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Old 16.12.2005, 13:41
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Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Okay this one might bring a few replies...

A few years ago I signed a phone contract with Orange. It was one of those contracts that was actually beneficial to the customer and I was most happy with it. It was actually for my wife but as she was new in Switzerland at the time and Swiss suspecting every new entry (see other threads...) she was not able to get her own contract!

About 3 years later my wife gave birth to our first child and was at home for most of the day. At this point she noticed that there was no reception where we lived Neerach... She rang Orange to find out what the problem was. Orange said there was definitely not a problem and it must be her phone! My wife not been one to accept something easily terminated the contract - a good method to get a discount on the monthly fee by the way assuming you have been a good customer for a few years.

Orange confirmed the termination effective in one year and one month as we had fallen foul of Mark's No. 1 complaint notice periods

So we carried on paying the monthly fee and arguing the legal basis for the charge. Excuses came such as there must be a crane nearby, the walls of your house are too thick. Someone nearby has a WLAN (what!), we have been and measured in Neerach and had a good signal - hello I smell something... and finally well anyway we don't guarantee you service everywhere.

Our contract was due to end with the normal (well actually one year and one month) three month notice period in August and it was now March. Seeing as they said they don't guarantee a service ie they admitted they were not delivering the service to our house, where we actually wanted it ,my wife refused to pay the next bill which arrived in April and the next which arrived in May. Orange threatened to cut off the SIM card within the next 10 days ie deactive the service which they were not delivering anyway... My wife told them in June that she did not care because they had not been delivering the service and had no intention of delivering the service to her so she had got a new contract and number with Swisscom who will deliver the service... Orange were not best pleased and did something quite evil!

In the small print of your mobile phone contract there are two clauses which are together very nasty. The first says that if you OR your mobile phone supplier terminate the contract early then you are liable to pay a fee of CHF XXX depending on the length of the contract ie 12 months CHF 300 and 24 month CHF 500. This on its own is actually quite reasonable in that you get a rebate on your phone and they are only asking for that money back if you don't see the contract through. The next part is not so nice. They have an automatic contract renewal clause in. This effectively creates the period again - ie if you terminate your contract early, even to a contract three years old then you are liable to this fee.

So the next bill came with a CHF 300 fine for early termination. I was not best pleased

My wife proceeded to pay the remainder of the outstanding bills as in her opinion Orange could successfully recover that, but point blank refused to pay the CHF 300

Orange said we had to pay and sent a reminder. My wife (btw she is a lawyer) wrote back and told them that this was not going to be paid. They then threatened to send this to an external recovery agency. My wife wrote back and said feel free the bill will not be paid.

Enter Intrum Justitia (www.intrum.com) who told us to pay the amount and added nicely CHF 100 plus interest plus postage CHF 500... They also provided contact details etc where you could contact them if you disputed the amount. My wife tried the phone number "beep beep beep this line is no longer in use" So we tried the fax same result and then sent a mail to their mail address. This went on for three or four months and the letters became recorded delivery (in both directions) until finally they sent a last letter before Betreibung.

At this point my wife suggested going immediately to court but no the Betreibung came and was rejected by my wife with a preference for the legal route. Some three weeks ago and two years after the contract termination date came a mail saying that they had decided not to persue this matter and would drop the case - probably a sensible decision...

So what can you learn:

1. Read the mobile phone contracts before changing your phone or alternatively cancel your contract effective in 12 or 24 months the day after signing it by recorded delivery.

2. Never tell your mobile company that you have decided to go to someone else while in dispute.

3. Be aware of companies such as Interum Justitia and their adding of charges based on OR 106 - yes they are entitled to reasonable expenses but generally this must be reasonable and adding CHF 100 from day one for one letter is not reasonable.

4. Be aware that despite what they claim Interum Justitia do not communicate and offer no opportunity to express your side of the story they simply process the claim until it reaches the end game when it is back to the company that started the process to decide - ie they waste everybodies time and money.

