Mobile Phone Contract Renewals

(Yes it’s another rant about a business!). It’s a bit of a scam really in my opinion. It depends on whether you phone them, or if they phone you, and who you speak to. That’s what it seems like. I’ve been a customer of Vodaphone’s for the past 6 years, spending around £900 per contract (18 months in recent years). When I worked abroad I’d often spend a few hundred a month, once I topped £400 for the month. Okay, so it may not be much to a company like Vodaphone, but a 6 year old customer spending more than the average individual consumer is surely who Vodaphone should be wanting to please? Clearly not.

Note whilst this is my experience with Vodaphone, I believe it happens with all the main mobile phone operators, so this isn’t a rant against Vodaphone just against them as a whole!

Last month I called Vodaphone about my contract renewal. I’d set my sights on a Nokia N95 telephone. I’ve had an N73 for the past 18 months and whilst it’s a great phone, it’s lacked wireless connectivity which would be useful to me. The N95 has that, plus an even better camera plus flash (the N73 has flash too) and numerous other handy features. On speaking to the upgrades team I asked about getting this phone. The guy I spoke to first tried putting me off it, saying how it broke a lot, I was told that about the N73 and had no problems there, so I shrugged them off. Then he told me it would cost as the phone wasn’t cheap to buy. Although I doubt Vodaphone pay the high street prices that we’d have to pay as individuals. Okay, I appreciate a small fee, despite paying them over £900 for the last 18 months contract. He offered me a 24 month contract at £30 a month (I currently pay £35) and the phone would cost me £80. 24 months is a bit longer than I’d want to sign up for, 18 months is long enough really, so I said I’d go think about it. I then tried phoning again and got someone else, who offered me the same contract that I was on and the N95 for £160. I asked why new customers got it for free and existing customers had to pay – ‘oh it’s because the phone is quite expensive to buy’. But hang on, a lot of these new customers would pay the same as I pay, get the phone for free and probably leave once their contract was up and go get the next free phone elsewhere. That didn’t make a difference, I couldn’t get the N95 without paying over £100. Note, I was never offered a 24 month contract second time around.

Then she asked me why I wanted it, which I replied for the wireless feature, GPS and decent camera. She offered me the E65 for free, with no changes to my contract. As I’m really not very good at arguing my point (I’m a wuss!) and the camera wasn’t so important (the E65 has a 2MP camera, no flash), I agreed, possibly because I figured there was no chance of getting the N95 and I was pretty tired and stressed with all the work I had on at the time.

Fast forward to last week, when Dave called about his upgrade. He’s also with Vodaphone, been on the same contract as I have for the last 18 months and has been with them for 3 years. He got a little further from the upgrades to the promotions department trying to get the N95 but they told him no, despite him threatening to leave and go elsewhere where he could get the phone for free. So he was all intent on moving elsewhere, then today he got a call from the upgrade team. He told them he’d already tried upgrading but was told he couldn’t get the phone he wanted so he was planning to leave. He told the person that he wanted the N95 and about 5 minutes he hung up saying he had the phone on its way, he’s got the first 2 months line rental at half price, his monthly minutes have been increased by 20%, he’s been given unlimited SMS messages, plus he has another feature which got taken away from me (kind of like unlimited landline calls, but not quite). He didn’t even have to argue much for the phone and the rest was just given to him on a plate.

Clearly my 6 years of customer history and over £6000 in bills means nothing to them, yet someone who’s been there just 3 years and paid out maybe £2000 in bills does. It’s nice to know how the companies you’re loyal to treat you in return. I had no change or improvements to my contract and the phone I got was a sideways move, not an improvement. I’ve lost features that the N73 had, and gained features. The N95 puts the features from both together.

So yes, it’s a big scam. It depends on who you speak to, whether they call you or you call them, and how much of a good mood they’re in no doubt. Being a long term, good paying customer means absolutely nothing to them I guess, and I’m sure the same goes on throughout the mobile phone industry. I think I may move my business elsewhere in 18 months, shame I can’t do it now.

13 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    It’s frustrating that you have to catch the right person at the right time to get a good deal. The N95 is a nice phone. My brother recently moved to o2 having been with Vodafone for years and got the N95 free on a £35 per month contract.

