Saturday, 2 January 2016

EE screwed up our phone numbers

Well I haven't posted for ages since nothing really to write about but now it's time for a bit of a rant so what better way to vent spleen.

First some background, we have 3 phones:
  • One for my partner, K
  • One for my son
  • One for me
All of these phones are on EE.  K has had her contract for many years (originally as orange then EE).  She has had the same number for all of that time.

I transferred my number to EE and started a 12month contract (SIM only).  At the same time I got a contract for my son for his new phone, also SIM only.  Both of these ended up (when the SIMs were activated) coming out of a single bank account.  I wanted my son's phone to be charged to a separate account.

So, I used the online chat with EE to ask for my son's contract to be billed to the correct, separate, bank account.  They moved both across!  There is no obvious way to fix this situation with the online account management options and since EE themselves didn't seem to be able to get this right we came up with our own solution.

Our plan was to move my billing over to K as her phone was already being billed to the correct account (a joint one in fact).  This seemed perfectly possible as I currently had two phones (my son's and mine) on one EE 'account'.

So K phoned up on 30th December to get things moved over.  We explained what we needed and we both had to provide security details.

This is where things got awkward and a little upsetting.  The idea of a female gay couple didn't seem to register.  Even worse, the EE customer services person kept asking if I was female because she said I sounded like a man.  She mentioned this several times and even asked if this had happened to me before, I said it had but that I was definitely female, or at least I was the "last time I checked".  I asked if she needed to ask any more questions for me to get through the security check and she said no but I still sounded like a man.

I do have a deeper voice.  Some women do.  Some men have higher voices.  While this can be confusing on a phone (which does have limited frequency response so isn't a perfect audio signal at the best of times) the point is not to make a big deal out of it. 

Anyway, K proceeded with sorting things out and we were told it would be completed soon.

After 3hrs, my phone suddenly lost coverage.

K got texts saying "welcome to EE".

When we checked the number on K's phone it was mine!  My phone had no number.

When we checked online to see the status of our accounts - mine had one device, my son's, and K had one, her phone but with my number.

Given that this was NOT what we had asked for AND that it would, in fact, be a breach of contract (my SIM only deal was for 12months, only 3 had elapsed) we were shocked it had even happened without any notice whatsoever.  I certainly haven't had any emails saying "your contract was terminated early".

K phoned up immediately and explained the situation and we were told that it would take 72hrs to resolve!

So, it's possible to break things in 3hrs but fixing takes longer?

So the situation we found ourselves in was as follows

  • I had no number.  No calls, texts, or 3G/4G data on the move
  • K had my number 
  • Since her friends/family had her original number they can't contact her
  • I can't contact anyone* 
(* Since we have iPhones some contact was still possible through iMessage - thanks Apple!)

So, from a 'safety' usefulness point of view, K was still technically able to call if she needed assistance but I can't.  Obviously this is one of the reasons people have mobile phones - if you are late, breakdown, or need to contact people.

All in all not ideal.

Fast forward 48hrs and K phoned up to check progress as we'd heard nothing.  She was told that it would be 72hrs to fix.  When she said "we were told that 48hrs ago" EE responded "24hrs from now".

Given this is a rant you can guess things aren't fixed yet.

K just phoned again and apparently it's 72 "working hours".  This is a little confusing, what is counted as "working" time.  Does that mean any week day?  OR does it mean actual 9-5 hours.  So, 8 of those per day so 9 week days? 

To be clear, K did check when we were given the initial estimate of 72hrs and the second one of 24 that these were just elapsed time.  They said they were.

So, we were given incorrect information when we phoned on the first two occasions.  We were misled and given false hope that things would be fixed.

We have no been told that the issues will be completely resolved by midnight on Wednesday.  So we will have been without our correct phone service for over a week.  K is still being charged for her phone.  I'm not sure if I am for mine as no contract/device appears to exist.

Apparently K's number as gone into a 'hibernation' pool for 6months.  This is where all numbers go once they are discarded.  Presumably this is to allow time for any calls to old numbers to be 'bounced' and then for them to be recycled.  Retrieving a number from this pool is apparently the time-consuming part.

K asked if I could just be given a temporary number and/or if she could and my number restored.  Apparently that is not possible.

The best the manager on the other end of the line could offer is to pay £10 onto our bill to cover a PAYG SIM that we could go and pick up from the EE shop!

This is all very confusing; normally activating a phone is done within a matter of hours, maximum 24hrs for even transferring an existing number between networks.  Why couldn't EE just make up for their mistake and assign K or I a temporary number?  Surely that is what happens to SIMs all the time and it's automated/quick.  No, apparently they couldn't do that.

At this point, to add insult to injury the manager on the phone was referring to K's partner as 'male' again.  K had already explained to the first call handler that we had an upsetting experience on the previous call.  You'd think a manager could get this right.  K corrected him.

Now, I appreciate that mobile phone call centres are probably manic places, and we certainly don't hold the individuals we have talked to responsible for the mistakes.  Things do go wrong, mistakes do happen and those at fault need to put them right (or more often than not, someone else in another department needs to sort out the mess).

EE has failed to do this in a timely fashion.  They have misled us about the timescale to resolve the issue, they have failed to adequately make-up or apologise for their error.  They have also compounded matters by having issues with the way they deal with their customers regarding gender and sexuality to the point that their call handlers make comments that are upsetting and show a distinct lack of education and awareness.

In short, this is absolutely terrible customer service.  We will be making a formal complaint in writing to EE.  I would not in any way recommend their service given this utter mess (in part caused by their woeful online account management).

K's contract comes to an end in March, mine around September.  We'll both we seriously considering other options.  I'd already looked at Three and found the features of their plans (unlimited data, minutes, texts, inclusive roaming etc) to be far better than EE.  Coverage isn't as good but we might just be able to live with that.

Okay, it's maybe no big deal for EE to lose a few contracts.  In fact, we pretty much feel that this comes across in their customer service.

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