Dialaphone and the hidden charge they tell you about AFTER you've purchased
SIM cards are ten a penny these days – mobile phone networks are quite keen for you to bung their SIMs into your handsets so that they can mop up some of that lovely pay as you go cash. If you know where to look, you can get free SIMs for practically all of the major providers – after all they’re useful to have lying around just in case.
One SIM that isn’t free, but almost is, comes from Virgin, and is available through dialaphone’s website. It’ll cost you the titchy sum of just one shiny English penny. Recently, Bitterwallet reader ‘ssme’ thought that price was worth a punt and ordered a couple, after first carefully checking dialaphone’s terms and conditions for any hidden nastiness. They arrived promptly and ssme takes up the story…
“I marvelled at the fact that they had sent a 2p order via Royal Mail Special Delivery. I looked at the receipt, and then glanced at the terms and conditions on the reverse, and a particular paragraph caught my eye. Apparently, dialaphone now promise to charge customers (automatically, it turns out) £30 per SIM if no chargeable calls are made within 60 days.”
He’s right – here’s the offending section from the T&Cs that appear on the back of the receipt. It's a slightly enhanced version of the one on the dialaphone site, with the killer blow being the revelation that, if you don’t use the SIMs within 60 days, dialaphone will charge £30 to your debit or credit card.
For reference, here’s a screengrab of the same paragraph on the T&Cs on the dialaphone website (click on the pic for larger version.)
So, what we have here is a situation where Johnny Consumer innocently buys a couple of SIM cards, only to find out, ONCE HE HAS PAID FOR AND RECEIVED THEM, that using them within 60 days is mandatory if he doesn’t want to cop for a whopper of an added charge.
As our man ssme says: “If someone wades through the terms and conditions online, the least they can expect is that they are accurate and current; customers should not be forced to re-read the terms and conditions on the off chance there is a change. They might just as well have written "You agree to a charge of £1000 if the day tomorrow has a Y in it" on the back of the receipt. I wouldn't have agreed to such terms if I'd seen them, just as I would never have agreed to purchase under this extortionate £30 condition. But as they're printed on the back of the receipt, dialaphone would - and, in my case, did - try to hold you to them.”
Shocked by the sly bonus surcharge, ssme promptly set about doing what any sane consumer would do, namely return the offending SIM cards to dialaphone. Trouble was, dialaphone were having none of it.
He says: “I called customer services to query the inaccurate online terms, and find out how I could go about returning the 2p worth of SIMs at their expense (there is no way I would pay for recorded delivery when it was their error). The agent informed me that pay as you go SIMs "do not have a returns policy" and so "cannot be returned". I asked what about the Distance Selling Regulations? She replied they don't apply if a company has chosen not to have a returns policy. I wish I was making this stuff up.”
Undeterred by this torrent of bullshit from dialaphone, ssme eventually managed to persuade the customer service representative to send him a cheque to cover the postage, allowing him to return the SIMs. As he says: “It’s a shocking waste of time for 2p worth of SIMs. But if I simply kept them, my credit card would be charged £60 in two months time.”
Yours could too if you’ve recently bought a couple of these SIM cards from dialaphone, so be on your guard crimefighters. Let us know if you've fallen foul of this sneaky extra charge. We’ve sent a link to this story to dialaphone and we’ll see where it gets us.
EDIT: Victim of the piece ssme has emailed us to add: "As far as i can tell, the printed T&Cs apply to ALL PAYG products, not just cheap SIM cards. So if you already have a SIM and fancy a new phone, if you take delivery and stick the SIM in a drawer, you will still be liable for the £30 charge."
"I know dialaphone require you to purchase a top-up with every PAYG phone, but many people would factor this into the cost of a cheap handset, and in some cases it is still cheap enough to take a punt. However, the clause does not mention anything about topping up, it is only concerned with making a call. so if you put your topped up SIM away for future use, you would still get stung."
ANOTHER EDIT: We’ve heard from Dial-a-Phone - their said: “We’ve looked into this and can confirm that the matter is as a result of an admin error and was by no means intentional.
“The copy referenced an old process for connecting prepay which is no longer valid. We have not charged any customers for not using a SIM for at least a year. Accordingly, the wording will be amended shortly.
“It is important to us that our customers are completely happy with any purchases they make, and the terms and conditions connected to these, so it is unfortunate that on this occasion the service received fell short of our usual high standard.
“We’d genuinely like to thank BitterWallet for bringing this to our attention and apologise for any inconvenience caused”.