Vodafone withdraws free Demon email service

17 August 2016   By Samantha Smith

VODAFONE are discontinuing their free Demon email service, leaving thousands of customers with the option of either losing their email accounts or paying for them to be maintained with another provider.

vodafone store front
Credit: kailim/Shutterstock.com

The provider notified their Demon users at the end of July that they'll be closing the service, with all email accounts being withdrawn within 30 days of notification.

This move has angered many Vodafone and Demon customers, with one disappointed individual posting the following complaint on Twitter:

Vodafone are inviting their affected customers to transfer their accounts to NamesCo and their names.co.uk service, which will preserve their current Demon email addresses and enable them to use the same domain name.

Vodafone have stated that they "teamed up with names.co.uk to offer a new domain and email service at a discounted rate," although it will still cost customers £30 per year to preserve their accounts.

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This news follows a difficult period for Vodafone UK, which in the three months leading to June 30 saw a 3.2% drop in their sales.

Vodafone blamed this decline on the teething problems experienced by the new billing system they introduced in 2015. Partly because of this system, they were the most complained-about telecoms provider in Britain last year.

While Ofcom ultimately dropped their investigation into whether Vodafone were inaccurately billing customers, the regulator is still looking into how the company handles complaints and how well they inform customers of their rights to take their problems to an alternative arbitration service.

It's in the context of such issues that Vodafone are overhauling themselves, investing £2 billion into their network and services in a bid to avoid the kinds of 'computer glitches' that resulted in overcharging bills and three times as many complaints as their nearest rivals.

Yet it's this reform that's being cited by Vodafone as the reason behind Demon's closure, with a spokeswoman for the company explaining,

"As part of our multi-billion pound investment in our network and services over the last few years to ensure that customers have access to cutting edge products and services, we have been replacing many of our legacy systems and reviewing the products and services delivered over them: as part of this review we will no longer be offering free email accounts with our broadband products."

It therefore seems that, as part of this restructuring process, Vodafone saw little choice but to axe Demon.

Legacy systems

This restructuring places Demon's users in the unfortunate situation where they'll either have to give up their email-based 'identities' or pay for their continuation. However, it also marks an unfortunate end for Demon themselves, not least because the legacy service was in fact one of the earliest internet service providers in the United Kingdom.

Launched in 1992, Demon Internet provided dial-up internet access before most of the globe knew what the internet was.

They exploited the mid-nineties web boom to grow at an exponential rate, seeing the number of their subscribers double every five months in 1995.

In a confirmation of their success, they were bought in 1998 by Scottish Telecom, which became Thus a year later. In 2008, they and their parent company were acquired by what was then Cable & Wireless; in 2012 Vodafone inherited them when they acquired half of C&W.

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Despite their acquisition of the brand, Vodafone weren't always able to ensure Demon's smooth operation. In January 2015, Demon suffered an internal outage that prevented their entire customer base from accessing the internet for a whole morning, leading Vodafone to announce two months later that the web hosting, domain names and "some" email products Demon then offered would be transferred to intY Limited, a cloud-based distributor.

Even without web hosting, there was an outage to Demon's email service in March of this year, once again upsetting loyal customers who'd been with the company for more than two decades.

Given all these disruptions, it's perhaps no surprise that Vodafone have decided to wind Demon down. Nonetheless, it could also be argued that Demon and their users are suffering at least in part for Vodafone's recent difficulties. Addressing those will ultimately require Vodafone to do much more than simply discard the odd legacy service.

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