My story happened a few months ago and at the time it upset me greatly. As work and the Brexit debacle occupied my attention for the past few months, it went well down the list of interests and things to be mad about. However a recent tweet by a Twitter newbie suggested that there are many others out there who can learn from my experience. How upset you can be to create a twitter account just to complain about EE.

So, here it is my story. (If you want to skip the saga, you can jump straight to “lessons learned” at the end.)

One weekend in May, I decided to go to the local EE shop and cancel an old and long unused data card with Orange, something I could not do online because I could not find the number assigned to it and in the meantime Orange has been bought by EE.

Following the discussion with a shop assistant I have decided that I will get a new phone and contract thinking that I will give my existing phone to my dad. In the process of setting this up, the shop assistant tells me that she will give me for free a tablet for kids included in the phone contract. We did not need that as my son uses an iPad but at that time I did not pay attention to it.

I signed the contract for the phone and then the shop assistant went to the back of the shop and brought a bag in which there were some yellow boxes and the tablet on top.

“Is it Christmas?” I ask.

“Yes. These are all included in your contract.”

I did not look in the bag thinking that there must be some cheep gimmicky things for kids. The boxes were yellow the same colour as the tablet which I was told is “free”. I assumed it is a ToysRUs type of tablet, the kind you cannot do much with. I left the shop and at home I did not touch the bag with “Christmas presents”.

Eighteen days later I got my first EE bill and to my surprise I noticed three telephone numbers instead of one. I call EE to ask what are those. They tell me that I bought two devices, which have their own numbers and cost. I am furious with for letting myself being conned in such a way. I want to cancel.

“Not possible”, I am told. “You could do this only in the first 14 days of the contract!”

“Interesting” I say, “but I did not ask for these devices and really I did not look at them. I was given them as part of the only contract I have discussed which was for my phone.”

“Sorry, you bought these in a shop you can complain only there. “

“Whaat??? Are you serious? I went to an EE shop because I believed I am covered by EE brand. You tell me now that you cannot help.”

“Yes, we cannot help you if you buy something in an EE shop. Go and complain to them.”

I went home and looked in the bag. What the hell did I buy? A 4 GEE device and a Car wifi device. In which situation I would need these? I drive 10mins per day to the train station and back. I work in the office or at home — I would never need these devices with my current lifestyle.

As instructed by EE, I go then to the shop to complain. The shop manager does not want to show his face. The shop assistant keeps shaking in front of me a contract I don’t recognise. Lots of handwriting on it while on mine there was none. He tells me “ You can do whatever you want. These contracts are legally binding.” I feel like an idiot. How I could let such low level crooks play such a dirty game on me.

I go home and I try again to contact EE through Twitter and on the phone.

The phone conversation was dismissive to the point of insulting.

“Did you complain in written in the shop?”

“ No, nobody told me that there is a procedure for it.”

“ Ah, you see, you have to go back and complain in written.”

“ Look, I say, if these shops mean nothing to you why do you put your brand all over. Why you don’t call them “Super Telephones” or “ABC” and just mention that they sell EE stuff. Personally, I would not go in these shops would I know that I have less rights in front of EE.”

“Sorry, we cannot help you.”

“ I have been cheated on in one of your shops and you don’t care a bit?”

“Sorry, nothing we can do.”

Not knowing what else can be done, I return to Twitter trying to get @EE’s attention. The thing is, those maintaining @EE are nice people and I even feel for them. They have a range of standard super polite posts type “We are so very sorry” and the rest.

Their intervention does not seem to lead anywhere though. I take this chance to thank Suzanne and Rick from @EE who conversed with me. It must have been painful for them to notice that I even took to running a twitter campaign on this and they could not do anything to stop me from getting more attention.

I was not even mean. I just wanted somebody to have a non-scripted discussion about the misselling happening in the EE shop. The campaign on my EE experience gained over 13k views and 1.3k engagements including those with the Financial Services Ombudsman and Services Ombudsman. Not that EE cared a bit.

EE did not care because probably Twitter is just one of the channels assigned to the Head of Customer Service and as a channel definitely not integrated in something which even remotely looks or feels like customer services.

