Meteor says sorry but dodges the question


READER'S QUERIES:DAISY, A reader, got a HTC Desire S mobile phone (right) last December in a Meteor shop on Dublin’s North Earl Street for €130. She gave her old phone to the company as part of the deal. Her contract had cost her €30 a month and has now gone up to €30.50 a month.

About two months ago the phone started to play up so she went back to the shop. They didn’t have a phone to lend her but they would ring her when one was available. They never rang.

She returned a few times – the same story. Then, about two weeks ago, the phone finally died and she went back.

Again there was no phone to lend her. She spent a few hours going to various Meteor shops but none of them had a phone she could borrow while her faulty one was being repaired. Eventually she found an old phone at home and handed in her phone to be repaired the next day. She was told Meteor would ring her when it was fixed. Meteor never rang.

Last week she rang the North Earl Steet shop and was told that the battery was the problem and it would cost €35 to have it fixed. She was told if she rejected this offer, the phone would be sent back to her unrepaired. She was told that while the phone had a year’s warranty, the battery’s warranty was only for six months.

We contacted Meteor to find out if the battery – which is an essential part of a phone, let’s face it – had a shorter warranty than the phone, and if so how could Meteor stand over such a policy? We also asked why Meteor was not in a position to lend this customer a phone while hers was being assessed and why her calls were not returned as promised.

We got an entirely unsatisfactory response. It said that “due to data protection we are unable to discuss individual customer accounts” but it claimed that it had “been able to work with this customer to resolve this situation”.

When Pricewatch contacts companies with reader complaints – and we do that a lot – they are not usually bound by “data protection” considerations, so when a company uses that as an excuse to dodge serious issues about its level of customer service, it raises serious questions.

In a statement, the company went on to say that “regarding the battery, conditions of warranty are decided by the handset manufacturer and are out of Meteor’s control.

“Meteor advises all customers to review warranty covering batteries and chargers, which can be found in the user manual . . .”

While Meteor may wish to hide behind “data protection” and a claim about warranty terms, the reality is that any contract is between the customer and Meteor and it has to take responsibility for all elements of that contract.

We put these points to a company spokeswoman but she declined to comment further.

Incidentally, our reader was more forthcoming about the outcome. We were told that the Henry Street branch manager rang her and apologised for how she was treated and said “he would pay the €35 and also pay one month”. The phone was ready for collection last Friday.

UPC masters art of bilocation billing

CLAIRE REEVES has contacted us about UPC. She moved house last March and brought her UPC account with her – or at least she thought she did.

“In July I realised that UPC were charging me for both my new account and my old account,” she writes. “Maybe I should have been more observant of the money going out of my account, but UPC seem to have given up on sending proper bills.”

She points out that the company has “no hesitation in sending endless junky ads in the post but they only send a text message now instead of a bill”.

According to Reeves, these text messages arrive when she is busy in work so she has not been paying proper attention to them.

“I contacted UPC to ask them what was happening and they admitted that they hadn’t moved my old account and that I was being double-charged. It took about five phone calls to increasingly rude staff members to get them to agree to return my money and there was certainly no apology.”

She was on holidays in August when she got another billing text message to say UPC had once again taken out the payment for the closed account.

“I called them when I got home and they said that they had never actually closed the old account, despite all my calls. They said that they had closed it now and would refund my money and raise a complaint.”

Reeves says she was not available to take a call during the day as she was in work but she still got two calls in relation to her complaint, both in the morning when she was working and couldn’t answer.

“Only one person left a phone number, but was only available between 9am and 1pm, when I couldn’t call. My refund cheque never arrived so I rang them again yesterday. It now transpires that for some unknown reason they have decided to charge me an additional €14, so they need to add that to my refund. Apparently the cheque was posted, but it has never turned up.”

Last week she got a call back from UPC’s customer care.

“She told me that the company wouldn’t refund me until they had tracked down the last cheque . . . the clear implication being that I had cashed it. She also refused point blank to offer me any kind of compensation or refund for all the time and effort I have spent in trying to sort out something that was their mistake. A mistake that they didn’t even correct after I informed them of it.”

She lives in an apartment and UPC has a monopoly.

“If I want digital TV, I have no choice but to give them my custom. I am entirely fed up of them at this stage and I think that at the very least, I am deserving of a month’s free subscription as well as my money back. We need more competition in this market. If it stays as is, they will continue to treat their customers like dirt.”

We put all our reader’s concerns to UPC. UPC described this as “an exceptional and unfortunate occurrence”. It said its aim was “always to provide each customer with a high level of customer care and courtesy” and it apologised to our reader. “On receiving these details from you we carried out an in depth review. Just to note, we have been in touch with our customer and will follow up today in order to reassure Ms Reeves that all items have been closed off, together with an apology.”

A spokeswoman said that “what has unfolded is not how we treat our customers. This particular occurrence was caused by human error and then this was not rectified quickly enough to Ms. Reeves’ satisfaction. To reassure your readers also, all the monies that were owed to the customer have been fully paid with the final amount probably arriving today (Tuesday) or tomorrow by post.”

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