Emily Tully from Dublin got in touch in connection with 3 Mobile, and such was the nature of the problem that it left even Pricewatch gobsmacked.
It all started when she was contacted a few months ago by “a very pushy sales person” working on behalf of 3, a provider she was already perfectly happy with. “She was offering me this, that and the other, including a mobile broadband service, which I declined. She then offered me a phone, and since I already had a phone that I was perfectly happy with, I turned it down as well.”
Her polite refusal didn’t seem to make much difference and a couple of days later, Tully’s postman knocked on her door and handed her a new Sony Ericsson phone and a new 3 Sim card. “Obviously, I immediately contacted the company and told them that there must have been a mistake, as I did not want a new phone and I certainly did not want a new Sim card. The person I was speaking to said they would send out a pre-paid envelope for me to send it back.”
She waited and waited – several weeks in fact – but the promised pre-paid envelope never arrived and, as she had absolutely no idea where she should return the unwanted phone to, she called the company again. Again she was told an envelope would be sent out immediately.
She waited weeks and eventually the envelope arrived. “I immediately sent back the phone and the Sim card, still in their original wrapping, on January 19th,” she writes.
Throughout this whole frustrating and entirely unnecessary process, Tully kept getting bills from 3 for this phantom account, but seeing as she had not signed up for a new phone and had never used it or even taken it out of its wrapping, she ignored them.
Last Monday, she was horrified when she got a letter from a debt collection agency saying she owed them €600 in phone charges plus an additional €497 for terminating her contract early.
How she could be accused of terminating a contract that never existed and one that she never wanted is beyond her. “I am hopping mad. I can barely contain myself. I have been trying to ring them all day but I can’t get through. I also sent an e-mail to their customer service department, but that has also been ignored. Not only do I want to have this ‘debt’ rescinded, I want to cancel my actual long-standing account with 3 and I don’t want to be penalised for ending it. They have made such a mess of this that they have completely lost my confidence.”
We contacted 3 to see what excuse it could offer for this bizarre sequence of events and what it proposed to do about it.
After investigating the details of our reader’s complaint, the company spokeswoman “personally apologised” to her. She said the phantom account had been shut down and Tully should not receive any more correspondence about it. “It goes without saying that she does not owe us any money – this account was incorrectly set up in the first place.”
The firm said said it had closed her original account with no early termination penalty. “Regrettably we are losing Emily as a customer,” the spokeswoman said.
I was told what had happened was due to “an admin processing error”. The spokeswoman said 3 does “occasionally” contact customers with offers, and she said that before Christmas an external company was conducting telesales on its behalf “this has now been moved in-house to ensure quality levels of service”.