14 September 2010
My mobile phone bill arrived yesterday, and nearly sent me to the local cardiac ward.
I'm already annoyed with O2 for the considerably weak or non-existent signals that they frequently transmit to vast sections of the country. I cannot make a phone call from most of the downstairs area of my house and there are swathes of the M62 corridor which kills the signal stone dead.
Now it turns out that they have been playing with my account to the extent of making it, suddenly, six times more expensive for a monthly payment.
My bills fall between the £40 and £55 threshold per month. I have a certain allocation of webtime and a fixed number of calls. I also have unlimited texts, and it is with the latter that the problem has been caused.
I am a prolific, addictive texter. Always have been. I have no reason not to be proud of this, it's fun and sometimes it's necessary. My bills on an old tariff were too high so a couple of years back, I went to O2 to renegotiate. I was told, in no uncertain terms, by the chap behind the counter that they didn't offer unlimited texts in a package, so I said I would find a network that did, and exited the store.
The next day a customer services person rang me, with that slightly over-eager tone of voice, to enquire as to why I'd given notice on my account. I explained that it was because I needed unlimited texts and couldn't have them. She immediately said I could and changed the terms of my contract there and then. It turns out that customer services folk in the call centre have far more power than the hapless people in loud ties who stand in the Carphone Warehouse writing down postcodes all day.
So I got the new deal I needed, and the bills dropped to a manageable level. All was well.
Then yesterday I received a bill for just over 300 quid.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Instantly I looked for the customer services telephone number - which is easier said than done, of course; I know these places prefer not to have one-on-one contact with their customers but for a mobile phone network to actively prefer customers to email them is moronic - and eventually, got through to someone.
She had a Scottish accent. Everyone in a call centre has either a Scottish or subcontinental accent, irrespective of who you are ringing.
She told me that it was texting that had caused the high bill. I pointed out that my bills in previous months had been a sixth of the value without any change in my habits. I pointed this out again and again.
My assumption had been that they had not realised (or chosen not to realise) that I was back from my holiday in France and so were charging me overseas roaming. But this was not the case.
I was getting nowhere until I uttered the words "go somewhere else for my phone". Then suddenly I was asked if I would mind being put on hold, while they looked at my bill history.
I listened to Something In The Air by Thunderclap Newman two and a half times. I used to like that song.
Then she reappeared. Apparently, someone had removed my entitlement to unlimited texts "in error". This was now to be restored and the bill recalculated.
So, blessedly, I was right to complain. The error was theirs and now I'll get a bill for something more manageable. It's amazing what you can get a phone company to do when you start mentioning their rivals.
But they should have been checking my old bills and the terms of my contract before the prospect of losing a customer to Vodafone was mentioned. That's what customer service is. A customer gets in contact with a concern; the company deals with that concern, rather than trying to stave it off.
My main worry, though, is that this "error" was made. Given that they didn't bother searching for this "error" for some time when I called, I can't help but suspect something more sinister was going on. The logistics of it interest me; is it as simple as a ticked box next to the words "unlimited texts" being unticked? If so, then someone has manually done that.
My history shows they clearly don't like giving out unlimited texts entitlements to begin with, so it wouldn't surprise me that a few "accidental" removals of the right are authorised every so often, just to see how many customers don't notice or don't want to make a fuss, and just pay up the increased amount.
And customers like me, who do kick up a stink, get a bit of resistance followed by a hollow apology on the grounds of "error". I don't think it's error, I think it's sabotage.