06 Jan

Many, many years ago, I worked for a phone company. And I got a mobile phone, and I had it on a staff plan.

Some years later, they realised that I had left the company and I probably wasn’t entitled to a staff plan anymore. Fortunately, by that time, we could access the same plan through Fraser’s work. So we changed the phone into his name (and got a new number), and kept it on the plan.

Earlier this year, we got a letter to say that they had realised we were on the really really good plan that plan was no longer available and they had switched us to a basic plan.  My phone bills went from about $15-$25 a month to around $100 a month. Ouch. I need the phone for work, so cancelling was not an option. And I am, mostly, allergic to contracts, especially on services that I have been using since 1995 or so.

Then I went to Europe. I rang to confirm I had Roaming, and they told me that I had to go onto a Plan. A 12 month  contract, to be specific. So I said OK, because I really really wanted to be able to use my phone in Europe, and I got a contract.

Me: “Can I upgrade it later, if the minimum contract is not enough?”
Phone person: “Yes.”

Well now you know what’s coming.

My phone bills stayed at around the $100 level. So in December, I rang to change to a higher plan. Which I have to stay on for 12 months, which will be annoying if we go to Europe next year (but worthwhile in the meantime).

I got my first bill today – with a $101.73 charge for switching plans. WTF?

I rang the phone company, with 2 points.

  1. I was told in October that I could upgrade from the $20 plan. No-one mentioned a charge.
  2. I was not told in December that I would be slugged with this extortionate charge.

Their response had me utterly gob-smacked and dumbfounded:

You didn’t change to the same TYPE of plan, so that is why you were charged the fee.

I pointed out, quite gently, that perhaps it was not reasonable to expect a customer to have an intimate knowledge of their internal and arbitrary distinctions between their types of plan.

Then I told the consultant that I was really quite annoyed (OMG understatement) and that I was quite prepared to take this case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Couple of minutes later, bingo. Charge reversed, please underpay your bill, sorry for the inconvenience, have a nice day.

Whoo hoo. Problem solved.

But really? 


This is bureaucracy at its best worst most bizarre. I’m sorry, you didn’t fill in the RED form and file it in the GREEN box, you lose.

2009 appears to be Melissa’s Year Of Not Tolerating Organisational Stupidity. At least until I get lazy.


Posted by on January 6, 2009 in rant, work


6 responses to “Phones

  1. Mike Siggins

    January 7, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I have had two years of this sort of thing with my mobile. It just seems to be the way they work. But then when i really needed them to deliver, last month, they were superb.

  2. RacingHippo

    January 7, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    For the past 18 months I’ve been working with people who’ve been in the mobile industry for a long time. Believe me, that is the way they work. They rely on people not checking their bills and not challenging arbitrary charges such as this.
    Hooray for your YoNTOS! Or should that be YoNTUPDAOS*!

    * Year of Not Tolerating Underhand Profiteering Disguised As Organisational Stupidity.

  3. melissainau

    January 8, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Mike: I have found that they are good at doing what you tell them to do. It’s just that sometimes they have weird secret charges that they never tell you about (fortunately, I know the Magic Invocation: “Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman” – it costs them a bucket to have calls referred to the TIO, and it impacts their Grade of Service, so they will go out of their way to resolves issues before they are escalated.)

    Hippo: I like that new Year title but will YoNTUPDAOS catch on as a slogan, d’you think?
    I’m pleased with myself because with this and the $30 bank fee and some stuff related to a store loyalty program I have “saved” (as in, stopped from being lost) nearly $400 in the last 2 weeks. Makes me wonder what they have got away with in the past, really.

  4. Mike Siggins

    January 8, 2009 at 4:06 am

    my specific struggle concerned a charge for internet usage that they said was £1/day. What they didnt say war that every meg over 2 was charged at penal rate. So they hit me with a £130 charge for less than 4 hrs surfing. At the samd time another woman was fighting for over £800 on the same basis. I tried everything. In the end there was a letter duel with the chief execs PA. I got £80 back. They would not budge any further. They were not scared of the ombudsman, nor did they seem worried about pissing off a customer.

  5. melissainau

    January 8, 2009 at 9:00 am


    Did you take it to the ombudsman in the end? Or were they relying on the notion that you’d consider £80 back to be “enough” and not worry about the other fifty?

  6. Mike Siggins

    January 9, 2009 at 4:53 am

    the ombudsman was toothless. What really annoys is the way they just take the money as if it is their own.


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