back to article Which? leads decrepit email service behind barn, single shot rings out over valley

Consumer group Which? is to terminate its 20-plus-year-old email service, giving long-standing users two months to switch accounts. was set up in the mid-90s as a benefit to members between 1997 and 2004, after which it was closed to new signups but remained active. The group has now decided to set a cut-off date as …

  1. Jim 59

    An opportunity for ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed. What puzzles me is how they can spend so much money running a mail server for so few customers.

      Mine costs under €500 a year running on a pair of VMs and with no need for any work as there are no new sign-ups. I patch the servers every month but that only takes a few minutes....

      1. Carneades

        They're good at spending money - and losing it. Lost £33m in the last ten years alone.

  2. }{amis}{ Silver badge

    Sad Face

    This reminds me of the painful loss of my Rocket-mail account when yahoo took over.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Re: Sad Face @HamisH

      I emailed a rocketmail address today and got a reply. Maybe Yahoo lied to you.

  3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    The sort of people who have a account are the sort of people who are probably least able to understand why they shouldn't have had one in the first place.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      The sort of people who have a account....

      ...are people like me.

      I was shocked to get the email from them last week because I haven't used the address for a very, very long time. I must have set a forwarding address when I moved to BT (frying pans and fires - I know). The modem buzz is still ringing in my ears.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The sort of people who have a account are the sort of people who are probably least able to understand why they shouldn't have had one in the first place."

      No new since ups since 2004? That's a long sunset period. They should probably have announced a winding up period a long time ago. Maybe they were hoping the attrition rate would have been higher. I have to agree with the users though, 2 months is a tight time frame to move an account that might have been in use for 20 years.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    Shirley they could have negotiated to transfer the service to a new provider, so that users can retain their addresses ? Might have cost a few quid but good publicity (as opposed to the publicity they'll get for this)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Transfer?

      I think the date of transfer tells you everything. If they transfer it are they still liable under the GDPR because they are the original owner? I would say yes, so passing it to another company is not an option. In other words the cost of transfer and related security makes it prohibitive.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Transfer?

        Good point. I was thinking more of a deal with a GDPR-compliant mail provider, who will host the addresses on their existing set-up. Ideally several months ago they e-mail clients about the transfer, with clear guidance on downloading and saving old e-mail (but I bet most of them are running Outlook Express on XP anyway), and then the active customers start with a clean slate on the new supplier, but keeping their lovely old address. Inactive ones are dropped before GDPR deadline.

      2. LucasNorth

        Re: Transfer?

        do you actually know is that is the case though or are you just guessing?

  5. J J Carter Silver badge

    All dead, all dead

    Surprised the user-base for the service hasn't passed on by now.

  6. TechnicianJack

    So basically thousands of elderly people might finally have to migrate their old POP3 accounts in Outlook Express to something more modern.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So basically thousands of elderly people will nag their offspring to help them to migrate their old POP3 accounts in Outlook Express to something more modern, and then bug them for years on end because they don't understand what they are looking at anymore"


  7. Edwin


    Why not set it up as an email forwarding service for 12 months? Explain to people how to set up (insert favourite freemail provider here) accounts to automatically identify inbound email as having been sent to so they can send a change of address notice. Perhaps a novel idea, but postal services have been doing this for decades...

    GDPR requirements suddenly become much less onerous, the email service cost plummets and the punters get 12 months (rather than 2!) to migrate off the system.

    I'll take a address also please.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised it's that popular we stopped being a pagan country hundreds of years ago.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      I'm surprised it's that popular we stopped being a pagan country hundreds of years ago.

      Yeah, and they didn’t even provide a migration wizard.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Three Swedish switched witches watch three Swiss Swatch watch switches. Which Swedish switched witch watch which Swiss Swatch watch switch?

  9. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

    Which Which?

    Are Which? still respected at all? They seem to be puppets for big advertising departments whenever I look at anything they've produced. To the point where a "Which? recommendation" is enough to completely put me off buying something.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Which Which?

      I briefly took out a subscription a few years ago. Dreadful - just constant shallow reviews of latest washing machines, dishwashers, irons and mobile phones. Only interesting bit was reading the comments under the reviews of how bad the item being reviewed had proven to be.

      There are more reliable reviews on Amazon and I'm sure someone will be along shortly to recommend something else.

      That said, there legal department are supposed to be good if you do need assistance. The subscription could be seen as just extra insurance.

      1. Stuart Halliday

        Re: Which Which?

        Which is far too out of touch with modern lecherous manufacturing practices.

        They don't inform or advise about these.

        They're heading for the Old Folks Home as their customers die off and they don't modernise.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: Which Which?

        I looked at a Which subscription many years ago; then I read the T&Cs for their Direct Debit mandate.

        For a consumer first organisation, it read like a Trump company contract; "unspecified amounts at unspecified times".

        Basically, you were signing over your bank account to them.

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: Which Which?

          They do seem to be in love with Apple too. It often seems to get the top rating just because it's Apple. Although recently even they've baulked a little at the price.

    2. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Which Which?