    Almost 2 years ago I’d set my sights on the o2 XDA Mini S. The price showed as ‘From Free to £29’ and at the time I was on a £20 per month online tariff. I called them up at upgrade time and was told that because I wasn’t a high user I’d have to pay around £300 for the handset! Naturally that wasn’t an option and I was asked if there were any alternatives, but the wi-fi and QWERTY keyboard was the selling point for me – no other phone like that was available at the time. I hung up then rang back later hoping to get someone more sympathetic to my needs 😛 This lady confirmed that only new customers would get that handset for free (nice!) so I suggested that I cancel my contract and start a new one. She didn’t like that idea as they like hanging on to their long term customers, so she did me a deal. She gave me the handset for £129 with a £14.99 per month tariff with hundreds of free calls and texts. I couldn’t ask for more than that, really, considering the handset was costly to begin with as it’s a PDA. I don’t quite know how I managed it as I’ve never been a good with haggling at all, but I think the key was to threaten to leave and find a better deal. You just have to hope they don’t call your bluff, of course.

    That 12 month contract ended last November so I called o2 to ask if I could stay on it. The girl said no, but that I could go onto their SIMplicity contract which has a 1 month duration for £15 per month, provided I keep my current handset. Wasn’t a problem for me as other than the iPhone (which cost too much to buy at the time) there wasn’t any other phone I was interested in. She said that if at anytime I wanted to upgrade to a new phone then they’d give me the same deals as a new customer, meaning a free handset. I guess that’s why I’ve stuck with o2 because of the good deals for new and old customers.

    It’s a shame you didn’t get the phone you wanted, though 🙁 That’s really frustrating, especially when an upgrade should mean an upgrade.

  2. Sarah says:

    Sam, sounds like you got a good deal. I can remember about 3 years back I was paying £50 a month for 400 minutes and 200 SMS messages, and noticed a better deal on the Vodaphone site for the same price but more minutes and SMS messages, so called about it. The guy’s reply was that I was out of contract so could upgrade and get a new phone without hassle.

    18 months ago I happened to phone up about the previous version of the N95 to see if it would be possible to get, just making enquiries. The girl told me I had to upgrade before my contract ran out and I couldn’t wait until after.

    I don’t get the logic to be honest, and sometimes I wonder if half of those you get actually know what they’re talking about. I guess the more experienced ones can do better deals whereas the first line telephone support are just told to say what they see and nothing else!

    It’s just frustrating. Sure the E65 is a reasonable phone, but the camera is rubbish so I won’t have any use for that at all. I’ve taken to carrying my compact around with me again. In fact the only thing better that the N73 is the wireless access and that’s it.

    As for the additional minutes and SMS’s Dave got given. It’s not that I need them, but it’s the principle. The 2 months half price (totaling £35) would have been nice though.

    I think I may consider o2 next time around.

  3. slee says:

    I know that with Orange if you have a high usage like you have you can almost have any phone you want. They love customers who spend the amounts you do and would do everything to keep you.

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve been with Orange before, trouble is the Vodaphone reception seems much better, at least where I’ve been and found trouble with Orange.

    Anyway, I’ve got about 16 months now so I’ll see what’s around in early 2010 (blimey that sounds a long time away!) and take it from there.

  5. Michael says:

    Bad luck Sarah. Bit late to suggest this now, but I’ve had more success going direct into the phone providers shop and “having a debate” with them in there. Last time I went in with my missus to get a new contract phone for her and we ended up with the phone she wanted, on the required contract, along with a free bluetooth headset and amusingly they gave us 20 quid out of the till!

    Only problem with this approach is that you need to put at least an hour aside to go through the various deals they’ll invariably offer and play hardball with them…

  6. marsha says:

    Sometimes if you go to a dealer rather than direct to the network you’ll find you’ll get a better deal. We are a dealer that try to do anything to keep our business customers happy. We have a free phone number 08000938971 which means you call us free and we will do free quotes for you on all of the networks. Come to us next time.

  7. Sarah says:

    Michael – it sounds like a plan but I certainly didn’t have the time at the time of upgrading this year, else I’d have probably argued my point over the phone.

    Marsha – I’m not a fan of dealers, mainly because they’re more likely to go out of business. I signed my Mum up through a dealer and it changed hands twice before she finally tried to update something and ended up going to Vodaphone direct who told her the old dealer had gone bust over a year ago. Sometimes it’s just less hassle sticking with the main provider.

