/ Technology

Mobile phone providers are failing to communicate effectively

Mobile phone cartoon

After paying for mobile phone insurance twice over with Carphone Warehouse, our chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith says it’s time mobile phone providers learnt about the art of communication themselves.

The hardest job for companies is winning your custom, so naturally they channel their efforts into convincing you that they care. But truly good service is when existing customers feel a company always acts with their interests in mind (if not at heart).

Some time ago, I replaced my daughter’s mobile phone at Carphone Warehouse. She ported her number from the old phone to the new, and we took out Carphone Warehouse insurance on the new handset. I can hear many of you quoting the Which? view of mobile phone insurance – that it’s rarely worthwhile – but my daughter’s phones are in the habit of getting dropped or run over…

Paying phone insurance twice over

After we’d bought the new phone, somewhere in the Carphone Warehouse system some data must have existed about the insurance policy on the first phone, plus a new phone which had inherited the number, and another insurance policy on this new phone.

Many months later, while trawling through bank statements I noticed I’d been paying for mobile phone insurance twice over: on a new phone, and on a now-defunct one. We asked Carphone Warehouse to refund the premiums for the latter – totalling more than £250 – but it replied that it was up to the customer to cancel.

What did this company do to show me it had my interests in mind? Where was the communication about the insurance policies? Carphone Warehouse says that for the last year, it’s been issuing goodwill refunds for cases such as this, and reminding customers annually about insurance they’ve bought. This is what it always should have offered, in my view.

Unlock better mobile deals

There are wider issues with mobiles – the whole sector has a way to go to improve its communication. For example, four in 10 mobile customers think there’s probably a better value tariff for their usage. We’ve launched a campaign to urge networks to give better information to customers about the deals that are right for them at the end of their contract, and to unlock their phone for free.

For as long as companies take a ‘caveat emptor’ attitude, they’ll continue to generate unhappy customers, and coverage like this.


Peter, not too clear about whether you exchanged the old phone at Carphone Warehouse, or just bought another (or did it come as part of a contract). I note from their Geeks insurance site that you can (need to?) e-mail them to cancel an insurance. Perhaps it all got overlooked?
My first reaction was that ” £250 insurance for many months” seems an awful lot for a phone that you seem to say is not looked after. Perhaps if you asked your daughter to save up for a replacement or repair herself she might take more care. Alternatively buy a cheap phone.
I do sympathise with inadvertent “accidents” – my family (the daughters) used to keep phones in the back pocket of their jeans – until they both fell down the toilet (the phones) and ceased working. They learned a lesson. Even so the repair/replacement of £150 was less than your insurance bill.

I have just upgraded my mobile phone with Carphone warehouse from Orange to EE. it took a month to be able to send and receive calls and texts as the sim card was not recognized. eventually my local Carphone warehouse was able to sort out the problem and the phone now works fine; but I am now being charged over £10 because I ended my contract with Orange early. To my mind they are meant to be the same company and as I had to move to EE to get the 4G service, and with all the messing about, I feel that I should not be charged this penalty.

I use Giffgaff which doesn’t have a call centre or shops. I have discovered that there’s no reason for a mobile network to have a call centre. Everything can be done by the customer online, for example submitting or requesting a PAC, requesting a new SIM card, making payments, technical support (which gets responses within seconds).

I have found the opposite, from what you observe. I got a sim card.
I had joined GiffGaff, only to be told by them that I had joined in a none sim account. They never informed how to joing with a sim account. Very poor customer service by them.

In the end I set up another account, tried to buy a Samsung S4 Mini. Giff Gaff would not have it.
I ended up with a charge pending on my credit card for over 10 days referencing pending withdrwal.
They sorted that out in time, then I activated the sim card, and tried to purchase a goody bag.

Only to be told that my account had a problem, and could not be processed.ng me that
They asked for the sim card numbers which I sent to them.

They then did another assessment, telling me that I had a none sim card account.
Never once advising on how to get a sim account.

I purchased my phone via Ebay, and now have a Tesco sim card.
That was the second WHICH provider mobile operator. Giff Gaff being the first.

