O2 suck: Problem now resolved.

by Suw on November 30, 2011

UPDATE 5 DEC 11: Having been rather robust with my criticism it’s only fair now to be as forthright about the follow up from O2.

The web team at O2 got in touch after my rather angry rant last Wednesday and asked me to email them with details, which I did on Thursday. I was pretty clear in my post about what had happened, why I was so angry, and what I wanted them to do for me, ie give me an upgrade now.

I got a call on Friday from Alistair at O2 and I have to say, the experience was night and day. Alistair was lovely – he listened to me without giving me the silent treatment, he said he understood why I was cross and agreed that I should have been given the upgrade that I was promised. We ended up talking for about 45 minutes as I explained in detail why the three people I spoke to last week simple made me more angry the more we spoke, not less. Alistair agreed that my experience of O2 customer service had not been constructive.

The end result was that they offered me an upgrade to the iPhone 4S and a choice of tariff. I chose the 12 month tariff with the slightly more expensive handset fee as, when I did the maths it was actually cheaper that way. I can, apparently, reduce the tariff after six months if it’s too much, which I may look into. Although to be honest, what I get on this tariff is more, by far, than I got on the £46 tariff I was on before August last year, so I frankly feel like it’s a decent deal.

Alistair phoned me this afternoon to finalise the deal, after I said I wanted the weekend to think about it, and I should get my new phone within the next week or two.

I think there are a few lessons here for O2:

  1. Don’t break promises made during the sales process. Ever.
  2. If you have to change the rules, do it for all contract renewals and sales going forward, don’t apply changes retrospectively.
  3. “Listening” to the customer on a support call does not mean “falling silent whilst the customer slowly works up a rage because they feel they are being ignored.”
  4. Small olive branches work wonders. If the original customer service person had said, “Oh, gosh, terribly sorry. We should honour our promises, let me go and talk to my supervisor and get back to you,” and then got back to me with some sort of compromise offer, none of this would have happened. But not one of the three people I originally spoke to gave me any hint of compromise.
  5. Never, ever put the phone down on a customer, and never shout at them. If you do shout at them, expect them to shout back.

As Alistair proved, it’s not difficult to be nice, to apologise, and to find an acceptable compromise.

One last thing, though, O2: Please stop phoning people up and then asking them to prove who they are. It’s a terrible security antipattern. Alistair and I had a chat about it, and I asked him to escalate my point up the chain of command, but really, if you want me to prove who I am who I say I am to you when you call me, then you have to first prove that you are who you say you are.

So, all’s well that ends well, although it’s a shame that I had to throw a strop in order to get what I was promised. I can only suggest that, if you’ve found yourself in a similar position, that you too throw a strop and see if that works for you as well.

ORIGINAL 30 Nov POST BEGINS:

Back in August, O2 rang me up to see if I wanted to change tariff on my phone as I was paying for more minutes and texts than I was using. I expressly asked if this would damage my options for an upgrade when the iPhone 4S came out and was told that no, that wouldn’t be affected as I could just phone up at any time and upgrade. So I accepted a new contract for twelve months.

Today, when I phoned up to upgrade I was told that my upgrade had been an “offer” which had now “expired”. Well, I wasn’t very happy to put it mildly. I would not have entered into a new contract if I had realised it was going to remove the option of an upgrade, particularly as I’m on an old 3G which is so sluggish it’s almost producing its own slime.

I asked why I wasn’t told in August that the upgrade was an “offer” which would expire. Apparently, I wasn’t told because they didn’t know back then that they were going to limit their upgrade program. They clearly didn’t feel the need to tell anyone that upgrades were going to be stopped, because no one bothered to tell me.

I feel I have been lied to, deceived by O2. They promised me a free upgrade and my agreeing to the new contract was contingent on that upgrade. Then they just retroactively annulled that agreement, forcing me to wait until May for any sort of new phone. That’s unethical, not to mention terrible customer service.

