Mobile Woes

[Note] Following on from further contact with O2, there’s an update at the end of this post.

It’s not been a good week for my adventures in the mobile phone world. Those who know me know that over the years I’ve taken a keen interest in the industry – mainly the handset end rather than the operator but equally with the rise of every other new phone being announced being a variant on ‘ooh look, another touchscreen slab’ that my interest has waned somewhat of late.

However handsets aside which my current pair serve my needs satisfactorily I’ve been generally happy in the world of mobiles, if not particularly enthused.

That was however till last week when I got a text message from T-Mobile saying I’d reached 80% of my data allowance – which is one of those ‘Unlimited but we really mean 1GB’ types.

Then a couple of days later I received a message saying I’d exceeded it and my browsing would be restricted. How I’d managed to exceed 1GB of data in the space of a fortnight is a mystery as having been a long time user of mobile data – which basically means I discovered mobile internet before the first Iphone came out I’ve stuck with the practices of old in terms of knowing the tricks of how to keep my usage down and as my phone’s log says I’ve used just shy of 4GB for the entirety of it’s existence (18 months) how 1GB of that is from the last fortnight is bizarre.

A phone call to T-Mobile’s customer service basically resulted in a ‘We can’t do anything because we don’t keep any records of your data usage because it’s against the Data Protection Act’ answer which is complete cobblers as they then informed me it would take two weeks to investigate why their system thought I’d gone over – which by definition means they must keep a record of data usage and if it is against the DPA then why does O2 list all my data connections and amount used on my bill then?

So I chalked that down to poor quality customer care and perhaps when that contract expires next year that’ll be one to change to another supplier.

My first thought would be to change it to O2 because generally speaking I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for the last 15 years although I have to admit I had become more disappointed with their home broadband of late but they’re mobile section I was still pretty happy with (which incidentally is up for renewal next month and I may go shopping around for). The Phone Coop looking like a good contender in those stakes.

That general happiness came to an end this morning when I got my bill. Now just for the record, it’s normally £11.50 unless I do something that is chargeable like sending an international text or on roaming, which after our holiday’s in Germany this August I have to also admit I don’t particularly like the way O2 do their charging policy for roaming. T-Mobile’s in that sense are far better although neither are completely within the spirit of how the EU’s instructions to operators should work in my opinion.

However this morning my bill came in at £18.27. Checking I hadn’t done anything unusual it would appear that the addition plus a bit of VAT on top came from this section of the bill – my extras.

o2 bill

Yes, not only had O2 added a fiver’s worth of charges for “The All Rounder Data Plan” they also seemed fit to recognise my 15 years of custom with a ‘Loyalty Discount’ charge of £1.48.

A call to O2′s customer service obviously ensued. Apparently I’d come to the end of my contract and they’d decided that to get exactly the same service as last month that they’d up my charges by 63%. Not bad work if you can get it. I wish I could up my customers charges by that amount.

The end of the call effectively resulted in me agreeing to a new 12 month contract at £20 a month as it works out cheaper than the £15.50 contract over 12 months as the first 3 are free.

After this a cheeky tweet awarding ‘Crafty Capitalist of the month’ came to the attention of O2′s Twitter account.

I’d just like to explain why this is crafty. To keep a bill around what I currently pay I’d have to agree to a contract with 100MB a month allowance. Now I’m fairly thrifty as I mentioned above but 100MB a month for any smartphone user who gets out and about a bit is pushing it to the point of near impossibility. For the record my last months usage was 158MB – low by many people’s standards but outside this new tariff.

So I’m basically pushed out of my current tariff price range by a crafty change in the data allowance and here’s where O2 really are taking the proverbial. The next step in their data allowance is 500MB which puts you in the £15.50 a month category but hey presto we’ve got a deal that works out cheaper and before you know it you’re into a £20 a month contract which a few years ago would have got you a free phone upgrade to boot even on a 12 month contract.

What is interesting though is that, having a quick check. T-Mobile and Vodafone offer 250MB allowances. Something that would probably fit my usage pattern for £10 or £10.50 respectively. Each with more minutes although not unlimited texts but just while we’re at it, I used 44 minutes and sent the shockingly high number of 13 texts last month. Put simple, I think O2 do very well out of me already taking into account my usage. Data excluded as it wasn’t really about back then, I probably got a better deal out of Radiolinja in Finland back in 1999 where I presume the relative costs of running networks would have fallen with better technology over the years.

