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Sunday, 6 May 2012

Three - doubling the cost of my (3Pay) tariff so I've moved network

[Short link to this article if you need it: - or retweet me]

For the past two years I've been on UK mobile network Three's "3Pay" tariff. And I won't be paying any more money to them. This tariff was the whole reason that I bought a SIM free handset at full price instead of going for a contract. Overall, it worked out more cost effective for me with the usage I have. The details of the 3Pay tariff are here, and the change was made so that the 'bonuses' (i.e. inclusive stuff) now expire after 45 days instead of 90. Unfortunately I can't provide a link to the change announcement because inexplicably this link only works of you're connecting via 3's network. So here's a cut & paste of the text from it:

You’re currently on 3Pay, one of our older Pay As You Go Tariffs, which we are updating. 

On the 3Pay tariff, you get a bundle of free texts, internet and Three-to-Three calls which last for 90 days, every time you top-up. From the 13th of March, you’ll still get all your free allowances, but they’ll last for 45 days instead of 90 days. 

Even with the change, our 3Pay tariff is one of the most competitive in the market, and it’s no longer available to new customers. 

We hope you continue to enjoy being on Pay As You Go with Three, and don’t forget, you can double the free texts you get on some top-ups if you top-up using your My3 account. 

For more information on your 3Pay tariff click here

Any Top-ups made before midnight on the 12th of March will still get their free allowances for 90 days, any made after, will have their free allowances for 45 days. 

For full terms and conditions, on your PC. 

So there you have it. In effect they've used 4.1b in their T&C:

4.1  We may vary any of the terms of your agreement, including our Packages, on the following basis:
(b) we will let you know at least one month in advance if we decide to: 
(i) discontinue your Package; or
(ii) make any variations to your agreement which are likely to be of material detriment to you; or
(iii) increase the fixed periodic charges for your Package (if applicable) by an amount which is more 
than the percentage increase in the Retail Prices Index Figure (or any future equivalent) in any twelve month period. You can end the agreement for such variations as explained in Section 10

Now bearing in mind that I joined Three on the basis of the cost of their deal over the expected life of the handset, this is somewhat disappointing. I have NEVER known any other network to withdraw a deal in this way (I also have a PAYG Vodafone "Stop The Clock" SIM that hasn't been available for years, but it's never been withdrawn or had it's essence taken away for existing users of it). I have no problem with such clauses in the T&C existing for changing minor things (for example the introduction of a 1p delivery confirmation charge last year) but to double the tariff (my usage was very close to exactly what 3Pay provided) is something I consider unacceptable, and means I find it hard to trust the network for any future purchasing decisions. My handset developed a fault in December 2011 (I got it, and the 3Pay SIM in January 2009) and fortunately it was repaired under warranty, but at the time I was considering replacing it with a £399 SIM free Nokia Lumia 800. If I'd done that, then 3 months later lost the deal I was on, then it would have been a financial loss to have chosen that over a contract. And it amazes me that Three consider it acceptable to treat it's current customers in that way.

In my opinion their balance screen is also highly misleading. If I top up my account before I've used my existing balance, then they are listed as being "queued", whereas the parts of the account actively being used at the moment are listed with the remaining number of minutes/texts/data and an expiry date:

Now to me "queued" gives the impression that the 90 45 days will take effect from when it comes out of queued state, but it appears this is not the case. In reality it's still subject to the original 90 days from when the top up was made, the queuing just refers to the fact that texts come out of your earlier allocation first. My most recent top up (made 90 days priort to the expiry date of 05/05/12 which you can see) was made purely because my credit card had expired and to register a new one I was forced to make a top up. I expected that to queue up an extra 90 days of use after my current allocation expired (the one made 90 days prior to the 28/04/12 date shown), but apparently not. If the expiry date is fixed, then it should list the date next to "in queue" otherwise it is misleading (and I've effectively wasted a £10 topup).

I made these points to their support channels, and received a reply saying that in order to log the complaint they needed the following:

  • Your Three mobile number/account number
  • The best number for us to contact you on
  • The full name on your account
  • Your postcode
  • Your date of birth

I'm not quite sure why they need all of that - surely my mobile/account number is all they require, and they didn't ever try to contact me by phone. I also raised the question of why the tariff change terms were only accessible via their network and was told

"There was a temporary glitch with the link we sent you by SMS.  If you still have the SMS can you please try and access it now?  This will need to be accessed from your Three phone to be viewed properly."

Thus failing completely to understand and answer the question. I had no problem with the link they sent on their network, i just wanted a reference link I could include in this blog entry...

They also offered this "If you want to move on to one of our new tariffs we can offer other exciting benefits such as all-you-can-eat data and a higher text message allowance." - do they really expect that I'd choose to pay several times more than I have been (£15/month is the price for all-you-can-eat) for things I won't use?

My last email on the subject was not replied to, I won't reproduce it here because he content of this blog covers what was in it, and pointed out that I was looking for a more usable 3Pay change document link to include in this blog.

Goodbye Three, it was fun. Your data coverage and speed was good (except where I work, but that's another reason I'm happy to move) but I simply can't trust you again.

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