Why I am never buying an EE / Orange / T-Mobile mobile contract again

I admit this blog post is a bit of a rant, but to be honest I need to get this off my chest (and warn other people).

I’ve been an EE customer for about 4 years now (and for those people living under a rock, EE are the new “Everything Everywhere” brand formed from the UK merger between Orange and T-Mobile). I originally had a 2 year contract with T-Mobile and about 18 months ago switched over to Orange as a business account.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of the service has been first rate. When I first received my Nokia Lumia 800 there were some teething issues with battery life resulting in my first phone getting bricked. Orange Business Customer Services were awesome, they couriered me a new phone next day and within 24 hours I had a brand new replacement phone.

But unfortunately, that is where the satisfaction ends

Problem #1 – Tethering and Hidden Costs
This is a major bug-bear of mine, as when I first went into the store to sign up for a contract with Orange (this was before the big EE re-brand) I specifically told them that I needed 3 things:

  • High data usage so I could use my phone for occasional tethering
  • High minutes count across mobile and landlines
  • High text limit as I use a LOT of text messages

For those of you who don’t know “tethering” is where you can turn your mobile phone into a Wi-Fi Hot-Spot so if you have a 3G (or even 2G / GSDM connection) you can still get a basic internet connection on your laptop. I used this on my old T-Mobile contract frequently (with the good old HTC HD2) and this has been a staple feature on many phones for a long long time.

Now .. I’m not expecting to use this feature every day, but if I desperately need to get / send an email on my laptop while I’m on the train, or in a remote rural location (I live in the country, most pubs and cafes in the area don’t have Wi-Fi) then my phone is the only choice.

So .. I was a little annoyed to find that when I tried to use “Internet Sharing” it didn’t work. When I contacted Orange they told me that I had to buy a separate bundle (for a minimum of £10 per month) and it would have a completely separate data allowance to my normal phone.

Now, this annoyed me on principle but to add salt to the wound the customer services representative actually tried to tell me that “laptop data is different to mobile data”. She tried to keep this up for almost 10 minutes until I told her I worked in IT and she back-tracked and told me “actually, it is just company policy”.  So not only did they have a crappy policy but the person on the phone actually lied to me until I called her out on it!

Thankfully when Windows Phone 7.8 rolled out it all started working, I can only presume because WP7.8 and WP8 both have updates directly from Microsoft (which meant Orange / EE couldn’t block core phone functionality any more).

Problem #2 – Intermittent connections .. loss of data, missed calls, missed text messages
This has been on-going for over a year now and seems to be quite intermittent.

Sometimes I miss text messages (they don’t arrive for several hours). Sometimes I get missed calls (I apparently have full phone signal but the phone doesn’t ring .. I just get a voicemail notification after someone apparently tried to call). I have also experienced loss of data connection. The phone tells me I have full 3G / 3G+ (HSPDA) connection but I cannot access emails or the internet (or any of the app / hub functions which require the internet).

Occasionally rebooting the phone will fix it, but sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve had to borrow my wife’s phone (also a Lumia 800) before now to make a phone call because my phone won’t connect when I try to dial someone.

This isn’t even a signal range issue .. I’ve had this in town centres and in the middle of central London (and again, the phone says I have full 5-bar 3G+ signal).

Problem #3 – After a warranty repair they won’t give me my phone back
This is the major issue I have with EE and is really the last straw. They seem to have some weird company separation between the “services” side of the business (who run the contracts and provide the connections) and the “store” side of the business (with high-street shops, staff and physical phones).

Normally this would be “their” problem, but unfortunately it has become “my” problem.

I was in Tunbridge Wells for the weekend and saw the EE store as I was passing. I thought I would save them some time and just drop my phone in for repair. Last time they couriered me a new phone within 24 hours so I figured it would be just as quick an easy … my mistake.

Firstly it took over 2 weeks for my phone to get repaired, but the crunch came when I got an email telling me my phone was “ready for collection from the store” … erm .. I work in London.

Luckily I managed to convince my wife to go on a mission to try and get my phone for me (armed with photo ID and proof of address) .. they refused to hand over the phone saying that the account holder must receive the phone “in person”.

Next I called the store directly and asked what I could do to get my phone back. Could I write a letter authorising someone else to collect the phone on my behalf? Could they post or courier to the phone to me (I’m happy to pay postage). They bluntly refused .. their excuse? “sorry, company policy”.

So finally I phoned my Business Customer Services. They were (to their credit) slightly horrified that the store was treating me like this (and admitted that if I had called them they would just courier me a brand new replacement phone). Unfortunately, because I’d handed my phone in to the store they couldn’t do this anymore. They contacted the store, but because it’s a separate company had no authority and got the same line of BS that I did “the account holder must turn up in person”.

So now I either have to take time off work, or re-schedule my weekends to get myself to their store in person, just so they would give me back my phone (which I’m paying them for each month as part of my contract).

So .. customer dissatisfaction throughout .. I am deeply unimpressed and will most definitely NOT be using Orange, T-Mobile or “EE” again in the future (and if I have my way, neither will my family or friends either!)