My T-Mobile tale of woe

26 June 2013

When my three-year-old daughter accidentally dropped my iPhone on the ground, shattering its screen in the process, I was devastated.

Not because of the cost involved – I’d not upgraded for close to three years and had saved the best part of £200 by being on a Sim-only deal for a year, so I was prepared to spend the cash.

No. As I picked up my broken phone, I winced in the knowledge that I would once again have to endure the pain of sourcing and buying a new mobile phone on contract. But even I wasn’t prepared for the Kafkaesque nightmare that ensued, thanks mainly to T-Mobile and Carphone Warehouse (CW).

I started off by comparing mobile phone deals on This part was easy – my wife had done the same only a couple of weeks before and had chosen a good deal with T-Mobile, via Carphone Warehouse. Her purchase had gone smoothly and she was up and running with her new iPhone 5 within days.

This was not my experience.

I selected the same deal my wife had, inputted my details, received an acknowledgement from Carphone Warehouse and waited for my new phone to arrive. A day or so later, I received an email claiming there was a problem with my order.

According to CW, I was already a T-Mobile customer. It suggested I ring T-Mobile to sort it out. Perplexed, I set about contacting the firm, safe in the knowledge that I have never been a T-Mobile customer.

I was surprised to hear a T-Mobile call centre person tell me I did indeed have an account with the firm. I suggested this might be my wife’s account – after all we share the same surname and address. T-Mobile initially said I should go back to Carphone Warehouse to sort it out but then it attempted to look into the problem further, only to cut me off – frustrating given it had taken me 20 minutes to get through in the first place.

I tried visiting a Carphone Warehouse branch. A helpful lady looked into it for me. She said that Carphone Warehouse had, indeed, mixed my wife’s details with mine. She attempted to over-ride this, but the store’s own security software kicked in and barred me from making a purchase. I was told that I could try again in seven days, when this mysterious security block would be lifted.

I asked whether there was an issue with Carphone Warehouse’s computer systems, meaning that no-one co-habiting could purchase the same deal. I did not receive a satisfactory answer.

I then tried Phones4u, to get the same T-Mobile deal. Once again, the order did not go through because there was a problem. I didn’t bother to find out why, suspecting that T-Mobile must have confused my details in the same way CW had.

In frustration, I tweeted T-Mobile, which suggested I order direct through them. The problem was that T-Mobile didn’t offer as good a deal as I could have got via the likes of CW or Phones4U.

In the end, I did order the phone direct from T-Mobile and, remarkably, it went through OK (not withstanding the fact that I specifically ordered it to come to my office and, of course, it got delivered to home).

Why it eventually worked I have no idea, I was just happy to use a phone that didn’t have a broken screen and I still feel that I got a half-decent deal. Moreover, the signal and uninterrupted service to date has been very good.

Nevertheless, I had to endure a miserable fortnight of fruitless calls and visits to shops. What's more, over two years I will end up paying £30 more than I needed to – thanks to the incompetence of a mobile phone company and its third party sales providers.

Anyone else got a mobile phone-related tale of woe?