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TPO Mobile customers left with no phone service in 4G switching 'chaos'

Wednesday, August 24th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Hundreds of mobile customers being migrated to new 4G deals by their provider have been left without a phone service for weeks, Cable.co.uk has been told.

TPO Mobile, previously known as The People’s Operator, signed a contract with Three in November to use its network and launched a new 4G service last month. It had previously used the EE network.

TPO gave its 2G and 3G customers a simple choice – switch to a 4G plan or cancel your service.

But for many, the migration has gone far from smoothly, with some customers being forced to wait more than three weeks for their phone number to be transferred to a new SIM.

Customer service problems have only added to the frustration for those left unable receive calls and texts.

Customers have reported hour-long phone calls that are not answered, emails and Tweets being ignored and comments on TPO’s Facebook page being deleted.

Brendan Ratcliffe, a TPO customer from Derby, activated his new SIM at the end of July but had to wait 25 days before his number ported over.

In that time he spent more than 10 hours trying to speak to TPO, including hour-long, unanswered phone calls and online chats that got him nowhere.

He also missed a dentist appointment and a planned kitchen fitting was delayed because nobody could contact him.

'Absolute chaos'

“A mass migration of numbers hasn’t worked, it has been absolute chaos and TPO has failed to communicate with customers in order to reassure them.

“It has been an abject lesson in how not to [deal with this type of thing], they have simply buried their heads in the sand.

“We live in a communications age and this has been an omnishambles.”

Mr Ratcliffe said that when he finally did receive communication from TPO, the company claimed customers were partly to blame for the problems as many had failed to activate their new SIMs before the 27 July deadline.

He said in previous dealings with TPO he had found it to be a “strange company” and that its customer service operators were “sheepish, not confident”.

“They clearly work on a skeleton staff and I’m guessing it works ok as long as nothing goes wrong.”

He added that at times he feared he would lose his number forever and is now planning to switch providers.

Emma Louise Curry, from London, said the problems started for her when she lost her phone in July and ordered a replacement SIM from TPO.

“Once I had a new phone and tried the SIM in my phone, it didn’t work, nor did it work in any other phone,” she told Cable.co.uk.

'Angry emails'

“When I called TPO to ask for a new SIM to be sent out they told me they were unable to do so because they were moving over to the 4G network.”

TPO eventually sent Miss Curry a new, blank SIM and told her she would need to choose a new 4G tariff.

“So, when the new SIM arrived I activated it and asked them to port my old number over,” she said. “This is when the real problems began.

“I was told it would take 24 hours. It took two weeks. In which time the temporary number of the replacement SIM also became inactive, essentially making it impossible to contact me.

“I could not receive calls or texts and the network was so slow, I could only receive notifications for emails or apps if I opened the app and waited for it to load.

Miss Curry said she phoned TPO twice and was unable to speak to anyone despite waiting on hold for over an hour, while the provider’s online chat option was “nearly always off”.

After her number finally ported, Miss Curry had had enough and decided to leave TPO – but faced another battle to get a PAC code so she could take her number with her as she couldn’t get hold of TPO via phone, email, online chat or Twitter.

After another lengthy wait, Miss Curry did eventually get a PAC code – and after sending “angry emails every day” has been refunded £50 and told she won’t be charged for July.

“This was all over the course of 5 weeks and was the worst customer service experience I have ever had the displeasure to endure,” she added.

A number of customers have taken to social media to complain about the service from TPO.

Some questioned why Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who joined TPO in 2014 as co-chair of the board, had stayed quiet on the matter.

TPO has yet to formally acknowledge the problems being faced by its customers, although it has responded to some individuals to apologise for "the inconvenience and delay in getting back to you", saying the company is "experiencing a high volume of calls" and is doing its best to speak to everyone.

Cable.co.uk has approached TPO for comment.

UPDATE:

Mark Epstein, TPO's CEO, said: "Since launching 4G, there has been a significant demand from customers wanting to switch over and we have experienced an unusually high number of customer contacts. As a result, some customers have had to wait longer than usual to get through to an agent on the phone, we have alternative online contact options which are regularly repeated while waiting on the line.

"For 240 people their number transfer took significantly longer than usual, we endeavoured to keep these customers informed through regular communications.

"While customers had use of a temporary number, we understand the significant inconvenience caused by the delay and our team did all they can to resolve the delay as quickly as possible and we’re very sorry for disruption to their service. The issue has now been resolved for almost all that were affected."

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