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Asda Mobile’s switch to EE ‘disastrous’ for customers

Friday, January 17th 2014 by Hannah Langston

Asda Mobile customers have been hit by serious technical problems and unclear advice from the supermarket following its move to EE’s network.

The supermarket mobile service previously used the Vodafone network to carry its calls, data and texts but announced in September that it was moving to EE. The switch began on October 28 2013, requiring customers to order new SIM cards.

Users have reported a range of problems, including loss of coverage, being unable to unlock their phones after inserting new SIM cards, long delays in their numbers being moved to the new network and poor access to mobile internet. Asda also told customers they should use up any remaining credit before the move, advice the company later reversed.

The supermarket has been forced to apologise for the extent of the problems, which have also brought criticism from government regulator Ofcom.

One user called the customer service “disastrous”, with another describing being “shunted from pillar to post” when seeking help from the provider.

Before the switch took effect, Asda Mobile announced on its website "we aren't able to transfer any credit, so we'd suggest you run down your current credit before joining us on the new network."

After a number of customers followed this advice, the supermarket giant admitted its statement was not clear enough.

The company went back on its original advice, updating its website to say customers with credit remaining on April 30th 2014 would be provided with either a voucher for the new network or an Asda gift card.

This confusion was compounded by the fact that some customers needed to unlock their existing handset so it could accept a new SIM card.

Russ Hedges, an Asda Mobile customer since 2011, waited eight weeks for a new SIM to arrive for his Nokia C1-01. He has since discovered that the handset, which was purchased from Asda Mobile, could cost £30 for an external company to unlock so it can work with his new SIM.

Asda has offered him a replacement phone but, like other customers, Mr Hedges is concerned the handset he’s been offered is inferior to his original device: “I tried phoning today and got shunted from pillar to post.

“£5 phones are the only handsets they’re offering. They told me to ring head office but the phone went dead on the number they gave me."

Loss of mobile coverage

Kathy Tyrrell from Somerset suffered such a loss of coverage with the new network that she is now looking to switch provider: “I get no signal at all now unless I walk out the front door to the bottom of the drive.”

Julia Edwards from Bournemouth was left without mobile internet access for four weeks, despite several attempts to resolve the problem on the phone and in her local branch.

Users have also reported delays in their numbers being transferred, including long-time customer William Davice from Leicestershire, who said: “The customer service is disastrous. Asda have let down their existing customers.”

Telecommunications industry regulator Ofcom said it was “very concerned” to hear about the problems and inconvenience experienced by some Asda Mobile customers.

An Ofcom spokesperson told Cable.co.uk: “We have contacted Asda to ensure that robust measures are in place so that the transfer process works effectively and consumers are migrated without difficulty or undue delay.”

A spokesperson for Asda Mobile told Cable.co.uk: “The vast majority of our customers have had a seamless transition from the old network to the new Asda Mobile network on EE.

“Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of customers transferring to take advantage of the new service, there have been a few technical anomalies.

“This meant some people didn’t have an experience which meets our usual high standards, and we apologise to those customers for any inconvenience caused.”

When asked about the unlocking of handsets, the spokesperson added that “customers with an existing phone, bought from Asda for the Asda Mobile network, can get a free unlocking code from us – it won’t cost them anything to unlock their phone from the old Asda Mobile network to the new one.”

Despite the apology, Asda Mobile may find it has to compensate customers who have been inconvenienced.

Speaking exclusively to Cable.co.uk, the Ofcom spokesperson said: “We will also be discussing the need for appropriate customer redress with Asda where the transfer process has not worked as it should.

“If customers are dissatisfied they should complain to Asda Mobile customer services and follow its normal complaints procedure.

“If they haven’t reached a resolution with Asda Mobile after eight weeks (or earlier if a stalemate is reached), consumers have the right to take their case to an Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme. Consumers can also register their complaint with Ofcom.”

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