You have to admire the patience of 3 customers, or in the case of this e-mail below, people who aren’t even 3 customers at all.
At the beginning of February of this year I was contacted by an operator on behalf of Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd (under their market name of ‘3’ ) offering me an attractive mobile offer. As a content customer of their broadband service I was quite happy to agree to explore this offer. Hutchinson 3G dispatched a mobile phone to me with the relevant details for my consideration. This offer included a 14 day money back guarantee, I am aware that these are quite common and had enquired of their customer service of the precise nature of this. I was informed that I could cancel the account within 14 days and not be subject to any charges.
I decided that I was not interested in progressing further with their offer and contacted Hutchinson 3G customer services via the telephone to inform them of this. The agent duly informed me that he had cancelled my direct debit account and the suspended the account. I was informed that Hutchinson 3G would send me a ‘jiffy bag’ to send the mobile phone back to them in. As the end of the 14 day period approached I had not received the aforementioned ‘jiffy bag’ and contacted Hutchinson 3G customer services about this. They informed me that the bag had be sent out on the 5th March. The bag did arrive but not until 17th March, on the outer envelope there was the sorting stamp of an Post dated the 16th March, which gives one the impression that the ‘jiffy bag’ was not sent until much later than I had been informed. I posted the device back to Hutchinson 3G via an Post and have a receipt to prove that the device was returned via the post service paid for by Hutchinson 3G.
I understand that this is a long e-mail but I feel that I must first explain exactly what happened in order for you to understand why I am contacting you. I contacted Hutchinson 3G to inform them that I had sent back the device. I was informed by their customer agent that there would be no charges since I had cancelled the account within the 14 days, my account would however continue to be on the system until they received the device. Since that time I have received bills and letters stating that owe increasing amounts to Hutchinson 3G, this continues despite numerous phone calls to Hutchinson 3G customer services and being informed that they would contact their billing office to ensure that I would no longer receive such bills/letters.
I wish to emphasise that I am aware that Hutchinson 3G use a company called Sonopress Ireland to distribute and process their phone devices and that there could be a delay in one company contacting the other, or that customer services may be slow in contacting their collections/billing department however having spoken to Hutchinson 3G numerous times I have been assured that the issue would be resolved after such a long period. Yet today I received a letter from Ms Lorraine Erasmus of Hutchinson 3G ROI Credit and Collections informing me that they had “attempted to contact” me and that “unfortunately we have not received any payment”. As you can see I have been in contact and I have been informed that I do not owe any money. In contacting Hutchinson 3G customer services today I was, once again, informed that I did not owe any money and that they would stop the letters. However this has been promised before and did not happen.
As a consumer it is my responsibility to exercise caution when agreeing to a promotional deal, it is my responsibility to be aware of the legal terms and conditions. It is also my responsibility to contact their service provider to resolve issues. I have exercised due caution, I did understand fully the terms and conditions, and further to this I have been in contact with Hutchinson 3G. Yet despite following the instructions of Hutchinson 3G customer services I am at the receiving end of correspondence now threatening debt collection despite all that I have done to cancel an account within the 14 day time frame, return a device in the packaging provided by Hutchinson 3G (once the official packaging had been received by me) and promptly informed Hutchinson 3G customer services that I had done so.
As mentioned earlier in this e-mail, I am also a Hutchinson 3G Mobile Broadband customer yet I have had few problems with this service and continued to pay the monthly bill without complaint.
I have no problem paying any bill for a service that I receive but Hutchinson 3G have treated me in a most discourteous manner despite having been in contact with them. I have sent an e-mail to ComReg but I do not expect that they can offer much assistance. I would be grateful if you could provide any advice or help with this matter, this stage I am quite exhausted but I do not intend to pay for something that I do not have to pay for.
This particular problem is typical of issues that people have with 3 and because it’s primarily an issue of crap customer service, there’s no “regulator” or “ombudsman” that people can complain to. It’s a difficult complaint for me to respond to as there is no particular set of actions that can be taken:
As a former 3 customer, I have to sympathise with your situation. I too received the debt collection calls – but from a UK based company – for money that I didn’t owe them.
I don’t believe you will receive any satisfaction from ComReg – they’re normal response is that they don’t get involved between service providers and consumers.
Having received a number of 3 complaints recently, unfortunately my only advice is to wait to allow their communication channels clear themselves internally so that everyone finally gets the message you are from Customer Service.
One thing you could do would be to request a letter from the customer service people you’re dealing with confirming what they’re telling you on the phone. You could then forward this to whomever is still under the impression that you owe them money.
Another alternative, something that I’ve seen suggested in the US, would be to institute a 3 way telephone phone conference between customer service, the debt department and yourself, and have them speak to each other through you.
Finally, given the involvement of their debt department, and the potential that it could get escalated to an external debt collection agency, you should as soon as this is finished check your credit history with the Irish Credit Bureau to confirm that there’s nothing untoward on your record.
I hope there’s something in the above that might help a little. I appreciate the frustration and the delays, but given some other customer experiences I’ve been told about, there’s still time.
The final option this reader could follow would be to sent a letter directly to Robert Finnegan, the Chief Executive of 3 Ireland to explain the situation and let him know how the customer service department of his company is failing badly.
Sometimes this kind of letter works.