I recently took out a contract with O2 having escaped Carphone Warehouse/iD Mobile. Given that O2 was a household name and the second biggest mobile network operator in the UK, I thought everything would be straightforward. Unfortunately it’s been an absolute nightmare from day 1.
The sign up process is totally misleading. When you’re applying for the contract and you’ve selected store pickup, you’re told that the handset is available to pick up in-store and given a deadline by which you have to finish the process to ensure next day delivery. I signed up hours before this deadline and received a message to tell me that the process could take 48 hours.
I wondered if maybe someone had completed the process before me and pipped me to the post. I went back to the start of the process and received the same warning – if I buy in the next hour, they would have stock waiting for me in the shop the very next day.
I completed the sign up process out of hours so I had to wait until the next day to phone O2 sales. The lady that I spoke to was lovely and said “The online system does that. If you’d spoken to us, we could have pushed it through.” If that’s the case, why does O2’s online sign up promise that stock is available? It took a couple of days to receive the text that the handset was ready to pick up. As it happened, the stock wasn’t actually available in-store, it had to be sent by Royal Mail. I might as well have had it delivered to my home address.
I arranged to pick the handset up from O2’s Chester Eastgate store. When I got there, I found three members of staff with customers already and it was very obvious that they were understaffed. One of the men who worked there shouted over abruptly “40 minute wait, pal”. I told him that I just needed to pick up a handset that had been delivered and he said “Yes, 40 minute wait.” No apology for the wait either.
I said that I wouldn’t bother then as the email from O2 said that if I didn’t collect the phone within 7 days then my contract would be cancelled and the phone would be returned. At this point he sighed, stood up and went into the back to get the phone. After scanning it through the computer and confirming my postcode, the Royal Mail packet was unceremoniously chucked at me and he went back to his previous customer. I actually wanted to buy a case and some other accessories and ask about insurance but he obviously didn’t have time for any of that.
I live on the outskirts of Mold in Flintshire. When I checked O2’s Network Coverage Checker, I was told that I could expect “Good 4G indoors and outdoors.” I checked for network issues in the area and was told that there were none.
I soon realised that this wasn’t true – calls were garbled and dropped out regularly. When I left the house and disconnected from WiFi, my phone would have no data service whatsoever. Sometimes, restarting the phone would result in me having extremely slow 3G service for a time.
Last week, I had an E-Mail to ask me for my experience as an O2 customer. Given that I’ve had a couple of months of extremely patchy service, I replied honestly and described the poor reception that I had experienced. I received an E-Mail back from Cody at O2 customer services:
Are you able to confirm your postcode, so I can look into the network in the area please?
I’ve looked into the postcode on your account, which is CH7 XXX and it shows this is due to a busy area. This means you may have decreased data, calls or text services. I’m sorry this is happening but we do advise within our Terms and Conditions we’re not a fault free network.
Given the complexities of operating a mobile network, we can’t guarantee service at all times, especially in city centres. This is because coverage can be affected by buildings, congestion on the network and other environmental factors. If the issue is geographical we’ll look at any changes we can make to the network in future, however, I can’t promise this would be immediate as this can be out of our control.
I appreciate how frustrating it is not being able to your services. So I would like to help with some tips on how to improve your services.
- Toggling down on the network will help as the capacity issue is on the 4G network.
- Using Wi-Fi calling to help make and receive calls, so you can keep in contact with people and won’t miss any important calls.
- Using O2 W-Fi when you’re out and about. This will help to use your services outside of your home.
- Resetting your network settings. Your phone should connect to the closest available cell site, your service may still be intermittent but it could improve your current services. Please keep in mind that resetting your network settings will remove any saved Wi-Fi passwords, so you may need to enter these again.
You can also download the My Network app which will keep you up to date with any changes.
I replied to Cody pointing out that I wasn’t expecting a fault free service, I just wanted a decent level of service some of the time. WiFi calling is great but I have to be near the router to make or receive calls. If I left the house, it would take around 5-10 minutes of driving before I’d be able to make or receive a call or be able to use 4G. Also, we’re not in the middle of a busy city centre, we’re on the outskirts of a town where their network coverage checker says I should be able to get a good 4G signal indoors and outdoors.
I finished my E-Mail by asking how long it would take for O2 to deliver the service that they had agreed to when I had signed up.
I checked the O2 network status page for my home address and found that they had now added on a message that hadn’t been present when I had signed up:
“Our Network can get busy in this area. This means your data could be slower than normal. We’re sorry about that. Our team is aware and working to make it better. Our top tips for staying connected would be to find local Wifi hotspots and download whatever content you need whilst connected to Wifi, so you can still enjoy it on the move.” Again, pointing me towards WiFi when I am actually paying each month for a mobile service.
Cody’s response the next day was puzzling:
Thanks for your reply.
Unfortunately, I’m unable to say when this will resume. I’m sorry about this.
On this occasion, as a one off due it being outside of our process, I can arrange for the device to be returned back to us and the contract to be cancelled.
I’ve sent a returns jiffy back out to you.
If you wish to return the device, this would need to be done through the Post Office and you would also need to get proof of postage.
The contract will be cancelled once the device has been received back to us.
I am sorry for the network issue you’re experiencing.
It seems that it’s easier for O2 to just bin me off as a customer rather than to provide a decent level of service in my area. Rather than reply to Cody, I’ve forwarded my E-Mail to O2’s chief executive, Lutz Schüler and asked them to consider my E-Mail a formal complaint. If you would like to E-Mail Mr Schüler too then you can find his E-Mail address over on CEOEmail.com.
When I’ve Googled around the web for people experiencing the same issues, I’m finding that it’s happening more often in 2022. Virgin Media acquired O2 and started to move Virgin Mobile customers over to the O2 network in mid-2022. It’s feasible that moving thousands of Virgin Mobile customers from EE on to the O2 network is causing capacity issues. A month ago, a Virgin Mobile user complained of experiencing slow speeds after he was pushed on to the O2 network.
It looks like my time with O2 is over and I need to look to move to a better operator. This will come at cost and inconvenience to me so I’m hopeful that O2 will compensate me for this. If they won’t then I’ll be taking the complaint to the ombudsman and resolving it in that way. I’ll update this post when I hear back.