Reading an article on Thinkbroadband reminded me about the strange way that companies drop products that may be in the customers best interest and always claim it is down to “customer response.”

In the article, it seems that PlusNet is dropping one of its broadband “Your Way” packages. They are increasing the cap on the cheaper packages but removing the high end product that was capped at 40gb for £29.99 per month. Personally I hate usage caps and would never go with a provider that had a public on, but the fact is all providers (except maybe Virgin Cable) have some cap, they just dont always tell you.

Anyway, because people are using things like the BBC iPlayer so much (don’t ask me about this, I don’t use it) PlusNet felt they had to change the caps. Basically this is the route they went down:

Package Old Limit New Limit Cost
Option 1 1GB 1GB (no change) £9.99
Option 2 8GB 15GB £14.99
Option 3 20GB 30GB £19.99
Option 4 40GB (withdrawn) £29.99

Now at first glance, this looks like removing something that was the best deal for high end users but it isn’t quite that bad. It seems that you can get Option 3 and add 10gb at £0.75 per gb so it is a bit cheaper to do it that way – however this misses the point. Oddly, someone I can only assume works for PlusNet commented this on the Thinkbroadband site:

Not sure why you think BS is involved. 40GB withdrawn because very few customers chose BBYW4 and it now works out cheaper to buy Option 3 and add ten more GBs at 75p each. Just a case of simplifying the choices.

Erm. No. It does not “simply the choices” it actually makes it more complicated for the user. Now if people really weren’t going for the expensive choice, why remove it? Why did it cost PlusNet to leave a slight less cost effective option for users who wanted the “simplicity” of having a larger usage allowance. The only way option 4 is more expensive is when PlusNet don’t increase its limit, which they haven’t.

Equally strange, if this is a result of more people needing more bandwidth, why not increase the allowance of Option 4 in line with the others? As few people used Option 4 this extra bandwidth for those few customers (say 45gb) wouldn’t strain the system surely?

Now, don’t get me wrong. PlusNet can charge what ever they want for broadband. I am not even a customer. It is just that something about this repricing exercise struck the cynic in me as strange.

Sadly, it isn’t always the company that is the main driver. When Morgan Spurlock’s tedious “Super Size Me” hit the screens, McDonalds were quick to withdraw the “supersize” choice. Sadly for the customer this represented the most cost effective way of getting food and was close to a loss-maker for McDonalds. I am sure they were devastated to withdraw it. When supersize meals were available, a very low income family of four could feed all with two meals, now they would be hard pushed to do it with three and would probably need to buy four. For about 25% increase in cost, the supersized meal delivered 33%+ extra food (at least it did over here). The only thing not increased was the burger but they are big enough already. Now, because at the most fundamental level western people don’t like the thought of self control, we have lost the option.

Well done world.

3 thoughts on “Choice?

  1. Hi there,

    I just wanted to make a quick response to this. I work in the products team at PlusNet and was part of the group that decided to remove Option 4 in favour of leaving it open for customers to ‘roll their own’ product by picking Option 3 and then buying more usage as they need it.

    You raise some interesting points, but I can only say that I think you have missed the point a little in terms of what our product sets out to achieve, and just how complicated our sign-up process was once comapred to where it is now. We definately have put off potential customers in the past by making it too difficult for people to decide what to buy, and we are on a journey towards fixing that.

    What we are ultimately aiming for is what I describe as the Chinese take-away approach. We want to make every possible option available to customers so they can choose the best product for them. The way I see it is that from a big menu it’s possible to provide a few set meal options for people that don’t know exactly what they want, but at the same time as letting people pick and mix with the items they like / dislike. You don’t need a lot of set meals to achieve that and if you try you really do just end up making the decision harder for people.

    Really though, to understand properly needs the economics of broadband to be explained, so you can appreciate why increasing the usage on high end products like Option 4 woulden’t work economically when you take into account broadband buying habits and the wholesale costs to ISPs like us. I’d love to spend some time explaining, but it’s the subject of a longish essay rather than a quick reply (The first part is this:

    Anyway, thanks for taking an interest and for the comment – It’s useful to see what people think, even when we might disagree!

    By the way, Virgin cable absolutely do have restrictions on usage – See



  2. Ian, thank your for taking the time to comment here and it is great that you have put your side of the argument across.

    I wasn’t really complaining about PlusNet all that much, apart from anything else it isn’t as if any of the other broadband suppliers aren’t doing the same thing.

    The main points I was trying to make were about the logical inconsistencies. Removing the Option 4 is not simplifying things for the customer who wants (say) 40gb of downloads it is making things simpler for the provider. Having extra bundle deals does not make it confusing for anyone – people can still “pick and mix.”

    I actually quite like your explanation for the change and (for me at least) the more honest reasoning – it is based on the ISP’s buying habits and expenses, not the customers – is always the most worthwhile.

    Also, thanks for the information on Virgin – I am not a virgin customer as I am still tied into a contract with the truly despicable Pipex – but it is useful to know for the future.

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