There's a real sense of flailing around in BT's latest missive to its broadband customers plus a cracking public-relations use of the word "confusion". A couple of weeks back, BT sent out a pretty unambiguous email to people on the BT broadband service:
"We wanted to let you know we will be withdrawing the BT Digital Vault Basic (2GB) product shortly. This means you’ll need to upgrade to BT Digital Vault Plus within the next 60 days to access, upload or share your stored files.
"Upgrade to BT Digital Vault Plus for only £4.99 a month...We’ll switch off your BT Digital Vault 2GB service on the 30th October 2008, so make sure you upgrade now to get continuous protection for all your precious photos, files and more."
The Digital Vault Basic is/was the one that broadband users get for free. The August 15 email demonstrated that BT was using the drug-dealer business model for promoting the service: offer a sample for free, get people on it, then withdraw it. I wasn't overly bothered as the system was not exactly Mac-friendly and I've got a fair few gigs in the cloud through other services. I thought no more about it.
Then, today, another email arrived apologising for the "confusion", apparently hoping that it could hide a change of mind by blaming customers for not reading emails correctly:
"We recently sent you an email advising you about the withdrawal of our 2GB Digital Vault Basic product. We would like to apologise for any confusion this email may have caused. Our 2GB Digital Vault product is an old product which is no longer available to new customers therefore we are removing it from our portfolio."
So, the 2GB product is safe, right? Er...not exactly. The 2GB service is being withdrawn:
"We'd like to assure you that any data you currently hold in your vault will continue to be stored safely. Your free Digital Vault Basic (2GB) account will be converted to a free 1GB Digital Vault Basic account automatically in the next 60 days."
So, what happens to people who happen to have stored more than 1GB in BT's wobbly cloud:
"You can continue to access all your stored files from your free 1GB Digital Vault Basic, however you won’t be able to upload any new files until your total usage falls below 1GB or if you are a BT Total Broadband customer you can upgrade to Digital Vault (5GB) at no extra cost."
So, let's go through that again. BT claims the 2GB product is being withdrawn, then says it never meant that. But the company withdraws the 2GB product anyway, replacing it with a 1GB service. That's unless you're on the Total Broadband package in which case you have to do the upgrade yourself rather than waiting for BT to simply up the storage to 5GB. I think I may have to draw a diagram.
If BT customers weren't confused, they probably will be now. I don't know why the company couldn't just come out and say: "Sorry, we messed up. It was a bad idea to offer a free service and then just kill it, so we've changed our minds about switching off the 2GB service. Here's 1GB as a consolation prize."
Claiming that it's all down to confusion just insults customers, treating them as though they can't read. It's not surprising but demonstrates the thinking that goes on inside a lot of companies.
Update: A spokesman for BT said the main aim of the change was to encourage customers who aren't on the Total Broadband package to go look at the new portfolio of services. In an update, he said: "BT Digital Vault Basic 2GB has not been available to new customers since June 2007 and the majority of users are BT Total Broadband customers who qualify for the larger 5GB product for free. This is why we are now withdrawing the [2GB] product".
There's some more on the Guardian Technology blog about this.