CO-OP Movement internet service provider Poptel and the Phone Co-op have announced plans to transfer the majority of Poptel's retail ISP customers to the Phone Co-op.
An agreement between the two organisations is expected to be finalised within the next month. This will include arrangements for Poptel Ltd to supply wholesale internet services to the Phone Co-op.
Under the new arrangement, the Chipping Norton-based Phone Co-op will take over the vast majority of Poptel's current ISP retail customers, providing all the customer-facing services, including direct sales, customer support and billing.
Both Poptel and the Phone Co-op say that existing customers will see a seamless transition of services.
However it is understood that Poptel - which began as a workers' co-operative in 1986, but became a plc last autumn after running into financial problems - will continue to act as Registry Operator for the worldwide internet domain name .coop, which now has over 7,000 names registered from 50 countries.
Five members of Poptel's customer services and accounting staff, including Poptel founder and former chair Shaun Fensom, will join the Phone Co-op and form a Manchester-based internet division.
`This transfer to the Phone Co-op ensures that Poptel's customers are able to remain with a co-operative,` commented Vivian Woodell, Chief Executive of The Phone Co-op.
`Indeed, as customers of a consumer co-operative, they will now be able to join as members and have a say in the way the Phone Co-op is run. For the Phone Co-op, this is a natural move as we continue to expand our business within the communications sector and at the same time we are pleased to return part of Poptel to co-operative status.`
Clive Mayhew-Begg, Managing Director of Poptel, added: `Following Poptel's transition last year from a co-op to a privately held company, we were keen to develop a new co-op partnership for our retail customers.
`The Phone Co-op already partners with Poptel to deliver internet service, so making them the perfect partner to take over the direct customer relationships. As part of the transfer, Poptel will provide all the internet technology and services for the Phone Co-op going forward.
`The agreement represents a win for our customers by allowing them to buy directly from a co-op; a win for the Phone Co-op giving them more retail customers and a win for Poptel by securing a three-year exclusive supplier contract.`