Globe7 are a VOIP company, purporting to offer cheap calls. As I have a fairly limited selection of international destinations which i regularly call, I was shopping around for the cheapest rates to these destinations around May 2008 and stumbled across Globe7.
Although they seem to primarily want you to use a proprietary application to access their service, they also claimed to offer a standard SIP service as well. And coupled with their advertised rates to the destinations I wanted to call being among the cheapest around, I signed up and purchased $25 of calling credit and Globe7 were more than willing to take my money.
Now here is where the problems started. Instead of processing the payment as a standard purchase of goods or services, it was processed as a “cash advance” and therefore incurred additional fees from the card issuer. Although it is common for cash advanced to attract fees, Globe7 made no mention that they would be charging in this way prior to the purchase.
When it came to actually trying to use the service, further problems occurred. Since i have a number of voip services, both for inbound and outbound calls I run a small Asterisk PBX at home. With this setup i get voicemail services, email alerts, automatic call forwarding to my mobile if i’m not at home, as well as the convenience of just dialing from my handset and having Asterisk route the call through the cheapest available provider, or falling back if that provider is unavailable.
Having been provided a username and password for the Globe7 SIP service, i was unable to get Asterisk to work with the service, always receiving an error message claiming that my account number was not valid. After much experimentation i found out that changing my user agent made it register successfully. So despite claiming support for the SIP standard, Globe7 explicitly block access to any client identifying itself as Asterisk, and yet nowhere on their website did they state that Asterisk was explicitly blocked and even the error message tries to claim the account is invalid rather than stating the true cause of the error – namely that Asterisk is explicitly being blocked.
My anger already boiling somewhat at this point, but having overcome the explicit blocking of Asterisk both by spoofing my user agent and by using a completely different SIP handset i decided to make some test calls to see if the service was actually any good. I decided to place a test call to my own mobile but Globe7 seemed to have major trouble routing this call. Most calls failed to complete, several appeared to ring out but never actually made it to my mobile and at least one was actually answered by someone else. I have no idea how this could happen, or what chaos is taking place internal to Globe7′s phone system. Test calls to other numbers were similarly ineffective, several calls resulted in hearing only silence not even a ringing tone or any other form of audible feedback and yet looking at my account status on the Globe7 website I had actually been charged for this. Only one call, to another mobile phone on another network ever succeeded, and even then it did not succeed in every attempt.
Anyway, the combination of all the above was far too much, i attempted to contact Globe7 and demand a full refund. I detailed my findings, to them via the following email:
I have been most dissatisfied with the service I have received since
purchasing credit for this account.
Firstly i was charged $29.38, for what is supposedly a $25 voucher.
Second, I was unable to connect using an Asterisk PBX system, receiving a
false notification stating that “this account number is not valid”. Upon
connecting my Cisco 7960 directly to the service, using the same account
details this error was not received, and changing the user-agent string
reported by Asterisk this error was similarly not heard. Therefore it is
clearly detecting the Asterisk user-agent string, and rejecting calls for
some aparrent reason.
Third, when i was finally unable to initiate calls, i was unable to call
Myanmar, hearing only silence, not even a ringing tone, and being charged
1 minute worth of call time to listen to this silence wondering what is
Fourth, when i called my own mobile number which is connected to O2, most
attempts failed, one attempt was answered by a total stranger, none of
the attempts actually made my mobile ring, which was right beside me the
whole time. Your web based CDR log shows the correct number, but the fact
that the only time the call went through a total stranger answered
suggests it didn’t actually dial the number that was supplied at all.
Calling another mobile on the Orange network did work.
Obviously this is all far from acceptable, and I therefore request a full
refund of the $29.38 spent on this service.
So 2 working days later received a rather weak reply:
We would like to inform that, for European and UK customers, 17.5% VAT will
be charged additionally on each purchase of extra talk time.
Kindly note that Globe7 does not support Asterisk.
We will be glad to assist you with any further query.
Well great, they inform me *after making a purchase* that they will charge VAT on that purchase… Doesn’t the law require that they disclose any such charges up front? And this is also the first time they make any mention of not supporting Asterisk, and yet there is a big difference between “does not support” and “explicitly blocks without informing customers as such”. On their website, they claim to support SIP, and Asterisk supports SIP. They make no attempt to list which SIP devices are supported, nor do they publish any list of devices which are explicitly not supported. Add to that the fact that Asterisk with a modified user agent seems to work just as well (or as badly, given the poor quality of their service) as the other SIP devices i tested their service with.
Their response made no mention of my demand for a refund, no mention of my complaint about calls not being routed correctly and failed to answer my question about why Asterisk was being explicitly banned by user agent string. So i sent a reply to their email:
The site claims support for SIP devices, which Asterisk is… Instead, the
service explicitly disconnects anything with Asterisk in the user-agent
string. It doesn’t say that only certain SIP devices are supported, and
that other devices will be explicitly blocked. SIP is supposed to be a
Also the notice given when rejecting an asterisk connection suggests that
the username is invalid, it does not state that connections from asterisk
are rejected. If I had been informed up front that asterisk connections
were explicitly denied I would not have purchased any service.
You have also not addressed the other complaints…
Calls were charged without connecting…
Calls to my mobile number for testing purposes never succeeded even in
making the handset ring, and one of the calls clearly went through to a
completely different number as someone else answered it, even tho the call
log shows the correct number (my mobile)..
I was also unable to call Myanmar, which was the sole reason for buying
this service, cals never connected but were charged regardless…
Finally, and this has only just come to my attention and was thus not
mentioned in the original complaint, the charge to my credit card was put
through as a “cash advance” rather than a purchase, and thus incurred a
cash advance charge and began being charged interest immediately. This was
_NOT_ disclosed up front and is clearly unacceptable.
Your reply was also incredibly slow.
My request for a full refund still stands, and i hope this can be dealt
with speedily, or I will be forced to dispute the charge with my card
issuer and contact Ofcom.
This message got no response whatsoever, and I was forced to carry out my threat to dispute the charge, claim a refund via the card issuer and report the matter to Ofcom.
Out of curiosity, i decided to test if my account created in 2008 was still functional now in the last month of 2011, I went to the Globe7 website and was told that there was a new billing interface for SIP accounts. This new interface was not present when I signed up in 2008, so i followed the link and got an SSL certificate error:
Amusingly, despite the fact that this new interface had supposedly been added since 2008, it used an SSL certificate which expired in 2006? Incompetence knows no bounds…
So in short, avoid Glove7 like the plague… They may claim to offer cheap calls, yet once you factor in the VAT (which other companies disclose up front), the cash advance charge, the hassle and the fact that the majority of calls don’t complete and yet still get charged the service suddenly appears to be exceptionally poor value for money.