5. If you are right or think you are right get this confirmed legally... Otherwise pay it gets expensive quickly otherwise.

6. Think of the reputation of the company who is wanting the money. If you think the publicity surrounding your case would be damaging to them then hold out ie public sympathy would be in your favour.

7. Don't think that just because you are with Swisscom or Sunrise that they will act differently - you are just a number and they have a process which they will follow and that does not involve common sense until it gets to the court or no court decision.

8. I have incidentally had much better service from Swisscom and on cancelling their contract received an offer of an 18 month extension with a 12.50 discount meaning it was costing CHF 2.50 per month...

Richard
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Old 16.12.2005, 14:17
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Hi Richard,

Sounds like you got royally shafted on that one! I think we've all been stitched up at one time or another by these guys. For the last few years I've had a policy with mobile phones of cancelling them the day after I sign them. I just don't want this stupid date hanging around in my head - "oh I've got to remember to cancel my contract by the middle of October". Invariably you end up travelling or something comes up and bam - they have you for another year (or longer).

Personally I think these types of contracts should be outlawed. I can understand the justification where a subsidised handset is involved, but after this there can be no reason to impose the same situation on you again. A bit like a gym membership - if you stop going, and don't renew then why should they keep chasing you? I heard of someone who never went to Holmes Place for 5 years but kept forgetting to cancel in time and "just paying for 1 more year".

Interestingly enough when I first got here the phones didn't have automatic renewal, then one year it seemed to just slip into the contract, I had assumed I was signing the same contract each time but I wasn't!

I think the most disturbing part of your story is that service wasn't provided in the place where you live. When I worked in Australia (10 years ago) I started working in area where I had poor signal. Excellent I thought - now I can do an immediate cancellation of my contract, since if you don't have adequate coverage at your home or office they have to fix it or cancel your contract. I phoned and complained and a week later I had full strength. Ok - can't fault them for that!

But for a company like Orange to be able to legally charge you for a service that they don't provide to your home address (where you obviously spend most of your time) is a bit beyond the pale.

In the past I've had a lot of problems with Swisscom being totally inflexible to the point where I threatened to go to Sunrise - which I did. So far Sunrise have been ok - I always cancel and then renew my contract with a new handset, and at the moment my contract is in terminated state, but it continues to run month-to-month which is how this is supposed to be. I simply told them that I need time to decide on a new phone, and they didn't want to cut me off and lose my money.

Mark
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Old 16.12.2005, 14:35
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Quote:
Hi Richard,

Sounds like you got royally shafted on that one!
Well actually no this time I did not... I never paid and they never prosecuted.

Quote:
Personally I think these types of contracts should be outlawed. I can understand the justification where a subsidised handset is involved, but after this there can be no reason to impose the same situation on you again. A bit like a gym membership - if you stop going, and don't renew then why should they keep chasing you? I heard of someone who never went to Holmes Place for 5 years but kept forgetting to cancel in time and "just paying for 1 more year".
Well actually that was the point that my wife was of the opinion that it is not strictly legal and that is why Orange never persued it... The point here being that you cannot reasonably specify a minimum contract length and then have an automatic contract renewal upon expiry of this minimum contract length and then impose the minimum contract length again.

Quote:
I think the most disturbing part of your story is that service wasn't provided in the place where you live...

But for a company like Orange to be able to legally charge you for a service that they don't provide to your home address (where you obviously spend most of your time) is a bit beyond the pale.
This is also a questionable part of the contract and it is clear that none of the mobile providers want to have this tested. As long as they can make the Swiss believe they can get away with this then there is no problem...

Quote:

In the past I've had a lot of problems with Swisscom being totally inflexible to the point where I threatened to go to Sunrise - which I did.

Mark
Now let me make something clear I think Swisscom are overpriced and a pain in the A*** but as far as their mobile service is concerned they have the best coverage and have at least with me been very flexible. I admit that I was not best pleased when they charged me CHF 10 for not paying a CHF 2.50 bill with CHF 0.23(paid too much the month before) outstanding on time but other than that they have been very good...

