"Rip off Britain"

I have the misfortune of having a mobile phone with the carrier O2 in the UK. They were part of BT, then sold off. BT then created another mobile phone company.. Dealing with O2 is like dealing with a box full of frogs. Its frustrating.

I have a very simple request. Take my existing phone, add BlackBerry, add unlimited data, and send me a new Pearl. As I was at the end of my contract period - all very simple. They even have a tarrif - BlackBerry 250 or BlackBerry 500 that does this. And all for around £38 a month. Perfectly fine.

So I call up O2, and ask for this. Ah. Not so simple. You see, I currently have a "personal" consumer account with O2, and the BlackBerry tarrif I want is on "Business". Fine. Transfer my acccount.

Ah. No. You cannot transfer your phone account between consumer and business without losing your number. Which is a bit of a shame, as I'm quite attached to my number - I've had it for over 10 years, and intend to keep it for life. So this is unnacceptible. What else ?

Well I can purchase a BlackBerry "bolt-on" for my O2 account. Fine. But my total charge would go up to £65/month. This is not good.

To find this out took over 10 phone calls, 90 minutes, 15 different people, 5 different numbers. Finally I was escalated to a "supervisor". Well, I'll call him a "supervisor" as I've been escalated to him. I shall refer to him as "Mr Grumpy". He outlined my three options:

  1. Bugger off

  2. Pay Double

  3. Lose my number

When I pointed out that none of these options were attractive, he basically forced me to choose option one. Fine.

A footnote here. Jason put me in touch with a Data specialist within O2 - they exist! - and he tried to fix this for me. It didnt work out, but kudos to him for trying.

Who should I switch to ? Well, Vodafone have a very strange billing system indeed. If you happen to use your BlackBerry as a Modem (as I have been doing) it transpires that they DONT count that as data - they count that as another type of data. And charge you £2/mb for that. I didnt find out until a bill for £280 dropped through the door. That was not a good day. Cue days worth of calling Vodafone, written letters. etc. Vodafone do NOT have an unliimted data facility unless you want to pay for their "God your stupid so we'll take £100/month off you for data alone" tariff. Ouch.

Who does that leave ? In the UK, there are another three carriers - T-Mobile, Orange and 3 (three). I dont get the last two - coverage doesnt extend to rural scotland. So I tried T-mobile. £25/month for 250 mins voice, and another £5/month for BlackBerry with 50mb data. Cool. And for another £7.5, unlimited use of T-Mobile hotspots. Now we're talking.

It should be noted that adding an extra £5/month for BlackBerry service was the cheapest I could find. Seriously good, and far better than the Vodafone 5mb deal)

Oh. In my bitter and twisted experience, dont ever approach the carriers directly. People like the Car Phone Warehouse (who I got this deal through) actually employ people who know the products (as the carriers DONT), want to help, and dont waste your time. 20 mins on the phone, and one fax later, sorted. I also looked up "The Money Supermarket" comparison site. Cool.

All this is of course too late for my US trip. Ah. Roaming. This is where the carriers can really screw you for extra charges. Roaming data for instance (and this seems common across ALL carriers) - £7 per MB abroad. Wow. Thats about DOUBLE what it would cost on a satellite phone. Ten years ago. Nasty. So never try and roam with your data device. Unless your rich, and dont want to be rich anymore.

What we need is a pay-as-you-go BlackBerry data SIM vending machine at each airport. I'd gladly pay £20 for a weeks long BlackBerry connection. Sure as hell if I used roaming, it'd cost double that..

All phone companies are evil. All phone companies want to rob you blind. Find a deal that screws you within your pain threshold, and NEVER assume that loyalty to a particular carrier counts for anything.