Anyway, O2 contacted me via Twitter and after a few tweets back and forth pointed me in the direction of their online web-based chat sessions help section. Which I spent about an hour of today effectively getting nowhere and in some respects coming away with a more negative impression. Take a read, here’s the transcript of that chat: (With a few obvious personal data bits and bobs redacted of course)

*************START***************

Welcome to O2. Someone will be with you soon.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

Hold that thought. You’re not connected yet.

You’re through to ‘O2 – Asma’

Asma: Hi I’m O2 – Asma. How can I help?

Gareth Walker: Your people on your Twitter stream said I should come here.

Asma: Okay.

Asma: How can I help you?

Gareth Walker: It was in response to a tweet I did about you effectively increasing the cost of my monthly bill by nearly 50% for the same services without informing me and adding insult to injury by adding £1.68 to my bill under the header ‘Loyalty Bonus’. Being charged for being a loyal customer for 15 years is rather insulting.

Asma: I’m sorry to know this.

Asma: let me check this for you.

Gareth Walker: Thank you.

Asma: Please can you tell me the 1st and 4th characters of your security answer?

Gareth Walker: ? and ?.

Asma: That’s perfect.

Asma: Thanks for the information. Please give me a few minutes while I check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: Gareth, I see that your current bill is for £18.27

Asma: Your monthly tariff is for £20

Gareth Walker: Yes. It’s normally £11.50. This changed without me being informed.

Asma: Your tariff was changed on ??/06/2011 for unlimited tariff for £20

Gareth Walker: It will be after who I spoke to this morning although looking around at other suppliers and given I have a 7 day cooling off period I may well go elsewhere.

Asma: Let me check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: I see that you spoked to Upgrades team in morning is that correct?

Gareth Walker: I spoke to two different people, presumably billing and someone else yes.

Asma: Okay.

Asma: Thanks for confirming.

Asma: I see that the request is still inprocess.

Asma: They’ve kept your account on hold for investigation.

Asma: Our Support team will contact you once the request is

processed.

Asma: You can also contact them and check this with them.

Gareth Walker: Erm, what are they investigating exactly?

Asma: The charges and the upgrade when your contract was upgrade for unlimited tariff for £20

Asma: You can speak them and they’ll help you with full details.

Asma: Shall I help you with the number?

Asma: I haven’t heard from you for a while. Are you still there?

Gareth Walker: I’m not quite sure where this conversation is going. I was referred here by the people who run the @O2 twitter account. It doesn’t really address the central problem that you are effectively forcing a near 50% increase on my tariff for the same services I had last month and actually by nature of the way your plans are set up effectively shoe-horning people into £20 a month 12 month tariffs. This is quite disgusting in my opinion and despite I’ve been a loyal customer for 15 years I look around the marketplace and I can get a better deal than this.

Asma: I’m sorry about this.

Asma: I can see that your prices have been increased due to upgrading the tariff.

Gareth Walker: They weren’t increased due to upgrading the tariff. That was the position I was forced into this morning on the back of receiving a bill where you had charged me around 75% more than I normally pay without my prior knowledge or agreement.

Asma: Let me chekc this.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: I’m sorry but as per our terms and conditions clearly state that we may increase or decrease our charges from time to time but our monthly contract prices haven’t increased mid-term.

Gareth Walker: So are you basically saying that I’m wasting my time and I may as well just switch to someone else to get a better deal?

Asma: Gareth, I understand your concern and I completely agree to this.

Asma: I’d request you to contact our Support team and they’ll check this for you.

Gareth Walker: Could you give me my PAC code please.

Asma: Let me check this for you.

Asma: Thanks for waiting.

Asma: Gareth, your contract ends on ??/112013, if you cancel the contract in between you’ll be charged early termination charges for it.

Asma: Are you okay with the charges?

Gareth Walker: I don’t think I will be. You are referring to the fact that I agreed a new contract this morning that has a 7 day cooling off period on it or are you suggesting that the information one of your representatives gave me this morning is incorrect?

Asma: Gareth, last upgrade on your account was on ??/05/2011.

Asma: Have you placed any order today or yesterday?

Gareth Walker: Can you tell me what ‘upgrade’ that was? The last upgrade (handset terms) I had from you was a Nokia E90 that was sometime around mid-2008.

Asma: It was Simplicity upgrade.

