NO2 and Tesco NObile – ‘Mastgate’ UPDATE

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Anyone not connected to mobile phone company O2 may well be as bored by updates like this one as I am by listening to Tesco Mobile’s menu of options when calling the ‘provider’ of my mobile phone ‘service’.

In some parts of the Heswall area, customers of O2 and companies like Tesco Mobile who use O2 as a carrier will not need reminding that a phone signal can be, at best, dismally poor and, at worst, non existent.

At least now, after almost 5 months since Heswall Today made a complaint (having first endured several months of dreadful service), we have official confirmation of what was already known to some: an O2 mast was decommissioned – with unfortunate and what must have been predictable consequences for customers.

Tesco Mobile has not stated when the decommissioning took place, though it is believed to be November last year.

We also know that O2 has concluded at last that something must be done in the shape of a new mast, but that this is subject to ‘planning and delivery’ – a less than precise timescale.

In retrospect Heswall Today’s to-ing and fro-ing with Tesco Mobile has been bizarre and characterised by obfuscation that borders on lying.

  • A complaint was made in April 2017 about poor service. This poor service was caused by the decommissioning of the mast several months before, and yet Tesco Mobile’s response was to say ‘engineers are investigating’. 
  • They said it several times. Heswall Today received half a dozen texts over a period of months claiming the investigation was ongoing.
  • An unfortunate young woman from Customer Concerns was charged with making regular phone calls to ask: “Have you noticed any improvements in your service?” The answer ‘yes’ was hardly likely in the absence of a functioning O2 mast. Heswall Today also had to point out another clue: that Tesco Mobile always called my landline because it was impossible to get through on the mobile.
  • Repeated requests for some kind of official diagnosis from the ‘engineers’ were repeatedly ignored. 
  • Two months’ line rental (£18.00) was given as initial compensation and, when it became clear that there was to be no quick improvement, another two were offered in what Tesco Mobile described as a ‘deadlock’ letter. This letter offered alternatives: a) take the 18 quid and stay with us in the knowledge that local service might not improve; or b) rip up the contract and clear off.
These normally arrived while en route to Manchester

As a Tesco Mobile customer of some years Heswall Today has many questions, including:

  • When the decision was taken to decommission the mast, did O2 and Tesco Mobile assess the impact it would have?
  • If they did, why didn’t they forewarn their customers and explain they might want to check out other providers?
  • How can it take many months of asking before being told the mast has been offline for almost a year?
  • Why, when such a mast is turned off and service is reduced to a shambles, are the companies involved not in breach of the contracts they made with their customers?

My ‘deadlock’ letter offered one recourse: complain to the Ombudsman. However, even this had a threat attached to it. “If you wish to raise this matter with the Ombudsman the offers we have made will be retracted and Tesco Mobile will honour [the] Ombudsman’s decision.”

I decided to take advantage of the service and have lodged my complaint. It may not be a scandal on the scale of Donald Trump’s Russian troubles, but ‘Mastgate’ does describe a situation in which a significant number of customers have been badly let down and short changed by companies which should know better. I’d urge anyone who has experienced poor service to formally complain to their providers.

Coda: yesterday a very nice Sky TV engineer did some work at Heswall Today HQ. Sky Mobile uses O2 as a carrier. The engineer had to call his base.

“Excuse me,” he called upstairs.

“Yes?” I replied.

“Would it be OK if I used your phone? I’ve no signal.”

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