14 September 2010

O2 be with a better mobile company

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.


Lee Slator said...

I must say that I've not really had a problem with O2, apart from struggling get a data signal at a big gathering ie concert or football match. I had Vodafone for years until I moved to my present address when I couldn't get a signal without standing in the middle of the back garden. Typical hurdle you have when you live outside a big town or city.

Maybe you've done this before but when I was looking to move networks, I got hold of a pay as you go SIM for each network (they were all free at the time). I put them into an old unlocked phone and carried it with me, just to see what the signal was like everywhere I went. That way I knew which network(s) were going to be best for me.

Which areas do you struggle with on the M62 out of interest?

Bright Ambassador said...

I don't normally have trouble with O2's coverage either. What I do have trouble with is their sometimes erratic mobile internet service.
Pay and Go customers can get unlimited texts on O2 now (subject to fair use). I found that trying to get them to move my P&G tariff to unlimited internet and 300 free texts a month could only be done by ringing up. The staff in their own shops couldn't do it 'because we don't the power to do that'. They only have the power to sell you a new phone.
Incidentally, my niece was only saying at the weekend that 3G coverage for iPhone on O2 was dreadful.

Lee Slator said...

Like Bright Abassador sas, I find that the 3G coverage is the only drawback of O2.

However, I didn't didn't find this too big a drawback though as I mainly use my iPhone on the wireless networks at home and work.

I think overall each mobile phone company is as bad as each other. It will just come down to which one offers the best coverage for the areas you visit.

I guess you are a Carphone Warehouse customer, not an O2 customer?

Jo said...

I swapped from O2 due to poor coverage when mates on other networks had strong signals. With Vodaphone now and get unlimited txts, unlimited internet, 300 mins of calls/mth for £20/mth ... oh and a new phone every 18mths! Does the job for me :D