Monday, 16 July 2007

Buyer Beware - Orange Make Lemons

Those nice people at Orange have made a complete and utter lemon of me - and if you're not careful, it could happen to you!

Sometimes I think I'm on an entirely different planet to everyone else - hence Confused+Emotional. Take my mobile phone package, for example.

A long long time ago, in a distant galaxy, I chose Orange here in the UK because they offered the Palm Treo 600 - and taking a phone contract with Orange was a good way to spend less getting the Treo.

The package I had no choice over gave me 120 minutes of free calls to anything (UK) a month, 250 SMS, oh, and 120 minutes of WAP access - remember this is all on the phone they bundled under the contract.

I remember sitting there wondering what WAP actually represented to me, on a Treo 600 with its 'Blazer' web browser. If I called Orange, they'd happily explain that every phone on Orange accessed WAP. If I stated that I had a Treo 600, they'd simply reply, 'oh sir, I don't know that one - but all our phones have WAP'. So I browsed. And got a bill. Foolishly, I had 'forgotten' to use my WAP, and incurred data charges instead. I phoned my friends at Orange. After what must have been half an hour being told what I already knew (an Orange 'policy' or so it seems), I asked them to explain why they'd given me WAP in my package, and a phone without WAP, and asked if I could have that component of my monthly charge refunded - seeing as I could explain to them they'd failed to give me the equipment necessary to access the service they had provided. 'Oh it's free sir, you're not paying anything for it' - hmmm, I'll live with it, just as long as they NEVER assume I don't understand their game. I'm waiting to read on my next statement that I have completely free call access on planet mars - 'never pay a penny' or similar.

Anyway, in order to have a WAP-like experience of Internet access on my phone, I pay for something Orange bill me for - Standard Orange World Access 3 - 3 MB of Internet access for £3.40. The problem is, go over the 3MB, and it starts costing near on £2 per MB, uncapped. Oh, and of course, Palm don't build any kind of useage logging functionality into the Treos. I experimented with every 3rd party application under the sun, none of them seemed stable or reliable enough to give me a true indication of what I was doing. The result? I hardly used 0.1 of my 3 MB, 'just in case'.

Then I get my TomTom Navigator 5 GPS package, and just have to deploy the frankly disappointing Traffic live update system. I have no idea how much data is involved. I look again at my Orange World Access package. I see that for £8 I can have 10MB of access (Orange's bills suggest this should give me access to 200 web pages per month). Of course, I'm still cautious - I probably use no more than 0.8 of my 8MB package, 'just in case'.

Wind forward until a month or so ago. I'm still with Orange, now with a Treo 650 they sold me - still lacking in WAP functionality that means I'm squandering 120 minutes of 'free' access each month. Orange make an announcement. Murray over at Palm-Mac carries the story here.
Flat rate browsing packages, including an 'unlimited' plan for £8 - which is the same as I'm paying for a 10MB package! Firstly, Orange define 'unlimited' - you'll love this - as limited to 30 MB! But hey, that's 3 times the data for not a penny more than I was already paying. I await the day of introduction in June, call Orange, and speak to some complete 'twit' (or so I thought at the time), who explains that while the other limited packages do allow unrestricted browsing, the 'unlimited' package - you'll love this - is restricted to accessing only orange world portal website pages; click an external link, and you're paying extortionate data charges; yes there's news, but no freedom of the press - it's what Orange says, or nothing.
I thank the person I've identified as a twit, and ring off. Remember, this is day one of the new tariff - all I have to go on is press reports and an Orange press release. I look closely and there's some nonsense about unlimited Orange World access, and useage of the 30MB limit once browsing 'off world'.

I phone those nice people at Orange again and speak to a nice Orange person. I am, of course, right, the first person was wrong. I will get 30MB to do with as I please for the same price as my existing 3MB 'Standard Orange World Access 3' package,, as well as unlimited access to Orange World pages. I'd be mad not to do so, so I prove I'm not mad.

A month passes. A new bill arrives. My package now includes something called 'OW 30MB Monthly Data Bundle' (no mention there of 'unlimited'). Err, it says here I have £4.35 + VAT data charges, on top of £8 +VAT for the data package, which I haven't used. Why? Because I was 'off world' and didn't live in Orange land - I went for the more expensive option of clicking on someone else's webpage! Just as the 'idiot' had first suggested.

Be warned. Orange rule the world. It's their world. Thou shalst not worship false worlds, lest thou pays a high price. There is only Orange World. And it's full of lemons


Anonymous said...

Only one suggestion - but it's a good one (I think).
Unlock you "Orange" Treo, get a T-Mobile contract and sign up to their Web'n'Walk package. This IS unlimited (providing you don't try to video stream etc - not that I'd know if they really monitor it - or how) and costs £7.50 a month+VAT.
I can browse all I like on my Treo 680 and it doesn't cost me a penny over that.


Confused + Emotional said...

Hiya! Thanks for the tip - Murray over at Palm-Mac has been on at me for ages to do this...

Of course I'm keeping an eye on what new Palm device I might get to bundle... which is keeping me in a holding pattern as the lack of the aerial wasn't enough to go from the 650 t the 680 - though I desperately need the internal memory! Plus, my 600 was a dog with fleas, I've got on quite well with the 650, and reports are variable as to the 680...

Now of course, I'm wondering if I should jump to O2 at Xmas and get me an iPhone (I know, I said I wouldn't, but I would you know!)... but even then only if I can get to the SIM to swap into the 650 if I so wish, and wait & see if Palm pull their finger out (which I currently doubt). Thing is, I get terrible o2 reception where I live! Grrrrrrr!
Thanks for the comment - I'll post when something changes!!