  8. marsha says:

    Sorry to hear that about the dealer going out of business. There are some reputable ones about. We have been going since 1991 and won business dealer of the year last year.

  9. Sarah says:

    Hi Marsha, well it’s good to know. I may give you a shout in 2010!

  10. Joe says:

    By the way, you can cancel your contract within 30 days of signing with Vodafone! Also, you are able to obtain a free N95 with a good contract with any other network depending on your criteria.

  11. Sarah says:

    Hi Joe, it’s a 14 day cooling off period when you renew, and it was 2 months ago, so the option isn’t an option sadly else I would have 🙂

    And yes, you can get a free N95 with other networks, Vodaphone included. That’s the argument here. I’d rather not leave Vodaphone, however after the way they’ve treated me as a customer, I will be when the contract is over.

  12. Andrew says:

    Came across this blog while searching for renewal tips. I’m with Vodafone as well, and probably spent over £2000 in the last 3 years, so more on par with Dave’s spending/usage than yours.

    The “threatening to leave” tactic DOES work, not just with vodafone, but pretty much ANY service provider, whether it’s a phone network, or your Sky TV, etc.

    I think it depends how you do it, maybe you need to have a viable “plan b” and mention it to them, to prove you’re serious, e.g. I phoned Sky once and told them I was leaving because I didn’t t watch the TV due to a) too many women in the household watching soaps and b) nothing on at the time I would be able to watch things, so I was essentially only using the broadband service which I could get a lot cheaper elsewhere.

    This was obviously a loaded statement and a bit of a lie, but I knew they would counter my threats to leave with an offer of a sky+ box. Lo and behold, they gave me a free box along with a reduced installation, and a much reduced waiting time to get it installed (e.g. 3 days later).

    Apparently you can probably get away with the “I’m leaving” story every 12/18 months, and get improved deals. 🙂

    But onto Vodafone – I had a data plan with them that at the time I thought was reasonable, but due to financial reasons I got rid of the service. Soon after, I started getting text messages from vodafone offering me ever increasingly better deals on a data plan, until eventually I think they were offering unlimited use at the same price I had been paying for just 120mb of usage. If I actually had the money I would have signed up for that 🙂

    So, I’m due a renewal, and I want a phone that has GPS, and unlimited data plans and a good deal on text messaging. iPhone 3G looks like a good option, but that’s on O2. So this is the planned course of action. I’m going to do this while sitting at a computer so I can compare online deals and check reviews at the same time. 🙂

    1) Phone VF near the end of the month (sales targets might need to be met, meaning deals will be more forthcoming), tell them I am thinking of leaving as I like the look of the iPhone, which they don’t have. A similar type of phone would be the Nokia 5800, but there might be others they might suggest. Listen to their first offer, as they will undoubtedly try. I won’t force it any lower, I’ll just say I’m considering it.

    2) Phone O2, tell them I’m thinking of leaving VF, as I like the look of the iPhone, but that VF have offered me a deal to stay. Basically I am hoping they will give me a slightly improved deal than advertised. I don’t expect it to be a massive improvement as new customers get good deals anyway, but it’s not that important. I will take the name of the person offering it, and tell them I will phone back once I’ve got my PAC code from VF and my existing contract with VF has expired.

    3) Phone up VF again and tell them the offer I’ve received on the O2, and see what new deal they can offer. Whatever the offer is they can probably do better, so I will take the details down and the name of the person offering it, but will end the call by telling them I’ll think about it, but that I will probably let my contract expire and then get the PAC code from them then.

    4) Wait for the contract to expire, if they’ve not phoned back with an improved deal by then, phone them up (again, near the end of the month), request the PAC code, get it, hang up.

    5) I’ve been told there is a period of time in which the PAC code can effectively be cancelled on the new provider, meaning it still stays with Vodafone. Usually within a few days Vodafone will call you, essentially begging you to come back with an improved deal. At this point there’s not much more you can do to get a better offer so you might as well take it.

    But, if they don’t, Plan B is the iPhone which still looks like a decent compromise 😀

    Do you think this tactic will work? 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Andrew, if you’ve got the time I’m sure it could work. Trouble is it’s a lot of time phoning back and forth. I just don’t agree with the way they work, but I’ve only got 12 months left to go now before I can move on 😉