This is why I left Three

Huawei E160G - Three Logo
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid (Photo credit: William Hook)

Following is the content of a complaint I have just emailed to Three. I may follow it up with a letter to their head office:

I cancelled my account with you on August 15th. I gave you several months notice that I wished to do this after your staff lied to me and tried to blame me for my voicemail being broken for several weeks. I was told at that time to contact yourselves before the 15th of August to cancel my account and get my PAC which I duly did.

When I asked for the PAC I was lied to again and told that it would take 30 days to generate and that I should have given that amount of notice. This is a) wrong and b) illegal practice under British law. A PAC must be given on request either verbally or by text message within 2 hours.

I was contacted (after getting my PAC) by another agent who clarified that my account was fully closed and that I owed nothing. I queried him about the 30 days and that I was not going to pay for a service I was not using and therefore that I would not be expecting any further bills from you. I distinctly recall this conversation and being told that I would “certainly not” be charged in September for anything.

I received one further message from you telling me that I was 71p in credit. I decided not to chase this as, frankly, I didn’t want to deal with your awful call centre staff again. 71p was worth it to get away from Three and onto a decent network.

However, this morning in the post I find a bill from you for £23.77 (minus the 71p) for “Early Termination”. This despite cancelling my account precisely 24 months after signing up for the contract; following the guidelines being issued by your staff; and being told plainly that I would not receive any further charges.

In other words, one of two things has happened:

a) You’re made yet another mistake in handling my account.

b) Your staff lied to me. Again.

As things stand, you can whistle in the wind for the money. I am not paying it. I gave several months notice that I wished to cancel my account, contacted you when I was told to do so by your own staff, and was told (after querying repeatedly just to be certain) that I would not be charged for any time during which I was not using your service, specifically the time after I cancelled my contract.

Kindly send me an adjusted bill confirming that my account is closed and that the balance is zero, as I was told previously.

To clarify, when I started using Three I quite liked them. Good prices, nice web site for checking your statement, signal almost everywhere and so on. Once I started having to deal with their moody, pushy and – is it became apparent – dishonest staff in the call centres, however, it all went to crap.

I would not ever consider recommending them as a network again. And I apologise to the friends who are on them as a result of my earlier recommendations.

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More fun with Three…

OK, maybe not a huge complaint but a nitpick. I was checking my balance on My3 the other night and saw with my new package I had “100 Picture Mails”. Groovy, I’ve always had to pay for sending pictures, so I sent a quick photo to a friend.

A day later and I’ve still got 100 picture mails to use. And a charge of 25p on my account. So I queried it by giving Three a quick call.

It turns out that picture mails are not the same as picture messages, that is MMS. A picture mail involves taking a picture, going to the gallery and sending it using email to another email address. I get 100 of these. Which seems nuts when I also have a 1Gb internet allowance and routinely send pictures via GMail that way.

On the plus side, if I ever figure out how to use it, given that a 5MP image could be a megabyte in size, it could potentially save me 100Mb of internet. If I sent 100 pictures a month. And the people I sent them to had internet access on their phones.

In the meantime, it’s a decent package I’m on  but don’t expect any picture messages from me any time soon.

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Twitter is NOT free on Three

Image representing Ping.fm as depicted in Crun...
Don't use Three - use Ping.fm!

Don’t believe the hype. After their trial back in February, Three are now offering “free” Twitter if you’re a customer. The only thing is, it’s not flipping free!

Once you register you can set it so you receive texts when certain people you follow post a tweet. This is free. However, you tweet by sending texts to a shortform number (86xxx – something like that) which costs 10p a pop. These texts can’t be part of your contract bundle so you will face this charge even if you have unlimited texts per month.

How they can advertise this as being “free” is beyond me.

If you have an unlimited texts plan, then I still recommend ping.fm – it is free. Sign up, tell it your mobile number and when you text them they forward your posts to Twitter. Or facebook. Or anywhere else they support. The phone number is a genuine UK mobile and I’ve been using them for months so I can promise you they’re included as part of a UK texts package (unlike the actual Twitter number, which is based in the Isle of Man so doesn’t count, resulting in surprise charges on your bill).

They’ll also forward photos you send on to Flickr or facebook, though I prefer to do that via email.