I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with O2, getting increasingly angry as their customer service people failed to say anything other than, effectively, that I should simply suck it up because they have a clause in the contract that allows them to do whatever the hell they like. By the time that I got to the final person, in their disconnection department, I was livid, a mood that was not helped by being shouted at and having the phone put down on me. Wow that’s a great way to sooth ruffled feathers, O2. Well done.

O2 want to charge me £139 fee to cancel, but I’m going to look into the law on distance selling, because it seems to me that any promises made during the selling process should be binding. Companies should not be allowed to promise you something, no strings attached, and then simply change their mind. If you have any tips on how to progress with that, do let me know in the comments.

Regardless of what happens on that front, though, I will be leaving O2 at some point soon. It makes no sense for me to take on the 24 month contract at a higher monthly rate with an upfront fee of £99 that is their so-called “Fair Deal” upgrade to an iPhone 4S. Fair deal my arse. I’d rather swallow the disconnection penalty if that’s what I have to do than than stay with O2 one second longer than I have to. I will not reward unethical behaviour by any company.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Gareth November 30, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Can’t help much on the DSR side of things, but I seem to know more than I wanted to about complaining to mobile companies! If you’re intent on leaving, pay whatever they ask for, but make it clear you’re paying under duress. Then complain in writing stating your side and explaining that their verbal promise of an upgrade was significant part of why you agreed to the new contract. Then keep pushing, until they either agree they were wrong or until you reach deadlock. If you get to deadlock, take it to ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), which is free to you but costs them whichever way it goes.

You can also do a Subject Access Request to pull any call recordings they may have, such as them promising you the phone in the first place, as well as all the notes on the system.

Good luck…

James Oswald November 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm

This is quite outrageous, Suw. I’m with O2 as well, also with an arthritic iphone 3G. At the moment I’m on a rolling one month contract which is actually quite a good deal for my usage, but I was thinking of upgrading due to my increasing frustration with my elderly phone. Only the lack of anything even slightly like a special deal for loyal customers has prevented me from going ahead.

Perhaps surprisingly, O2 haven’t tried to upgrade me since I came off the initial 18 month contract onto the one month rolling contract. I barely get any communication from them other than my bill – still addressed to Miss James Oswald despite repeated requests that they assign me the correct gender! From my own vague browsing, and now your dreadful experience, I don’t think I’ll be sticking with them much longer.

As far as distance selling law goes, unfortunately this really only covers your rights to cancel within fourteen days of signing a contract – or return goods you don’t want. I would have thought you would have had more mileage in the fact that they haven’t informed you about a change in your terms and conditions – even if the contract says they don’t have to, they would find it hard to uphold such a clause in a court of law.

I’m not an expert, and anyway it’s different up here in Scotland, where a verbal contract is legally binding! I hope you sort it out with minimal expense and hassle from the ‘helpline.’

Suw November 30, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Gareth, thank you! That’s really helpful information. I think I’ll start off with the Subject Access Request so that I know what ammunition I’ve got!

James, yeah, the old 3G is painful to use these days. I am seriously considering buying a new handset myself, then getting a sim-only plan from Three. The only contracts seem to be 24 months, which is much longer than I am happy with. If Kev and I do move to the US next year, owning my own handset and being able to cancel with no fee with one month’s notice might save me money in the long term.

vicky-jo November 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I think getting the SAR would be a start.
If they have the recording you might to be able to show breach of contract.

Direct Gov have some information and suggest contacting Consumer Direct as an option, along with getting legal advice.
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Consumerrights/Yourconsumerrightswhenbuyinggoodsandservices/DG_194653

Alternatively you could try switching providers and see if they will help with the early termination fee (though if they have a recording of what they promised then O2 might be persuaded waive this if you can show they breached the contract). Vodafone do seem to offer the 4s on 12 month contracts, though it is on back-order.

James Oswald December 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I’m glad you managed to get that sorted, Suw. I Still haven’t done anything about mine – inertia does tend to set in. Perhaps I should give Alistair a call…

As for the whole security thing, I used to get the same thing with Sky the whole time. They’d phone me up, then ask me to confirm my identity by giving them all sorts of personal information. Every time I’d explain to them patiently why I wasn’t going to give them anything, but they kept on doing it for at least two years.

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