Strange, I thought. Maybe Orange have updated something in my services, so I did as they asked. I went to send a text a bit later, and it came back "sending failed." So I tried to phone my answerphone. "Calls from this number are barred"
I'm stood in the middle of Morrison's Car Park in Neath, and my phone has stopped working. I try to phone customer services, and after the extensive phone menu system of "press 1, press 2, type the third and fifth character of your password, turn around, touch the ground, pick a bale of cotton" I get told "Calls from this number are barred" again.
I get home an hour later, and immediately phone Orange from my landline. "Sorry Mr. Aitch, it's come up on the system as an unknown error and the bar will be removed immediately. It won't happen again." And it was removed, and everything was hunky dory.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, I got the ominous "Service Update" message again. I phoned Orange, and they told me it was for non-payment. The bill was a truly staggering 31 days old, and they'd cut me off. So I wrote to them...
I have been a long-serving customer of Orange, first joining them back in December 2002. In that time, I have paid each and every bill shortly after receiving it. I have never been cut off, and never had a black mark against my name. Before I go on, I need to explain something.
I have my own business, as a technical consultancy. One of the main things I do is contact people on behalf of my customers, and then when my bill is released, I show them the call or text in itemisation and invoice them for that amount. Now I'm sure you know that in the UK the law states that you have 28 days to pay for any outstanding invoice, and in today's financial climate, I can assure you that most companies wait until that very last day. I then get paid a business cheque, which again with thanks to the banking system takes a further 3 days to clear. I would then pay the bill. I might, in the meantime, get a message when making a call, “Sorry to interrupt your call, but there is an outstanding amount on your account.” This might be a little inconvenient, because I have to hang up and try again, but it’s nothing compared to what’s now happening.
Last month I got cut off. Without warning, my phone had a message saying my services had been changed. When I tried to phone anyone, I get a message “Calls from this number have been barred.” I also couldn’t text anyone. I tried to phone Customer Services, and after spending over a minute going through your menu system, I was then told the same message. And so, when I got home, some two hours later, I phoned Orange and they said that my number had been barred for a “non-specific” reason and they’d remove the bar immediately, which they did.
Yesterday, it happened again. This time I was already at home, and phoning them they told me I had a bill outstanding. The bill was a truly staggering 31 days old. The money to pay is in my account, but it hasn’t cleared yet, so I cannot pay the bill until the weekend. Fortunately the debt collections team accepted my problem, and I was allowed to make a part payment to remove the bar. After I spoke to the delightful gentleman, I then phoned up to complain. I couldn’t find an option in your menus for customer services, so I spoke to an even more delightful young lady in Cancellations, who not only agreed with my quandary, but as a good will gesture offered me double minutes, unlimited internet and a new phone. Sweetened as I have been, I said I would write to someone instead.
My problem is this. I cannot and will not be able to pay my bills within 28 days. My bills can be as high as over £100, or as low as £15 a month. I can cover the lower bills, but as a small business the higher bills are going to take payment that is just set aside for another bill that is more pressing. To be told that “this is how it’s always done it” just isn’t true, because as I described earlier, it’s only the last 2 months that this has started to happen. If it continues though, I think that it’ll be a breach of contract on your part, leading me to cancel under no uncertain terms and move to someone who is able to take payment within 5 weeks. I would also like to hasten to add that Orange have been a service provider of the highest quality, and as such this is not preferential for me to look elsewhere.
I'm still waiting for a response. I think the point is clear, and hope they do something about it. This then reminded me of the most excellent letter of complaint to NTL a few years ago, so I thought I'd look it up. Whilst googling it, I also came across an equally entertaining letter to a certain Mr. Branson (No Dad, not he of pickling fame) about the quality of food on a Virgin flight to India. The way this is worded is like a teacher giving a very small child a very strong telling off. It had me guffaw a couple of times.
In the meantime, I'll keep you posted as to what Orange say.