Either way, just make sure you always read small print on things like this. And then wonder how something that costs money can be advertised as being free. Advertising Standards Authority anyone? Mind you, they’re the muppets that let broadband companies advertise “unlimited” capped broadband.

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Twitter free on Three (but why bother?)

The Twitter fail whale error message.
Nice try, Three...

I got a text message from Three (my mobile carrier) telling me that Twitter is free on my phone until March 31st. It uses one of those short-code phone numbers and there’s no indication of the cost once the promotion ends.

However, given that I have unlimited (erm… 4000 I think, so not actually unlimited) texts per month, this is utterly pointless.

I may have mentioned ping.fm before. If not, then head over there, register and link it to your phone number. It’s completely free and the number you send a text message to is a genuine UK mobile number, and therefore free to send to with any inclusive package.

It does a lot more than just post to Twitter, and it’s all customisable. I’ve set mine to forward text messages to Twitter and photo attachments sent via email to ping.fm are passed on to flickr. All of this is free, and doesn’t expire on March 31st.

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Moving to 3, a Twitter issue and the Nokia E71

Three Mobile
Three Mobile

I shifted from Vodafone to 3 last week after Adam kindly told me of a nice tariff they have. For £20 per month, I get unlimited texts, internet and calls to other 3 mobiles(subject to the usual “fair use” policies which make them limited…) and 200 minutes for everyone else. And a shiny Nokia E71 to play with.

I do recommend it. It’s a good deal. And if you decide to go for it, please get in touch and tell me beforehand. If I give you my number and you quote it when you sign up, we both get £30 – more if you get a mobile internet dongle for your laptop as well.

However, a few points to note which aren’t made clear. I’ve spent a little while on the phone to their support (in India, but all three people I spoke to were really good) which has clarified a few things. They did credit some of the cash back as well. I’ll detail as I go.

First up, you can use the Nokia E71 as a modem. Either through the included USB cable or with a little utility called JoikuSpot. The “Light” version is enough for general web access though you do have to tweak your proxy settings to access “https” resources. This means the roaming internet dongle isn’t so useful, although it does have the benefit of ease of use. On the other hand, it’s £15 per month for 5Gb usage. The telephone contract offers unlimited downloads on the same 3G network regardless of whether it’s on your phone or your laptop via the phone.

Next up – video calls ain’t included on your tarrif. They’re 50p per minute so that’s an expensive assumption to make. The charge for the one I tried out (which never even connected – thankfully) was 48p and not refunded.

Using the Three mailserver costs you if you’re sending emails. Ditch the “Mail on 3” or “3Mail” settings ASAP once you unpack the phone. Replace it with GMail, Hotmail or whatever you use. Just make sure you don’t send any emails through their SMTP servers. The costs for the couple I sent when I was tinkering with the phone were refunded.

Nokia Maps, supplied with the phone, costs cash after a while – I think 90 days (at least the very useful Drive and Walk features do). It’s a nice bit of software but Google Maps does just as good a job and costs nothing. I’ve not been able to uninstall Nokia Maps, though – it seems it’s part of the firmware and can’t be completely removed. To get Google Maps, use the browser on the phone to go to google.com, click the link at the top for “More…” and then scroll down to “Maps”. Download and install.

Here’s a biggie, though. Twitter have a UK (+44) phone number you can use to send SMS‘s to for publication in your Twitter stream. They do say on their FAQ that some networks see it as a foreign number… and Three is one of these networks. It seems that despite it having the UK prefix, it’s based in Ireland and therefore subject to international charges of 25p per text.

This does worry me. Not because of Twitter per se, but the fact that some numbers can be “international” without appearing to be so. How on earth has this situation arisen?

It is a shame as sending an SMS is quicker than using the Twitter web page on the mobile or an alternative utility. On that score, however, I recommend Twim. Locate the current stable release’s .jar or .jad file, click on it in your mobile browser and install. It does give the occasional error message, but on the whole it’s pretty reliable and the Twitpic integration new with the current release is ace. The author says it uses about the same bandwidth as using the web page, but it’s far wasier to use. On this tariff, it’s irrelevant anyway. And, hey – it’s free.

I’m happy with the package, don’t get me wrong. A little more clarification on what is chargeable would have been nice. Oh, and there is nothing in any of the paperwork I received that told me the voicemail number! For those also looking… it’s “123”.

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