Like it or not, you get in to a relationship with your phone company when you enter your details in to their online checkout. Like most relationships, you can be lured in to the agreement with promises of things that appeal to you. The reality of living with your decision is not always what it was cracked up to be. Anywhere from a few months to a few years later, you might be regretting your decision.
What we’ve done, in this article is list some of the key behaviors and mistakes to avoid when you are choosing a phone company. We’ve also included some thoughts on what to do if the worst happens and you do decide to move.
Section 1 : Avoiding Problems
Common sense and a little bit of knowledge about how phone companies operate will help you a great deal. You’ll see that the most common sense thing here is keeping a record of everything. We also advise staying calm in your dealings with the phone companies. We recognize, that can be easier said than done.
Here are our top tips on avoiding a problem :
- Know the basics :
The key to success ( and avoiding problems buying a phone ) is having a firm grip on the basics. Try to understand : What type of SIM do you need for your phone ? There are 3 types, ‘Standard’ , ‘Micro’ and ‘Nano’ ? Understand whether your phone is 3G or 4G ? What is the coverage like where you live and work, on the network you’re considering ? (It will be shown on their website in the form of a network coverage map.) Gathering even your basic thoughts around these things will make the whole process go a lot easier. You’d be surprised at how few people do these simple things.
- Order Online :
Ordering your phone and / or SIM Online, from your phone company is faster, cheaper and, importantly, as part of the transaction, you will get a record of everything. Each one of those attributes is important, especially the last one, as you will see below.
- Read everything they send you :
There might be a lot of information that they email you. It’s best to read it all. Phone companies have a habit of wanting to over communicate rather than under communicate with you. They don’t want you to call the call center and ask where your order is, so they keep telling you it’s location proactively. They will also advise you of any delays to your order and give you a written statement of what it is you’ve bought. If there is a problem, reading everything they send you will make sure that you don’t contribute to it.
- Keep a backup SIM :
This is a Bear Grylls telco move but remember, especially if it’s only for a few days, getting or keeping a backup SIM is something to consider. You will almost certainly be able to get a new, temporary, prepaid SIM within a few hundred yards of where you live. You don’t have to port ( move ) your phone number to use it. In the event of any delays to your SIM order proper, one of these temporary SIMs will keep you going.
- Download the app immediately :
Almost every phone company ( except, it seems, Bendigo Mobile – shame on you Bendigo ! ) has a mobile app that you can download. Our advice is to download it immediately. Check your usage as often as you check Facebook and you will avoid many of the pitfalls that come with a phone service. You won’t get charged for extra data unless you want to and you will always know where you are with your bill.
- Keep it all :
However you do it, keep a record of every component of your service. If you’re like most people, you’re probably not going to read the CIS for your service – but you should. The CIS is a Customer Information Statement and every phone company is obliged to provide you one at or near the point of sale, for your service. It will tell you every detail of the plan you’re on and any legal obligations either you of they have. Even if you don’t read it, keep it somewhere you can find it. Along with all the other communications you’ve had. You never know when they might come in handy.
- Get the right expectations :
You can only port ( move ) your existing phone number to a new phone provider on week days. This is an antiquated and sub standard system but it’s all there is. Try ordering anything you buy early in the week so you avoid it arriving on Friday afternoon, at which point, you won’t be able to port your number until Monday.
- Be there to get the package when they try to deliver it :
Phones under contract, ordered online are not supposed to be left by the delivery driver at your address unless someone signs for it. It does happen. Couriers can be in a rush and they don’t always realize the value of what’s there. Avoid delivery problems by making sure you are in when you said you’d be.
- Beware the first month ! :
You will be pro-ratad ! This can be a difficult concept to understand. It’s the most common call to phone company call centers. Let’s keep is simple with an example. Assume it’s a 30 day month – September. And you are on a $30 per month plan which gives you 300 minutes of talk time, 300 texts and 3GB of data. And you are connected to your new phone on the morning of the 16th of September. Pro-rating means that you will be charged $15 ( 50% of the months, to cove the days between the 16th and the end of the month ) Plus, often, a month in advance ). For the rest of the month, you are allowed to use 1.5GB of data, and 150 SMS and 150 minutes of talk time. That is, 50% of each of your allowances. To normal people this is the most confusing time of entering an arrangement with their phone company. Nothing else in life works this way.
Section 2 : Complaining About A Bad Phone Service
If you’re not getting what you think you are reasonably entitled to, complain.
- Know what your options are :
Are you under contract with the phone company you’re talking with or a month to month agreement ? Ideally like an increasing proportion of people, you would be on a month to month or prepaid. They you can move when you want to. Even if you are under contract with them, you will have an option to move as far out as 3 months from the end. ( Although there may be some charges to do that. ) If in doubt, ask. Even if they don’t want you to leave, they have to tell you the truth about your entitlements.
- You have some basic rights :
We don’t give you legal advice on this site. We are simply not qualified to do so. However, there are some rules about whether the services you buy should work reasonably. If your phone company sold you a phone and or a plan and you can’t use it, go and talk to them. You have your usual, reasonable consumer rights in play.
- Write in, don’t call :
We prefer to do all our complaining in writing. Email is better. They will record every conversation they have in the call center but of course, they own that and those records are not nearly so easy to evidence. A cynic would say that this is especially true if they have made the error and you ask for a copy of the tape !
- Be polite :
Assume they are trying to help you and constrained by some old systems and processes that are getting in their way. That’s probably the truth of the matter. People in call centers are people like you. If you treat them well, they are more likely to go out of their way to help you. Remember ! Agents you talk to in call centers usually have a small amount of ‘play’ to use to bring you around. If something has gone wrong with your service, be cheeky. You have nothing to lose. Ask for a credit to your account to make up for the headache. You will find that most agents have $10 or $20 to use at their own discretion.
- Your final resort – The TIO :
Your final resort is the TIO, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. I have complained to them once and I got a leaflet telling me to try harder to sort it out with my phone company. So much for righteous indignation. When you complain to the TIO, you’re going to need to prove that you have exhausted every avenue of reasonable communication with the phone company and / or that they have done something egregious. If you have, write to them. They will take it seriously.
Section 3 : When You Leave ( whatever the reason )
You might decide to leave a phone company even if everything went as specified.
In the event you do move on, for good reasons or bad.
- Shop around :
We have a variety of SIM Only plans and Prepaid Plans on our dedicated pages.
- Consider smaller phone companies :
Smaller phone companies are increasingly popular and can save you a fortune. They tend to sell month to month plans so you won’t have to commit to them to give them a go.
It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t end well with your phone company. There are plenty more out there, as you will see from our dedicated comparison pages. Even if things have gone well, there is no shame in moving to a better deal. An increasing number of people are buying their phone outright and adding a SIM from a smaller phone company ( in the industry, these are known as MVNOs. ) Follow our tips and you should avoid most problems, and minimize those you do experience. Even if does all go wrong, you can move to a better value alternative.