      Personally they're far too non-technical and generic these days.

      They should be flagging the sellers and manufacturers who are dishonestly portraying their products as shiny and new when they're old and crap.

      When the fake capacitor scandal hit Britain, they said nothing. When modern TVs started faking 10bit panels, they just ignored it.

      There is just too much fake stuff on the market for them to keep quiet on it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which Which?

      I often wondered whether the non-functional differences they observed between different SKUs were significant, as they didn't seem to have any way of evaluating the variability of items within each SKU.

    4. Missing Semicolon

      Re: Which Which?

      Indeed. They keep showing Duracell AAs as being a "Best Buy", despite Aldi's own-brand cells being as good or better, and only costing £2 for a pack of eight!

    5. Captain Queeg

      Re: Which Which?

      > To the point where a "Which? recommendation" is enough to completely put

      > me off buying something.

      I’ve been in that space for 20+ years. Dreadful.

  10. druck Silver badge

    What other Which

    What other consumer magazine can I go to, to complain about Which taking additional subscriptions after cancelling?

    We only signed up to get money off something else. I was very unimpressed with the magazine, a combination of blinding obvious consumer advice, almost completely content free reviews, and dumbed down ratings tables that didn't in anyway justify the overall scores given.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What other Which

      "We only signed up to get money off something else..."

      So you got what you paid for, as the saying has it?

    2. Stuart Halliday

      Re: What other Which

      TIP: If you have a direct debit with a company, make sure they know it's been cancelled. A phone call to their Support department will be recorded.

      Contact your Bank as well.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: What other Which

        "TIP: If you have a direct debit with a company, make sure they know it's been cancelled. A phone call to their Support department will be recorded."

        If you tell your bank you're cancelling a Direct Debit, the company it's with are informed. Within minutes. I can assure you of this, having done it to a company I had a grievance against (charging me for a phone which never arrived) and I gave them more than adequate time to resolve the situation.

        I phoned the bank. I asked to cancel. They said "Are you sure?". I said yes. They are legally obliged to honour that, and because it was a "recent" DD and I said it was disputed, they refunded all the payments (three months worth, I think) immediately.

        When I put down the phone, the company in question phoned to ask why I'd done it, so I explained to them: "For the reasons I told you that I would. Check your records."

        They were literally unable to take any more payments from me from that point on (I had asked them nicely not to several times earlier, but they continued to do so).

        But the bank didn't even care. They just clicked "Undo" and all the DD agreement and past payments were magically history and I got my money back in my account.

        Sure, it's nice to TELL the company, but you don't need to.

        (P.S. They threatened me with court, which I offered to initiate for them, not having supplied me with the goods they had promised for the monthly payment they were taking. And, I mean, we're talking about a PHONE that they supplied... if they genuinely thought I was using it without payment, they could block the IMEI. Strangely, like every other company that's ever made that threat to me, no court case ever happened).

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: What other Which

          "P.S. They threatened me with court, which I offered to initiate for them"

          I love the whole "we'll take you to court" line... they're always surprised when I say "yes, please do."

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: What other Which

          "Strangely, like every other company that's ever made that threat to me, no court case ever happened"

          Isn't it always the case tho? If you've got to the state where you need recourse to the courts, verbal threats are pointless. You start with a letter (paper is magic), which is the first point in most legal processes, since it's often considered the first "official" communication.

          Even if what you're requesting or reporting is batshit crazy* a letter forces action. Emails, phonecalls and even face to face meetings don't have quite the same power, for whatever reason.

          * I got to talk to the head of Risk and Compliance as a loopy family member wrote them a letter saying I was part of a satanic cult**. To their credit they did start by emphasizing their religious and personal belief tolerance, and as long as I wasn't actively recruiting at work it would have been OK.

          ** as if. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn and all that

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: What other Which

        TIP: If you have a direct debit with a company, make sure they know it's been cancelled. A phone call to their Support department will be recorded.

        Conversely, and more importantly, if you have a DD with a company and you have ended your contract with them, make sure you cancel it with your bank, rather than relying on them not to take any more payments. I have heard of plenty of cases of unscrupulous / uncaring utilities companies continuing to bill ex-customers.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: What other Which

          "I have heard of plenty of cases of unscrupulous / uncaring utilities companies continuing to bill ex-customers"

          For me it was NPower who told me leave the DD so we can refund you, gits charged me at the same time as refunding. Much flaming at the droid on helldesk (Because I no longer lived at the address they billed me for) and realising the person on the end of the phone didn't give a shit, I cancelled the DD forcing them to send me a cheque.

          So anyone leaving such a leech, cancel the DD and get them to send you a cheque.

          1. David Nash Silver badge

            Re: What other Which

            They may need your bank details but they don't need a DD mandate in force to credit you. The clue is in the name. One of the Ds stands for Debit!

  11. Carneades

    the Which? Betrayal...

    What's not is the article is the fact that Which? had no way of terminating the service as they hadn't written it into the Ts and Cs - so they altered the Ts and Cs the day before they sent out the email. Great way for the 'consumer champion' to behave, eh?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The silly thing is that Which? has done some good things and could again. But two months notice when GDPR has been known about since April 2016 !!