Richard
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Old 06.01.2006, 19:35
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Quote:
For the last few years I've had a policy with mobile phones of cancelling them the day after I sign them. I just don't want this stupid date hanging around in my head - "oh I've got to remember to cancel my contract by the middle of October". Invariably you end up travelling or something comes up and bam - they have you for another year (or longer).
Does this apply to _all_ mobile phone contracts? I knew that there was a long cancellation period if you signed up for a long-term abo to give you a discounted phone. However, I paid for just a sim card and monthly contract, already being in possession of a phone.

I _was_ under the impression that this meant that I could terminate at a month's notice. Now I'm not so sure :-( I'll have to check it up.


What is it with the Swiss and their stupidly long contract periods, don't they realise it's making them one of the most uncompetitive places in Europe? No wonder the more economically forward-thinking countries like the UK, Ireland and many of the new Eastern states are whizzing ahead.


Gav
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Old 06.01.2006, 20:16
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Just to follow-up my own post about how long to terminate a contract, I checked on the Sunrise site and it says:


There are three different cases which must be taken into consideration:

1) Your cellular phone contract has been signed before 31st May 2001. In this case, a 60-day notice period applies. There are no additional charges as long as you observe this notice period.

2) On May 1st, your cellular phone contract was still within the contractually stipulated period. In this case, you can terminate the contract at the end of the period, no notice period applies and no cancellation costs are charged.

3) You signed your cellular phone contract after June 1, 2001. In this case, you can cancel your contract at the end of the period by giving 60-days notice. There are no additional charges as long as you observe this notice period. As soon as the minimum contract duration has expired (end of the contract term), the contract is extended by an additional 12 months if no notice is received.



Luckily, I'm in category (1), woohoo! Still, two months seems a little much. It's better than the worst case scenario for category (3) though.... I guess if you miss the two-month cutoff by a day, it's even 13 months and 30 days :-0


Gav
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Old 08.01.2006, 22:57
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

Quote:

3) You signed your cellular phone contract after June 1, 2001. In this case, you can cancel your contract at the end of the period by giving 60-days notice. There are no additional charges as long as you observe this notice period. As soon as the minimum contract duration has expired (end of the contract term), the contract is extended by an additional 12 months if no notice is received.



Luckily, I'm in category (1), woohoo! Still, two months seems a little much. It's better than the worst case scenario for category (3) though.... I guess if you miss the two-month cutoff by a day, it's even 13 months and 30 days :-0


Gav
Hi Gav,

absolutely right... at least that is what the telephone companies want you to believe - that you are left with 13 months and 30 days but it is questionable legally. Point been that here there is a "fine" for terminating the contract before the minimum period is over and this part along with the legality of renewing a contract indefinitely in the way they do ie all terms apply as if the contract was newly signed(inc min period) was what we wanted to challenge but they did not want in the original above.

Rgds

Richard
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Old 01.03.2006, 10:21
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Re: Mobile Phone Contracts had any problems

I cannot add anything specific on the subject of mobile service contracts, but have observed the following repeatedly...

a) Swiss businesses, on the whole, have very scant regard for consumer rights

b) most are taken aback if you question their decisions, motives, or processes. apparently a good Swiss citizen simply pays up when told to do so, and we foreigners have this strange habit of asking warum?

c) most businesses, luckily, also have (for the reason above) very little experience of dealing with irate customers, and normally react very positively to a little aggressive behavior on your (the consumer's) part

my previous landlord asked us to pay chf 500 for damage discovered, strengely enough, 3 months after we left the apartment. We told them to shove it, and they have not come back to us since... we were told that we were extremely rude, but I would rather be rude than poorer by chf 500, so that's fine with me

so my advise to every foreigner in this country would be, to push back and to demand your rightful due... we will yet teach the Swiss establishment a thing or two...!
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