Mobile telephony: the unacceptable face of capitalism

Clearly the mobile telecoms industry has decided it has no corporate brand or integrity of any value whatever and thus there is no mileage in showing any regard or respect for its customers.

I started writing this as a comment to David Berlind's post today about his experiences using, or more accurately, failing to use the T-Mobile hotspot at SFO. But it quickly became evident to me how much of an open sore surround my feelings on this issue, that I felt the mobile telecoms industry deserved a full-blown response to fully expose its collective greed and irresponsible disregard for the customer.

As someone who usually visits the USThe mobile network industry's integrity and corporate responsibility is on a par with Wild West sellers of snake oil for a week at a time and falls into the gap between T-Mobile's pay-monthly hotspot subscription (only useful if you're US resident) and its $9.99-a-day passes, I sympathize completely with David's predicament. Why can't T-Mobile offer a one-week hotspot pass? Or a one-month pass? Because it knows its users have no choice, and it has no ethics.

But given the huge margins it must be making on those $9.99-a-day passes, I had assumed that at least the customer support would be reasonable. Now I see that T-Mobile simply sees its customers as cash cows to be harvested and slaughtered. The damage this kind of behavior does to corporate brand is incalculable and I cannot understand why the mobile phone industry persists in doing this kind of thing. Clearly the industry as a whole has decided it has no corporate brand or integrity of any value whatever and thus there is no mileage in showing any regard or respect for its customers.

Recently, my cellphone was stolen and I embarked on a nightmare journey of discovery as I investigated the options available under my cellphone insurance and mobile contract. I found that the insurance had been effectively worthless for the past two years. I found that I had been paying over the odds for my cellphone contract for probably four or five years. I found that mobile phone contract pricing is structured so as to be totally lacking in transparency. I found that the only way to discover my upgrade options was to initiate a transfer to a new provider (simply asking without making the threat of changing elicits less worthwhile options). I wasted approximately an entire day of valuable working time investigating all of this.

This is on top of my experience as a subscriber (not of T-Mobile in my case, but of UK network Orange, which after a recent acquisition is now part of France Telecom). For example that I get charged for receiving unsolicited marketing text messages. That my mobile network provider is quite happy for its 'resellers' to phone me up pretending to be the network provider and saying things like, 'We'd like to offer you a new phone, is that OK?' without disclosing that if I accept I'll be signing up to a new one-year contract and the phone they'll send me won't even have features that are essential for my work because they haven't bothered to ask about my needs. A responsible provider would police this kind of behavior and make sure that it did not jeopardize its brand image. But we are not talking about a responsible industry here.

All of this demonstrates that the mobile network industry is one whose integrity and corporate responsibility is on a par with Wild West sellers of snake oil, and yet which in some parallel universe of its own imagining manages to delude itself that it excels in customer relationship management. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mobile telecoms industry is a disgrace to capitalism.

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