PDF reader couldn't read them until I manually tome them the files were PDF.

I contacted Virgin asking them to fix this but got an automated reply saying "The Virgin Mobile Invoice is in PDF format. If you are unable to open this, you most likely do not have a PDF reader installed on your computer. ..."

Obviously I do have a PDF reader and if a human being had read my message to customer support at Virgin, rather than an automated reply, they would know that.

Virgin has two customers who had difficulty reading bills and possibly many more. The company should know of the problem, but have not fixed it.

The Wireless Broadband service from Virgin works very well. But if something goes wrong I worry that their poor customer support will be inadequate to fix it.

It should be noted that poor maintenance of a mobile system can have serious consequences. A well documented example with implications for terrorism is "The Athens Affair" (by Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis, IEEE Spectrum, July 2007).

online blues said...

I get the same problem with the 'iesbc.sso_pt files' Virgin told me it was my fault as i don't have Adobe (which I do ... who, by the way, doesn't ??)

Then it was my fault because I had a Mac & that they don't serve small markets such as for Mac users. Impertinence comes to mind.

Similarly, when I go to a Canberrra utilities system (ACTewAGL's "epay plus") to download a bill I get a .aspx file that I can not open. My fault again I suppose.

Oh! By the way, I am also singularly responsible for global warming ... sorry about that.

Viveka said...

I have the same problem with three billing. Telco billing systems are an industry-wide horror story.

The workaround is to download the files (e.g. right-click or option click on the link to Save As). THen rename them to end .pdf instead of .sso_pt - then Adobe Reader or Apple Preview will open them up fine.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

I think there is an issue with the MIME type being generated for the PDFs so the browser doesn't know whether to launch Acrobat Reader.

Nicklas said...

I contacted Virgin today about not wanting my bill as .iso_pt file and they asked me to "kindly use another computer". Unbelievable!

Eric said...

All you have to do is download the file as it is. Then once it has downloaded, right click on it and click on "open with". Find adobe pdf program on the list and click it. You will also see a little box down the bottom which says " Always use the selected program, Click the box, the click ok and your done. The virgin bills will now open all the time.
Lots of love Eric

Darren said...

View and print your Virgin account.
Mac Users.
File extensions that end in .sso_pt
This may work for windows users in a similar fashion.

Mac users definitely need to save the file to the desktop or downloads folder as an .sso_pt file type.

Highlight (click) the file so the file turns light blue. Put the cursor at the end of the file extension name and delete the part (sso_pt) or whatever the file ends in. Only back to the dot. Then re-type PDF after the dot.

Un-highlight the file (click on the desktop) and Mac will ask you (do you really want to change the file extension to PDF)
Click (YES)

The file name stays the same but the extension becomes PDF.

You should be able to open it in preview or whatever windows program you use.

davyg said...

I work in IT Support for an Australian utility company and our customer service people notified us today that this was happening - that invoices and bills sent to customers were getting sent in the .sso_pt format.
Spoke with the internal support guys for the system that generates customer invoices and they advised me that the process of generating these is handled by an external company. They are following up to resolve the issue for our customer. Pretty sad that whats clearly an internal technical problem (I assume Virgin, AtewAGL etc are using the same external provider for this service)is being pushed back onto customers.