‘Three kept stringing me along and now I can’t cancel’

Readers’ complaints: Locked into 5G contract with little to no broadband coverage

Jude – as anyone who was paying attention in their religion classes should know – is the patron saint of lost causes, and a reader who shares a name with the saint only got in touch with us after fearing their cause was lost.

“I am writing regarding an awful experience I’ve had with Three recently,” the mail from Jude starts. “It feels like there must be some element of this that I can do something about, but I’m not sure what.”

The reader says that the “first few points relate to the actual service received, I guess, [but] the worst of it is when customer support were involved, at about point five.”

Jude says the “crux of the matter is their refusal to cancel my contract with them after them delaying technical help beyond the point of my trial period ending, but they kept me stringing along. I have probably been naive in not just cancelling anyway, but if there is anything you can do to help, I would be very grateful.”


And so to the story.

“I have been a Three broadband customer for years, and have been out of contract with them for at least a year, maybe two. I have continued to pay €30 per month (out of contract) for an unlimited 4G service until I recently upgraded. Wanting 5G to be able to cover the gaps sometimes there in 4G coverage, I upgraded by online chat on Sunday October 17th, receiving the modem on the following Tuesday.

“Initially my coverage was good, if not as fast as I hoped, but fast enough to make an upgrade just about worthwhile.”

Before she upgraded she had about 70-90 megabits per second (Mbps) on her 4G plan; this went up to about 200Mbps at first on 5G, though it fluctuated a little.

“After two days of this, I lost all coverage on the Thursday morning, and when it came back it was even faster – peaking at about 480Mbps. All this sounds great and I would have been happy with that. However, this is where the trouble starts.

“After a few hours of this speed, my broadband signal dropped again, and went to about 18-22Mbps consistently. This was not only much slower than my previous connection, but also slower than the ‘guaranteed’ 25Mbps for 5G that they advertise. I contacted their technical support, and they recommended turning it off and on again. I had already done this, to no effect, but did it again to humour them. They then ‘reset the network’ – no difference. They then recommended something that seemed to work to some degree: take the Sim out, and put it back in, then restart to allow the Sim to register again etc. This worked to the point of getting about 100-150Mbps, again hardly earthshaking but decent.”

But the higher speed only ever lasted an hour or two, then dropped and went back to 18-22MBps.

“I contacted customer service again and again. They constantly asked me to do the same basic things, never reading case notes, and telling me to try things related to wifi (already ruled out by using cable connection) etc. Literally just basic things that were a complete waste of time, and I was getting quite frustrated by now. By about the fourth time being in touch about it, around the Saturday 23rd, they finally realised it was something else and agreed to escalate the case. They said I could expect a call from the technical team about it.”

The call didn’t come by the following Tuesday, so Jude got back in touch. “I explained the issue and that I was waiting on a call, but they just went through all the basics again. After another couple of contacts made with them, someone finally told me that there hadn’t been a ticket raised. I got them to raise the ticket again, and expressed clearly my concern that my trial period would be finished before I was allowed to speak to someone with the needed technical expertise. They promised a callback by Friday, allowing me a little time to still test the service in my remaining few days of the trial period.”

Friday came but the call did not. “More contact made with the support team. They told me to contact the technical team direct. Everyone else told me I had to wait for a call from them. They gave me a number – no answer. They gave me another one, and I spoke to someone who had no more technical knowledge than I did. But at least she listened and recognised more expertise was needed. Incidentally, she told me that the previous case had been closed, without my knowledge or any call to me. I again expressed that I really needed to at least have the trial period extended. She said that someone could probably help but that she couldn’t promise anything. Again I was to wait to get a call back, as she had raised another ticket.”

In the meantime, Jude wanted to send a complaint, so she filled in the complaints form. At this stage she was “quite frustrated” but still willing to give Three a chance to show some level of “customer care”.

In the mail to Three she described the level of “support” as “terrible” but stressed that she really wanted her 5G; she also asked for an extended trial period.

In response she received a short email which said: “I have checked with the technical team and as per their investigation there isn’t any issue suspected regarding the network issue. This is a radio-based network and therefore in certain conditions and environs the received signal may not always be received at a constant level.”

So Jude tried again.

This time she was told that the person sending the mail was “sorry but we won’t be able to extend any period and also your contract ends on 2023 so it will remain as it is.” The mail also repeated the claim that there “wasn’t any issue suspected” and she was told that “once you are moved to a higher plan you cannot change back to the previous plan as you are bound in contract terms. Unless and until contract expires you can’t move the previous plan. You can move to a higher one.”