    I do not think the CEO likes the Internet and people moaning about the £4m plus he has been paid over the last 14 years. CEO has been there since 2004 which about says it all on why the service was closed to new subscribers and allowed to wither. He also closed the original forums that had existed alongside - smart smart move when the internet was growing like topsy.

  13. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Focus you f**k!

    We should get AvE to do BOLTR on washing machines. Unboxing with a chainsaw and then dismantling with (not so) gentle tappity-taps :)

    I'd pay money to watch that!

    P.S. I discovered AvE on this forum

  14. Grumpy Old Git


    When I first joined Which? it gave good reports and a pretty good email service plus there were the Forums. All have disappeared really, the first to go was the Forums which were replaced by controlled boards and they also removed the Which Local where users could recommend local companies, now it's the paid for by the business service.

    I have been disenchanted with the quality of Which reports for some time now and this closure of the email service has taken me days to sort out what with all the sites where I login using my email address, some of which can't change. Fortunately I have an encrypted list of contacts so most I've been able to do but there has already been two that I missed and only found out because I swapped my emails to arrive at a laptop instead so are easily spotable. I have cancelled my magazine subscription and will cancel the mail one in May once the diverted mail wouldn't work anyway. This has been too short a notice period and is a travesty from a supposed consumer rights company.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Wait a minute

    "an IT helpdesk for users is estimated at up to £15,000 a year"

    Do you mean to tell me that there is someone willing to do helldesk for less than 15k a year ?

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Wait a minute

      > Do you mean to tell me that there is someone willing to do helldesk for less than 15k a year ?

      I think I could manage an hour a week for 15k a year.

  16. LateAgain

    Why not just move to a email forward service?

    Not rocket science. Rather than turn it off migrate to simply forwarding to a registered address.


    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Why not just move to a email forward service?

      Re-do your GDPR training.

  17. Wiltshire

    Their mailing list is so old even Rudyard Kipling opted-out.

    “I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all i knew);

    Theirs names are What and Why and When And How And Where and Who.”

    No mention of Which.

  18. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Not that I'm condoning anything, but I have always thought it strange that people rely on free services for something as important as email is.

    I have heard various complaints over the years about free email services shutting down, changing, and generally being terrible. The most recent prior to this was my dad whinging about Hotmail's switch to OWA (IIRC).

    "If you don't like it, go somewhere else" was my reply.

    "But then I'd loose my email address".

    So, what if Hotmail was shut down? You're not paying for it, and you'd have no recourse. For personal stuff, fair enough: It's a pain in the arse, but doable. But I know of many businesses using these. What happens when your customers suddenly get bounce backs from the emails they are sending you?

    Sorry, I know I'm ranting a bit with no obvious direction. The point is, though: Don't rely on a free service if it is important to you.

    1. Grumpy Old Git

      Hello Dr Mouse.

      To be strictly correct this was not a free service but was included with magazine subscriptions. I took up the deal partly because of the internet service they provided and partly because the magazine which back then was very informative IMHO. They split the subscriptions some time ago and my magazine rate was some £20 a quarter and my email is £4.75 a month. I think the subscription to Which Legal Services is part of that £4.75 so email it's still part of a deal AFAICS. Certainly if I had stopped both payments the email service would have gone too.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The odd thing about this decision is not the choice (which makes sense for Which) but the very poor lead time for their customers. Why couldn't they have told people a year ago?

    1. dieseltaylor

      Because of crap management thats' why.

      Unfortunately corporate capture is not restricted to the US and a few years ago what is ostensibly a consumers charity designed to educate and inform and lobby for consumers was being run apparently by its subsidiary commercial off-spring Which? Ltd and its businessmen who apart from originating some very expensive expansion ideas of a commercial nature decided that four of the top executives should share in an LTIP which eventualy paid out an additional £2.24m to them.

      The chairman of Which? ltd at the time was multi-millionaire Mike Clasper of P&G, BAA, HMRC, and now Coats. You may wonder who co-opted him, and the two folk from HMRC, the two from Unilever, the Barclays banker, etc. I have always worried that business folk may not view a consumer fronting charity in the same way as most folk.

      The expansions - a consumer organ in India - shutdown after losing nearly £13m , a mortgage service which after seven years is meant to be reaching profitability but has required £22.5m of support and this despite having taken over £10m income from mortgage providers and referral fees. The refurishment of the HQ in central London with the addition odf another storey and a roof garden has also not gone down well with the few members who are aware of it - but then at only £16m it is a snip.

      The new Council of the Consumers' Association have been handed a problem but they have been in place a couuple of years so they have handled it very badly. Apparently one subscriber at least is severely handicapped and has been using his Which address for two decades sorting out helpers and all manner of things and has written very angrily as for him it takes great effort to use the computer.

      Council's problem may be the entrenched senior management I think who certainly should have flagged this up for immediate preparatory action if GDPR was a future problem 20 months ago.

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