3 Changes Price From £10 to £1250 Then Charge Me to Cancel

Where do I begin to describe how much I hate three (mobile operator UK) today.

(I had a mobile internet subscription / device from them.)

Firstly – and this is not new – the program they supply with the computer to show you how many MB you've used (and thus how much you've got left before they charge you) is "inaccurate" (= underestimates the amount you've used), some support person from three told me that. But this program has a massive window that comes up, with the 3 logo plastered all over it – I mean it's not exactly obvious that this program is inaccurate. Why don't they just put a huge warning up saying "this data is inaccurate"?

The product is something like 1000 MB surfing for £10 a month. The main point, for me, being that you can use it in certain foreign countries, including Austria, and the price is the same as if you used it in the UK. This is why I bought it – so I could use it from both the UK and Austria. This was called "roam like home".

Well – that's no longer the case. I noticed a bill (thankfully only £15), called them, tried to cancel, they told me I'd have to pay a cancellation fee as I'm still in the contract period. I mean this is so totally outrageous.

So I spent 45 minutes on the phone, failed to get them to drop the early cancellation fee (which admittedly is only 20 pounds). They say then sent me an SMS informing me of the changes, giving me 30 days in which to cancel. As I hadn't cancelled within that time, I had to pay the fee.

However a UMTS modem for a computer – which I only use very rarely, simply isn't switched on when it's not in use. Normal SMS expire if they aren't delivered after a certain period of time (10 days?) but they assured me this was a "special" SMS which didn't expire. And I have often had problems with SMS when roaming, but they assured me this couldn't have been the case.) Even if that had been the case, if the device is off for those 30 days, I wouldn't receive the SMS in time. And anyway, I didn't receive the SMS at all (but they claim I "must have done")

And they also said they posted it on their website – nice one, as if I surf to three.co.uk every day to hang out – it's the new Facebook, so much fun to be had there....

They also say they are not obliged to provide this service, it's not in the terms and conditions. I knew they'd say this. But there were massive advertisements for this feature when I went into the shop and bought it – I mean many huge person-size signs advertising the service. The guy in the shop told me this was the product, he didn't say "this is the product until further notice". I even have an email from 3 confirming this is the case, again with no mention of this being something which could expire or change:

Austria is a 3 like home network. If you use data in this country then it’ll be first deducted from your allowance provided you are latched unto 3 network.

Normally out of allowance charges in Austria is £3.00 per MB however, as Austria is a 3 like home country if you exceed your allowance and are roaming to 3 network, you’ll be charged 10 pence per MB.

I mean I understand services can change over their lifetime, and prices can change, etc. But I mean this is no minor service change:

So I spoke to them, to all their "managers" etc, on the phone, and they told me there's nothing they can do. I didn't cancel it in time; they understand my frustration but their hands are tied.

They've fundamentally changed the service – making it useless to me – and now charge me for cancelling it

Thankfully it didn't cost me much – £15 in extra MB used, and £20 cancellation fee. But that's mainly due to the wisdom I acquired by being charged €2500 by another mobile operator. This guy got charged £500 due to this change by 3, for example.

I hate mobile operators. Three is now added to my list of companies I'll buy anything from again, the other being T-Mobile.

I mean this is capitalism – the operators are happy when they can charge people a few thousand Euros because they didn't understand they were roaming, or didn't understand the T&C had changed. As a consumer one is powerless. Capitalism shouldn't have come to this.

This article is © Adrian Smith.
It was originally published on 18 Sep 2009

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