Gareth Walker: I also already explained that I had changed the contract this morning but it has a 7 day cooling off period.

Asma: The tariff was upgrade on ??/05/2011 to £20

Gareth Walker: OK, if you’re talking the Simplicity yes perhaps but it was not for £20, was for £11.50 and was a 12 month contract with the option to upgrade at any time.

Asma: Yes that’s true you can upgrade early than your contract end date.

Asma: As per the offer you can upgrade on ??/02/2013

Asma: Gareth, I’d request you to contact our 7 days return team and they’ll cancel the contract for you.

Asma: I see that £20 unlimited tariff upgrade was done today on ??/11/2012 at 10:09:35.

Asma: If you don’t wish to have this tariff you can change it and get a new one without any charges.

Gareth Walker: Hang on. I think something is seriously wrong at your end. You are contradicting yourself. If as you say I went on a 12 month contract on ??/05/2011 and that presumably was automatically renewed as another 12 month contract in May this year then I would currently be 5 months into that contract so you are increasing my charges mid-term. Therefore where does this contract ends in exactly a year’s time date come from. If it comes from the 12 month contract I agreed to this morning with the 7 day cooling off period which would look likely then why do you give me an upgrade date in February as your representative this morning told me that it was only possible to upgrade after 6 months which would put that date in May next year.

Asma: Gareth, I guess there’s some confussion.

Asma: let start again.

Asma: I’ll explain it to you.

Asma: Have you upgrade your contract today for £20 unlimited tariff?

Gareth Walker: Yes.

Asma: Thanks for confirming.

Asma: You can cancel your contract within 7 days cooling off period without incurring any extra charges.

Asma: Is that fine with you?

Gareth Walker: It’s fine that I can cancel it within 7 days – I was told that this morning and fully understand that.

Asma: Thanks.

Asma: Do you want to me to check your bill that is for £18.27?

Gareth Walker: You can if you want.

Asma: Sure.

Asma: The bill that you received for £18.27 is for the new tariff that you upgrade.

Asma: If you cancel your contract within 7 days this charges will be credited back to your account.

Asma: I haven’t heard from you for a while. Are you still there?

Gareth Walker: How is that possible? I received the bill this morning – hence my calling your contact centre. As a result of that call I upgraded. Or are you saying that without my knowledge or consent you put me on a £20 a month tariff? If so why does my bills say: “Your tariffs – O2 Simplicity 300 12 month with O2 Travel £8.75″. ?

Asma: Gareth, I’m sorry for all the confussion.

Asma: Can you please contact our Support team and they’ll speak to you about this.

Asma: I guess they can explain you manually.

Gareth Walker: OK. Thank you for your time.

***********END**********

Where from here I don’t know. O2′s Twitter account contacted me again when I tweeted I’d got nowhere. In fairness to them they offered to DM but to be frank, it’s a little more complex than 140 characters can afford hence the post. Let’s see if they get back. If not, well 7 days to have a butchers at the market but it would be a shame after 15 years of custom for it all to end like this.

[Update]

A victory for social media over corporate call centres. There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere about how use of social media by companies, or even the public sector can be more reactive and to customer/residents needs. Following on from publishing this post O2 got back to me on Twitter and sorted out someone to call me. The upshot, a reasonable discount on the contract that leave me happy and them still with me as a customer for another year. So thanks O2, I do appreciate it and credit where credit’s due.

2 thoughts on “Mobile Woes

  1. Hi Gareth,

    We appreciate you taking the time to put this blog post together.

    Sometimes questions that seem relatively simple, are not always that. This is where we try to take away the confusion. It seems like that may not have been the case on this occasion.

    You’ve already seem the conversation we’re having on Twitter. We’d like to get to the bottom of this for you and have a conversation around it. You’re quite right that 140 characters won’t quite cover everything that needs to be said, but it’s a start. Drop us a DM and we can start the conversation and get things moving forward.

    Thanks,

    O2 Social Media Team

  2. Hi Gareth

    Thanks for getting in touch. We’re really glad we could be a part of getting this resolved for you, but we’re sorry you’ve had a few disappointing moments along the way.

    We’ll use your encounter to work with those involved and try to ensure a more consistently positive customer experience in the future. With that in mind, we’re grateful that you’ve taken the time to write this post – feedback like yours is vital for us to identify where we can do things better.

    You know where we are if you need us again…

    All the best,
    Chris
    O2 Social Media Team

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