T-Mobile - life's for sharing. And lies and intimidation, too.
Lies and intimidation are hardly the proper way to go about business, but that hasn't stopped T-Mobile trying to prevent customers complaining about increases in call charges. Bitterwallet has proof that consumers were deliberately misinformed by T-Mobile staff concerning their right to independent arbitration by the Ofcom-approved adjudicators, CISAS.
T-Mobile recently increased the cost of international roaming for all customers, and have maintained from the beginning that roaming is an "additional service" and as such excluded from the clauses allowing a customer to cancel their agreement without penalty. We proved that the charges are an inclusive part of a customer's agreement, and earlier this week Ofcom confirmed to Bitterwallet that "if the increased roaming charges are genuinely of material detriment to a consumer then under General Condition 9.3, T-Mobile should inform the Consumer of the ability to terminate the contract without penalty."
From your comments and emails we hadn't seen any evidence of this occurring, so we suggested how you could move your complaint forward. In situations where customers cannot resolve their complaint with T-Mobile, service providers are required to inform customers of their option to independent resolution through CISAS, an Ofcom-approved arbitration process. Except that wasn't quite what was happening.
Customer correspondence sent by T-Mobile has been passed on to Bitterwallet, confirming attempts by T-Mobile to coerce the customer into not complaining to CISAS by:
- stating that other customers had already contacted CISAS about the increases in roaming charges, and that CISAS ruled in favour of T-Mobile 100 per cent of the time
- telling customers that any decision by CISAS was final, and as such any complaint could not then be contested in court
- in further conversations with two individual members of T-Mobile's Complaints Investigations team, a customer was told that T-Moble had consulted with CISAS about the changes before they were announced
To summarise - T-Mobile told customers they had no chance of winning by going to CISAS, that they'd lose any right to take T-Mobile to court by going to CISAS, and that CISAS had rubber-stamped the changes anyway. The first statement is intimidation; we don't think that's what a service provider should be saying when looking to resolve a complaint through independent arbitration. The second statement is intimidation and a lie, since the CISAS website states "if you reject the decision, the company do not need to keep to it - you will still be able to take your complaint to court". And CISAS are very clear that their role is to provide arbitration for resolving complaints independent of either party; not only would any prior consultation or agreement between the two contradict the role of CISAS as an independent adjudicator, but it would step well outside the remit agreed with Ofcom.
As an aside, one email from T-Mobile also stated that:
"I have also spoken with our legal department in relation to your previous email. They have confirmed OFCOM have advised that the forum you got the information from has misquoted OFCOM and they are looking at bitterwallet.com in relation to this."
It was the first we'd heard of it so we contacted Ofcom about misquoting them, as well as the other statements T-Mobile made concerning CISAS. Ofcom have now told us that they contacted T-Mobile this morning to discuss our findings, and as a result have advised management that the statements made by their staff were not true, were not to be expected in these situations, and should not be repeated in the future.
As an aside, another email from T-Mobile has defined their interpretation of "material detriment" as the increased charges being likely to cause a 10 per cent increase in a customer's overall payment. Our opinion would be that this should be contested by customers with CISAS. By including line rental, bolt-ons and VAT in the calculation, T-Mobile are making any increase appear less detrimental, since it will be a smaller percentage of the total. However, the changes in roaming charges are universal and so unaffected by a customer's line rental plan or other additional costs. The point of material detriment is whether the increases will cause your call charges to increase, so as we pointed out, this calculation should be based on call charges alone, not the overall bill.