I had an interesting and salutary experience recently when travelling in Germany. I was using my Blackberry to read my emails, careful (I thought) to be connecting to WiFi in the airport, hotel and so forth.
When I got back to Jersey, I received a text message from my provider, Sure, alerting me that I had high mobile data usage. I was surprised, since I thought I’d been using WiFi almost all the time.
It seems that even when the little WiFi logo is showing on my phone, it may decide (according to Sure) that the connection is insufficiently stable and use GPRS instead.
When I challenged the bill, the only itemisation they were willing to provide showed dates & times of downloads during my stay. One of these — upon arrival in Munich and whilst I was still in the airport on WiFi — was for 500MB of data in a single transaction. I asked for more details and was told nothing further was available. Since I don’t watch movies on my Blackberry, it’s hard to imagine what that 500MB could possibly have been, notwithstanding that in any case I had been under the impression I was using WiFi not Data Roaming.
That really surprised me — in an era when all our electronic correspondence is in all likelihood being monitored by the security services, and when even our internet search history is being recorded, is my telecoms provider seriously claiming that they don’t know what IPs I connected to and/or what was being downloaded? I find that incredibly difficult to believe.
What makes it even more interesting is that effectively this means that Sure can just make up my bills — there is no challenge I can apparently make to these charges: as far as they are concerned, their word is law. Yet for fixed line telephony there have been numerous examples of customers being billed for calls that were never made, so what sanction do I have? I’m not even sure there’s a regulator in Jersey I can refer the matter to.
This little problem also revealed just how awful the Sure customer service ‘experience’ is: they were totally implacable throughout the process. Needless to say, we are taking our customer elsewhere.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn 1 November 2014