The next surprise came a few days later when I’ve got another invoice from Orange. “This is your last invoice with Orange” it said. “Your iPad data card has been transferred from Orange to EE” Whaaat??? Have I been SO stupid? So they didn’t even cancel the damn data card I went there for? But we went through the process of cancelling it!! The shop assistant took the card from me at the end and she said “It’s done!”. I learned, once more, that this could mean different things to different people. To me, “it’s done” meant that it was cancelled because this is what I asked them to do. To her, it probably meant FY.

I call EE again. I am kindly advised to go to the shop and complain again and to call EE while I am in the shop.

“Are you serious I ask? Do you have any idea how long it takes somebody to go through the maze of press 4 if this, 5 if that and 9 if you want to repeat the menu? I am hearing impaired. Listening to words out of context is hell for me. Do you want me to do this from a shop with background music and people talking around? Do you have an accessible option for hearing impaired?”

“Yes, the chat.”

“Right, I’ll take my laptop with me and set up my complaining headquarters in the damn shop.”

So here I go again to the shop.

“I am here to fill a written complaint.”

“Sure.”

The shop assistant brings me a photocopied form. We are definitely in the digital age and @EE seems to be at the forefront of it. I start writing by hand. I ask her to identify herself. She refuses. I say, look, here in this form, you should write your name and the name of your manager. She reluctantly signs her name. She is Preet and the manager is Ali.

“Don’t you have a family name?” I ask

“It is not necessary”, she says.

We are in nursery apparently — first names are enough. Getting the form signed by the managers, as required in their own procedure, seems to be a struggle too. Ali finally shows up and graces me with his signature.

I ask for their copies of the contract. Reluctantly after much fuss, they give me the copies. Striking differences comparing to my contract, which is absolutely empty.

“You filled this after I have signed the contract”, I say.

“Oh, this is not important.”

“Really??”

While filling the complaint I hear the conversation at the till nearby. A woman came to complain and return the same items as myself. She is lucky as she is within the 14 days and she can return them. I asked her how come you ended up taking these and she tells me that they were given to her as costless items included in the phone contract. I am indeed not the only one. I leave the shop convinced that nothing will happen following this route. My twitter campaign is still going. From time to time, somebody offers kind suggestions.

Amazed that there is no written way one can complain to EE, I start searching again. I come across www.resolver.co.uk a website which can help you structure your complaint and also directs it to the right company. I give it a go. I spend two hours documenting my interaction with EE in the shop, on twitter, on the phone. I wait. The response comes and they agree to take the items back. A few days later, I receive another call asking how many devices I want to send back and I am sent the special delivery bags.

Do you think this was all? I thought this too. However, I had numerous other calls to get EE to somehow change the fact that my contract remained for phone only and was not “device sharing.” If you don’t know, “device sharing” restricts the choices of roaming data tariffs.

Another thing still hanging is a mysterious invoice that Orange and EE issue when they transfer a contract but which you cannot somehow get to pay. This leads to the most mind numbing conversations one could have.

So, what I learned in the process and it would be good for everybody to know:

1. Do not take a decision about a new phone contract in the shop. Always do your homework before going into a telecom shop. Not all shop assistants are crooks but you might end up getting something you don’t want or need.

2. You are less protected if you re-new your contract in a shop than if you do it online or on the phone. This is a bit counter intuitive for many as you would believe that checking the offers with a shop assistant would give you more confidence into what you buy. If you buy online or on the phone from EE directly, you can complain to them directly. Otherwise you are sent back to the shop where from you bought your contract.

3. You cannot cancel any contract in a shop. In my naivety I went to the shop to cancel a data card. At no point I was informed that they CANNOT actually do this. I found out about it only when I described to EE on the phone how I was cheated on. So, you want to cancel something, call EE.

4. The cancellation period is 14 days however as in my case, the invoice for the contract can come much later than that. By the time the details of the contract will become visible to you, you will loose the right to cancel it. Ask the shop assistant to write in their own writing or highlight, circle ALL the costs associated with the contract including VAT.

5. Take a photo of the contract or ask for a photocopy of their version of the contract. As in my case, their contract and my contract were very different things.

I haven’t received any apologies from EE for their poor customer services, and the misselling and misrepresentation taking place in their shop. My request to EE to investigate the selling practices in that particular shop received actually no response and my impression is now that they really do not treat the shops like “theirs” despite the fact that their branding is plastered everywhere. So, beware.

Banking Systems Architect. Curious. Antifragile.

Banking Systems Architect. Curious. Antifragile.