Friday, 2 November 2012

Goodbye Three, Hello GiffGaff

I've been with Three for over three years. Initially they were a breath of fresh air, but over the last year I've got more and more frustrated with them. My first annoyance was when, perfectly legally but completely unapologetically, they changed my monthly payment amount mid contract. They then upped their sales efforts, ringing to try to sell me extra mobile phones or other devices. One day I had two calls within an hour trying to sell me an iPad. Finally, I reached the end of my twenty-four month contract to find that the upgrade offerings for new handsets were identical to those offered to new customers. So much for rewarding loyalty. I only found this by looking on the website, no-one rang to offer me a new phone. I decided that it was time to look at other deals.

I'd happened across GiffGaff as one of my Facebook friends raves about them. GiffGaff is a virtual network which uses the O2 network, and differs from conventional operators by involving customers in sales, customer service and marketing, for which they are rewarded. I looked into what they offered and for £10 a month I'd get unlimited texts, unlimited internet (albeit that's reducing to 1GB next month) and 250 minutes of calls. I looked back at my usage and it more than met my needs. It seemed mad not to give it a go, I could have myself more than £20 a month on what I was currently paying and free myself from Three's tactics into the bargain. I ordered a sim card from the GiffGaff website, using my friend's referral code which meant that she'd earn some payback cash, and I'd get £5 credit on my account.

I knew the next bit wouldn't be easy. My iPhone was locked to Three, so I needed to get it unlocked and get a PAC code to transfer my number to GiffGaff. Although there are other methods, I decided to get my phone unlocked by Three, as it seemed like the easiest way. I called Three on a Saturday morning and started by selecting the relevant options on the phone system to get my phone unlocked. This was relatively straight-forward, although the call centre was clearly a long way away judging by the quality of the line, and the operator spoke very quietly, so I did struggle a little. They started by taking my credit card details so they could charge me the princely sum of £15.32 for unlocking and took my IMEI number. After putting me on hold for what seemed like an eternity, they advised that I'd receive a text in a couple of days to let me know it had gone through. I should then put a non-Three sim card in my phone, connect it to iTunes and it would be unlocked. Next, I selected the options to be put through to the relevant department to cancel my contract and request my PAC code. The operator, whilst very pleasant, had clearly been told not to release any customer without a fight. I gave them my list of grudges, which they seemed to note down, but ironically, still tried to push their £6 a month sim only deal. I kept reiterating that I wanted to cancel my contract and be provided with my PAC code. After 45 minutes on the phone, including again some unexplained time on hold, they conceded and told me I would receive it in 24 to 48 hours. The whole process was unnecessarily drawn out and painful. If I'd been unsure before about the decision to leave Three, this would have swung it for me.

Suffice it to say that I didn't receive my PAC code within 24 to 48 hours. On the Tuesday I decided to look into this and found out that Ofcom regulations state that this should be provided immediately over the phone, or by text within 2 hours. Clearly the operator didn't know what she was talking about. I filed a complaint online and contacted customer support through Twitter. Whilst I received an acknowledgement of my complaint seven days later, customer support did get the PAC code for me. I shouldn't have had to have chased it up, and the whole experience was completely unsatisfactory. The only good news was that on the same day I received the text to tell me that my unlocking request had been received. I was on the way to leaving Three.

I was so fed up with Three that I decided to transfer my number sooner rather than later, so I could wash my hands of them. I inserted my new GiffGaff sim card into the phone and connected it to iTunes. The phone connected, but came up with a message telling me that it wasn't registered. The next step was to go into the GiffGaff website and set up my account. This was very straight forward and only took a couple of minutes. I had to buy a goodybag for my phone, but once that had registered, the phone was good to go. I submitted my PAC code and request to transfer my number, which again was very straight forward. There are various warnings about backing up your phone, but with the iPhone everything seems to be stored on the phone rather than the sim, so I didn't take any further precautions.

Today was my number porting day. When I got up, neither the existing number nor the number I'd be porting in were in use when I called them, so I put my GiffGaff sim card in and turned the phone off. At about 11am I went into my account on the GiffGaff website, which showed my new phone number. I turned on the phone and sure enough, the number transfer was complete. To update the settings from Three to GiffGaff, I had to text the word 'settings' to 2020 which imported the internet settings. In doing this, the phone had been kicked of our wireless network, so I had to fiddle to get it recognised again by the router. The next step was to set a new voicemail greeting and turn on the option so that I would get a text to let me know whenever I had voicemail. Again, this was all very straight forward. My only annoyance so far was that whenever I sent a text or made a call, I'd get a message pop up immediately afterwards to tell me what my remaining credit balance was. A quick search on Google revealed that I could turn this off through the website, which I did. The only settings which I had to input manually were the MMS settings, but that only took a couple of minutes. Finally, as I use my phone regularly and don't want the hassle of topping it up, I set the option for recurring goodybags, so every month I will be charged £10 and another goodybag added to my account.

So far, the process has been entirely trouble-free and I've certainly not lost any sleep over moving from Three. I've already had one text from them today, asking me to let them know if I don't want to transfer my number. I'm afraid, Three, that it's too late. I've already gone.

If you'd like to give GiffGaff a go and get £5 credited to your account (and earn me a little payback), please click on the referral link below.

Get a free giffgaff Sim

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