Updated Orange is contemplating a U-turn on its trashing of old Freeserver accounts following a storm of criticism from hacked-off users.
Last month Orange started deleting inactive email accounts which were not associated with broadband or dial-up internet access accounts.
Many were old Freeserve accounts that had been migrated to Wanadoo and then onto Orange. People who accessed their email accounts without using Orange broadband or dial-up internet access found their accounts had disappeared.
Online forums have been busy with people complaining that their accounts were deleted without warning and that they'd lost years of emails and contact details.
One Reg who contacted us said: "It's my personal property and they're treating us like second-class citizens - if they'd at least warned us they were going to delete everything then we could have copied contact details and important emails."
Orange sent us the following statement: "Some of our Orange dial-up pay-as-you-go customers have experienced an issue accessing their Orange email accounts. This is because when a pay-as-you-go dial-up account has not been used for a long period (260 days), it is deleted and along with it, so is any associated email account."
But Orange was keen to show it was all heart: "We are aware some customers want to retrieve their email accounts and were unaware that their account would be deleted. As a result of this customer feedback we are working to restore these email accounts and are reviewing this as a priority and will update you soon."
The legal position is not clear, but Orange likely has duties under the Data Protection Act to restore people's personal information. It is also required to keep copies of emails for possible police investigations under RIPA, assuming Orange stores the emails in the UK. More angry customers on OrangeProblems.co.uk here.
Some customers claim to have complained to the Internet Service Providers Association, of which Orange is a sponsor, but it was unable to comment by press time.
Updated: A spokesman for Ispa told us: "It's a little early for us to take action. The complaints procedure is that people must complain to their ISP and give them ten days to respond before we take action. We understand that Orange is looking to restore access to these accounts."®