David Brown says:
30 June 2014

Tried Giffgaff as a result of various reviews suggesting exceptional value for money. Have now had to cancel since 90% of time O2 network was unavailable in my area, despite network availability for O2 telling me there were no problems, and all services were accessible.
Moved from Vodafone which has been exceptionally reliable.
Despite extra cost will need to revert to Vodafone, since low cost operator useless if no service available.

We bought two Samsung Galaxy S4 phones around a year ago. One came from Amazon, just over a year ago, and the other from O2 just under a year ago.

There’s a problem with the batteries in the S4 – it’s well documented on the net, and Samsung have accepted that the problem exists. Put simply, batteries from the affected batch start bulging after a while, and who knows what that might lead to. A fire, perhaps? A small explosion?

It’s a simple problem to deal with, because the batteries are easily replaceable in a minute or so.

Amazon dealt with the problem simply, easily and quickly – it took them about an hour to send a payment to cover the cost of a new battery. I was impressed. No fuss, no argument, just a refund to my card.

O2, however, are still being difficult. They’re insisting on the complete phone being returned to them, they will send it to Samsung, Samsung will send it back again, and I have to then collect it from O2. This could mean my being without the phone for weeks, quite apart from allowing O2 and Samsung access to all the personal data on the phone. I’ve offered to take them the phone, and allow them to take the faulty battery out to send to Samsung, but they won’t accept that.

This is clearly a ploy by O2 to make it so difficult for customers that they give up and buy their own replacement battery.

The moral of this story, I suppose, is to avoid buying phones from companies like O2 who treat customers with problems like dirt. Amazon has its faults, but their treatment of the customer here was first rate.

Margaret Reid says:
29 June 2014

I had been an Orange customer for fourteen years buying a SIM free phone and paying monthly by DD. However, we as we were arranging to change our broadband etc. to Virgin it also seemed sensible to change my mobile phone to them. The charge was cheaper than Orange who had changed their charging policy. I was sent the Virgin pin and told to ask Orange for the PAC code so that I could keep my phone number. I did this on Sunday 15th June. I understood that I should change the SIM to Virgin’s. I was mystified when I found that I then couldn’t use my phone to ring anyone. Eventually, after several days, a Virgin Customer helper said that my phone must have been locked and I should ring Orange. I have been ringing them frequently since and have been told various stories – that it would remain locked for 20 days and I would be charged £20+ for the unlocking; that an email had been sent on 19th June and it would be unlocked. It wasn’t. That it would be unlocked by the 21st June but that the unlocking had to be done by the phone manufacturer in China and so on. It appears that the new phone that my daughters bought me over three years ago was under a contract even though the Orange shop had said I could transfer the SIM from my old phone to the new one and continue with the DD. Last Friday 27th June I was finally emailed unlocking info, not for my phone but for an apple ipad which was useless. I am assured, yet again, that a correct email will be sent to me by this Tuesday 1st July! It has all been most infuriating. I cannot recommend Orange’s customer service. BEWARE!

John Mulligan says:
30 June 2014

I had exactly thec same problem as described by Margaret above. Neither Orange nor O2 could suggest why the phone would not work until I asked Orange was it locked to them. Yes it was apparently and the unlocking code would have to come from Apple by email, it would take up to 30 days and would cost £20!. Net result was I had to remain with Orange for that month until the unlocking code was delivered. After 30 days when I heard nothing, I rang Orange and was told that the phone was unlocked – no email or text telling me this.
Appalling service from Orange, every person I spoke to gave me a different story, every time I phoned them I had to tell them the full story from the beginning, I will never have anything to do with Orange (or EE) again.

Josh says:
23 July 2014

Lack of communication is a big issue. O2 were performing maintenance on my local mast which somehow lasted 3 weeks. For these 3 weeks I had no signal at home whatsoever and whenever I called customer services it was always “call again in a few days, we don’t have any information at the moment”. Even when I complained they basically said they have no obligation to provide me with a service for which I’m paying which seems strange!