The Problem with Phone Upgrades

20071222557It happened when I upgraded my phone with M1 previously. It happened when I got a Hub Station with StarHub. Now the same thing happens with SingTel when I got my N97. I don’t know why these companies have to muck up your bill when you go through an “equipment upgrade”. They do the equivalent of terminating your service, and then reinstating the service. Since the service is simply being retained, why bother with the paper charade?

I just received my first phone bill after I got my Nokia N97 last month. The bill amount looked about the same. Slightly more, actually, but only by about $5 – $10. I would have put it down to some adjustments due to the phone upgrade. I noted the bill reflected the mess of services disconnections and reinstatements.

But somehow this time I decided to inspect the individual line items more carefully, and thus, I discovered some real problems with my bill. SingTel had disconnected and left disconnected my BroadBand on Mobile service! I was really annoyed. I worked out the sums, and found that I was being charged about $52 extra for excess data usage. The other services on my bill had actually become cheaper or free due to the new terms of my corporate plan (which I was not aware of, but I’m nonetheless pleased). My bill should have been substantially cheaper, but it had been inflated by the $52 of excess data usage charges. I called up SingTel first thing the next morning.

The customer service representative explained to me that since I am already on MobileM@ail Plus (the new service that comes with the N97 promotion), there was no need for the BroadBand on Mobile. I quite bluntly pointed out that the former had 10MB of quota, while the latter had 50GB of data. They are a whole lot different.

So the customer service representative then offered to upgrade the MobileM@il Plus service to a higher plan that includes 500MB of data. Yah, right, 500MB vs 50GB.  I wasn’t comfortable with the 500MB quota. He tried to reason that a normal user would not use that much data. I told him I do. I’m sure if he looked at the bill, he would see that I had exceeded the 500MB.

What followed subsequently was a long argument. The customer service representative tried to explain that the BroadBand on Mobile plan I had was no longer offered as a VAS. I know. But that’s not my problem. I pointed out that I did not ask for the service to be disconnected. We went on and on for some time. I told him to just escalate it to someone to deal with it.

He called back. They were willing to backdate the reactivation of this non-existent VAS for me to three days ago. Nice. They were also going to waive the data charges for the previous billing cycle (i.e. the charges in the current bill). Great. But that left me with one day that I would not be covered. I pressed further that something be done about this day. Waive it, for example, if you cannot backdate the VAS reactivation to cover that day. That led to another long-winded argument about how the system doesn’t allow them to do it, they cannot make the adjustment, etc. Not my problem at all, I told him. Can he just take this up to an intelligent human being who can exercise some judgement and do the right thing? As an IT person, I can appreciate there are “system problems”. As a customer, it is not my problem. Get a human to deal with the system.

Great. He called back. Settled. They can now magically reverse everything, so that I enjoy the equivalent of not having my service being changed at all.

Oh, since I was already engaged in an argument, I started to nitpick on my voice call charges too. Apparently, I overshot my free 100 mins of outgoing quota by 9 mins. But they did not credit back my “free” 100 mins fully. The fellow explained it is because the free outgoing calls would be pro-rated due to the disconnection and reactivation. Sure. But if you chop up a billing cycle into two parts, then the first part plus the second part must equal to the whole month cycle right? Which still means 100 mins of free outgoing calls! However, there was a discrepancy of about $2. This was eventually resolved too.

The story doesn’t end here, really, because there was also another matter of 10 cents being charged to me for something the SingTel Shop guy told me is free, even though I didn’t want it.

Sigh. It took up a lot of my time. I’m sure it is also not productive use of their staff’s time too. Can these telcos just make things simpler for everybody?

If you are upgrading your phone, you should check your subsequent phone bills carefully too.

Comments

  1. uzyn says:

    I also had similar experienced when I upgraded my phone with SingTel. Mine is worse, I signed the papers and yet they put it to the wrong plan. Made about 5-6 calls and at the end of each lengthy calls, they would ensure that everything has been resolved and my bills will be offset at the coming month. Nope, didn’t happen. Same thing happened for 3 months and I have accumulated so much outstanding bills that I’m afraid my line would be terminated, so I went down to Comcentre and finally everything is settled, at the next month’s bill.

    I still had $5 of late charges though, they waived the earlier 3 months but not the last month. Too lazy to go through the cycle again so I just paid that fee.

    That was almost a year ago. Earlier this month I had another issue on billing discrepancies, called them and they waived the charges in no time (only 2 phonecalls, 1 from me and the other from the billing dept to me).

    Comparing the 2 experience, I think I can happily commend the improvement of their customer support and their billing dept.

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