Well, that might have been the end of it. But then Jude got in touch with us and we had a go.

We contacted the company and received the following statement: “At Three, our customers are our number one priority and on this occasion this customer has not experienced the quality of service we strive to deliver, and for this we would like to apologise.

“We appreciate that this experience has caused frustration, so we are now working with the customer to resolve all issues and ensure they have the best service. As a gesture, we have offered to cover the cost of their bill for two months and will reinstate the trial period until the customer is satisfied. The customer is happy with this ongoing liaison and outcome.”

Sky’s puzzling billing system

Niall Brogan got in touch after reaching his limit with Sky's billing system.

“On Black Friday in 2020 I entered into a contract with Sky for TV and broadband. First off I have no issue with the service but am struggling to understand their billing system,” his mail begins.

“The contract was for a monthly charge of €60.23 which had discounts on TV and Broadband. The broadband discounts expired on December 7th, 2021 and the TV on December 24th. This package included Sky Sports. I was advised to call them one month in advance of renewal which I did last Monday, November 1st. This was supposed to prevent the contract rolling over automatically and to discuss renewal terms. I was on the phone talking to the lady for an hour and was totally confused as she kept throwing numbers at me,” he writes.

“Anyway, the final outcome was she told me my bill in November would be €173.83, as they bill in advance. I then got an email on November 2nd saying my monthly charge would be €119 including a discount of €26 for the TV from November 24th, 2021 to November 24th, 2022. Thus was included in the original contract. However all other discounts on the Sky sports etc in that original contract were taken away and the base cost has also increased.”

He looked at his bills online and noticed that there were extra charges for November and December for the bits of the package that had been discounted initially.

“I am assuming that these relate to the portion of the additional costs under the new contract. I would assume that the new contract would only kick in from December as I was simply indicating my willingness to renew the contract, so why the additional costs in the period for November?”

He believes he has been “financially penalised for going by the rules. I would like to understand the billing process as the new contract has discounts that expire on the May 2nd, 2022 and others that expire the October 30th, 2022 and want to avoid a similar situation occurring, so when is the best time to call them to renew the current contract?”

We got in touch with Sky who got in touch with our reader. Sky has “resolved his query and given some clarity as to what happened here”.

And what did happen?

“Prior to contacting us, this customer upgraded his package to include Sky Multiroom, HD and Netflix – none of which were part of his initial package (the Black Friday deal last year). When the customer did make contact with one of our agents, he also upgraded his broadband package to 1GB.

“The changes made by the customer meant that he was no longer on his original package when he contacted us. One of our agents spoke to the customer today and agreed in good faith to credit the difference to ensure he gets the full 12-month value of the original package.”

Runaround to lodge a cheque

Have you tried to lodge a cheque recently? Byna Twomey has and she was given an almighty runaround for her troubles.

On day one she decides to lodge a Bank of Ireland cheque in a Bank of Ireland branch close to her home. The ATM at the branch doesn't have a cheque lodgement option when she puts in her card. She is told by a "passing girl" that she needs to have a Bank of Ireland account to be given that option.

“Gone. Moved. I give up,” she says.

At least for the first day.

Then on day two – and still in possession of the unlodged cheque and still in a hurry – she finds a nearby AIB branch that is bigger than the first one and, crucially, still actually functioning as a bank, at least sort of.

“There was no teller,” she says. She tries the machine lodgement and is asked for two numbers – her card number and another number which has her a bit confused. She tries to ask a passing staff member what is going on and what she needs to do but she is “too busy to help”.

Byna gave up again.

Another day, another go at lodging the cheque.

She drives to a different AIB branch and writes her name on the back of the cheque. She gives the machine two numbers. Success!

Or so she thinks.

On day four the cheque is “returned in the post by the bank”.

We admire the staccato style deployed by Byna so we will reproduce what she says next in full.

“Needs endorsement. What? Return to big new local AIB branch. Talk to nice employee, alone in booth. He says now only selected branches will accept cheques. Ask why banks still provide chequebooks. Phasing out branches. And cheque books. Also look – machines have been removed. Cost-saving by bank. What about people? Service? Head-shake. Nice employee confides he is on rolling contract. Is sad. Almost tearful. Advises take bank card and cheque to local Post Office. Seriously?”

Byna then goes to the nearest post office.

And guess what? “Gone. Moved. Now inside big supermarket. But happy to take cheque with card. Success! At last! Admittedly, I’m elderly. Not tech savvy. Haven’t been getting out much. But still.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor