Sunday, November 15, 2009

Don't Call, Please Email...

Is there any industry on earth more dysfunctional than the mobile phone industry? Apparently Orange are about to introduce a 'high quality' premium service where you can, er, hear the person at the other end of the line as long as you pay them more money. I'm not sure if this covers all the time when you can hear nothing at all on a network...

If you visit the websites of mobile phone companies you can select phones and package based on phones, texts and call minutes, but no one I know uses phones for much more than data these days - something that's tucked into the fineprint of most mobile plans (and if my experience of Orange in central London is anything to go by, the availability of data services is patchy, to say the least, anyhow) - and I already have a mobile phone I'm happy with.

This situation is not confined to the UK by any means, as David Pogue's blog for the NY Times covers. But, equally, US customers do seem to pay less for bad service.

The mobile industry has every chance of becoming the wallet of the content industry and the remote control of the future, but the industry needs more than the current incumbents and MVOs if it is to move forward. If any industry is open to new providers who can provide a service that is acceptable to customers at even a basic level, it's the current mobile phone industry.

Recently I have sought to move away from my expired mobile contract with Orange. I've tried contacting Orange and changing my plan (apparently I'm a 'premium customer', which seems to mean paying more for their service call and helplines since I already pay them huge amounts of money, as far as I can tell), I've tried visiting Carphone Warehouse, who apparently sell contracts that no longer are available to the public, and then I tried to do likewise on a couple of online sites with no success. I tried to switch to my cable provider, but failed since they couldn't cope with my PAC code (the number that enables you to port your mobile number in the UK). Vodafone failed to clear my perfectly viable credit card (despite it being a direct debit contract).

I'm pretty convinced that the above activity, which involves giving your most intimate financial details to companies that make the Russian mafia seem like sensible institutions, will now result in pain beyond belief as they bill me for services they have failed to deliver.

I have come to the conclusion that I really must be the most stupid consumer on the face of the earth. I cannot change a simple mobile phone contract for love or money. Believe it or not I'm seriously considering getting rid of my mobile phone as a result... So please email from now on...

UPDATE: After some weeks of trying and being totally off-grid for some days I can now happily report that I'm wired once more, this time with Vodafone, so here ends by ten year relationship with Orange.