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The Future’s Grim – the Future’s Orange

For those who’ve been fortunate enough not to have to call Orange customer services – presumably you still have faith in your fellow men (and women). May you stay hopeful.

This latest episide with Orange is of particular embarrassment – as you’ll see if you read by original blogs on this subject. I had IMMENSE difficulties with Orange some months ago – mainly due to their incredibly under-trained Indian call centres. I resolved the problem after talking (eventually) to the UK people – and the service has worked fine. To explain this is the LIVEBOX service. If you have an Orange mobile and pay them £5 a month extra, they’ll provide you with “unlimited” broadband at up to 8 meg – and the LIVEBOX unit also has a VOIP service attached which gives you unlimited calls on a new telephone number (you just plug a phone into the unit and hey-presto). I’ll clarify that before you get excited – it WAS a fiver. Read on.

The service worked so well after major initial teething problems that when local friends in the village asked me for advice – I ended up recommending the Orange Livebox. It turns out they had a pay-as-you-go phone and were paying over the odds. I pointed out that as a new customer they’d get a phone for nothing out of Orange and save a little – but more importantly – by coughing up the £5 a month (penalty being you take an 18 month contract with Orange) you get the Livebox service – and calls to Orange mobiles are free (that’s the big one for me as my wife calls people who have Orange phones).

WELL – I should have known better. We arranged to pop over for a drink and I’d hook up the Orange unit for them. When we got there, a box had been shipped with a SIEMENS wifi unit.

To cut a very long story short (a story involving several phone calls, repeating the same information over and over again), the problem lies in Orange’s incapability of getting their act together when it comes to house broadband and mobile phones – there is some kind of internal divisioning and they can’t seem to pass information back and forth. So my friends had ended up with a £12 a month service – with no free VOIP facility – totally defeating the point of signing up to monthly contract with an Orange mobile phone.

Several conversations with people with very poor English capability later, the parting shot from the Call Centre was “oh, no we don’t offer that service any more – the £5 a month service is no longer available”. Turns out that was right, but I did manage to secure the £5 just by pointing out to the UK CALL CENTRE that it wasn’t that long ago that I was given this price.

I rang up the UK number that the lady in India gave me and I asked to be put through to the mobile division – they gave me the number 150 – and as I ALWAYS do, I pointed out that in our village there is no mobile signal – so I needed a landline number. Again, TOTALLY PREDICTABLY the answer was “so you don’t have a mobile phone???..” – they NEVER listen – at this point I was quite near to losing my temper but apparently it didn’t show. They gave me the wrong number the first time – on second attempt they gave me the right number…. the UK customer services replied (sigh of relief) and I related what had happened.

“Well, they’re wrong, the service IS available” said a polite UK operator who clearly knew what he was talking about – and proceeded to change the service over. We were told it would take 5 days. It did – and the neighbour is now up and running. BUT it turns out Orange HAVE scrapped the £5 a month – they now want £18 a month FOR THE SAME THING – I rang up and up to NOW they’ve confirmed that EXISTING customers will not have their rate changed – let’s see how long that lasts – NO WAY could I recommend this hassle at £18

Original Problem

Here is my original article finished around July 2007 – you may find it hard to believe a company can be THIS bad – but yes, it is possible. This is just the latest in a long line of complaints I’ve had against Orange over the years – a company that, when the first started out – were first class.

Sometime in June 2007 I found myself near homicide trying to get my Orange Livebox working. In a nutshell I had it installed a few months ago and all was fine, no problem. I didn’t really want to use the Orange Livebox, preferring to use one of my own VOIP routers – however it turns out that Orange won’t release the information to let you do this – and so I was stuck using their rather large and ugly Livebox. It has only one wired output, very limited range of control of wifi – but at least, it works or rather it did. After operating flawlessly for a few weeks, the VOIP phone suddenly stopped working. Nothing wrong with the phone, which worked when the Orange unit was switched off and indeed until the unit had been on for a minute and kicked over to VOIP….at which point it went totally dead.
Around £18.50 worth of support calls later (and of course no VOIP service – the only reason I bought the kit in the first place) I was nowhere, talking to Indian call-centre staff who CLEARLY did not understand the product they were supporting. I cannot tell you HOW MANY TIMES I gave them the same information over and over again – the second and fourth letter of my password – unfortunately, maybe due to culture differences, the irony of this went no-where. They ALWAYS ask for the second and 4th letters of your password – hence totally defeating the point of asking for 2 letters only! Then the MAC number of the machine – they wanted this stuff every time – and every time failed to understand the simple problem – I needed a replacement LIVEBOX!

After only my second call, they were going to ESCALATE this for me and would contact me – well of course that didn’t happen and when I DID ring back – they had no record of escalating the call! That’s fairly typical.

Now, consider all of this without a call centre half way around the world.. and perhaps with a skilled operator. I’d have spoken to them (I’m technically competent so can provide any information required) and the conclusion would very quickly have been reached that the Livebox was having problems. Within 2 days I could have had a replacement – be up and running – and this blog and others like it would have been SINGING THE PRAISES of Orange.
After 3 weeks of this I’d had enough – I obtained the right address for complaints – and wrote another letter – and CC’d it to Offcom.
Nothing – nothing from Orange – nothing from OFCOM.

A week later I sent another letter – THIS time I sent it via someone I know in Orange indirectly.

I received a call on Tuesday 10th July from the UK to apologise for the problems – and they’d sort me out. Again my MAC address and serial number were taken – even though it was all on record. Later on that day I was promised this would be sorted the next day – something about an external company being involved….. being a mug, I once again accepted ANOTHER excuse…. I pointed out that I’d be in until lunchtime.
Well, that didn’t happen but EVENTUALLY I was promised a replacement Livebox (the thing I’d been asking from day 1). Not only that but I was ALSO promised a refund of my costs…. NOW we’re getting somewhere!!!

Well, not quite – several days later, the Livebox turned up – and I plugged it in. Well, the VOIP now made the right noises (busy) – except that the service wasn’t hooked up – the admin screen confirmed this. I rang back Orange (now, thankfully with UK support) and amazingly was told that the service would need to be “discovered” and could take up to ANOTHER 10 days.

Lo and behold, a week later – the phone started to work.

But now, every call my wife makes – she complains that the people at the other end can’t hear what she’s saying!!!

Do I REALLY want to start another round of negotiations with Orange?

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