Skype in is Skype out for some users

With the success some Facebook groups have had recently in influencing opinion or even changing courses of action by large organizations, I wonder what the results will be for a new protest group that’s been formed on the social networking site by some disgruntled Skype users.

Called Refugees of UK Skype 0207 numbers (SkypeIn) – whose logo I’ve reproduced here – the group identifies its goals as these:

A place to share and discuss latest news. A place to share and discuss the best way forward. Stay with SkypeIn? Get an 0800 number? etc

This is to do with a move Skype has made during the past week in notifying some users of SkypeIn numbers that include the London area code 0207 that their numbers will no longer be available to them.

SkypeIn is the Skype internet phone service where you purchase the use of a real telephone number that anyone call call you on, and which reaches you through your Skype software.

Emails from Skype to affected SkypeIn users say this:

We’re very sorry to tell you that we have to change your SkypeIn number. As some of you may know, we get SkypeIn numbers from a variety of telecoms suppliers. Unfortunately, we have to return some of the 0207 SkypeIn numbers to one of our suppliers of London numbers. This means your number will stop working from December 20th 2007. We
realise the inconvenience this will cause you, and sincerely

Skype’s terms of service for SkypeIn make it pretty clear that they can do something like this at any time. I’m not a lawyer, but I imagine that Skype is watertight legally in this particular case.

Users aren’t being left in the lurch, either. From the Skype emails:

[…] we’re going to give you a new SkypeIn number and voicemail – free for 12 months on us – to thank you for your patience and to help make the changeover as painless as possible for you. Please make sure you redeem your voucher before December 20th 2007.

The withdrawal of London 0207 SkypeIn numbers doesn’t seem to be universal, only affecting some users. For instance, I have a London SkypeIn number with that 0207 area code and I’ve not received an email (and I hope I don’t get one as I’ve just ordered some new business cards).

It’s a pretty drastic step to take – cancel a bunch of users’ phone numbers – which will undoubtedly cause grief to quite a few people, as Skype acknowledges in the emails.

And according to a story in PC Pro today, Skype could have prevented this course of action.

However you view it, Skype users tend to be vocal, in praise as well as in criticism.

Skype may have legality and commercial rightness on their side, but I wonder what price such rightness has in the context of customer happiness and their own reputation?

This move is bound to raise a growing chorus of angry voices. And no doubt the Facebook group will grow (looking just now, I see it has 25 members so far). Competitors will see opportunity – Voipfone, for instance, judging from conversations on the Facebook group’s wall.

I hope Skype are listening. But whether it all will make a difference to any further action by Skype remains to be seen.

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