o2 network in Newry: How to lose customers and alienate people
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Business, Community, Featured Story, News
Phone network coverage in the Newry & Mourne area continues to be a source of major annoyance and frustration.
Newry Times was contacted over this past number of weeks by members of the local community who claim to be experiencing major difficulties with their phone network.
The vast majority of those who contacted Newry Times are on the o2 network but said that they have contacted o2 only to be told there was ‘no known issues’. Even more frustrating for local people is the repeated denials by o2 of the problems.
In what has been a long running saga – local SDLP Councillor Connaire McGreevy brought the issue up at a Council meeting exactly a year ago – local people insist the problems are ongoing and have never been fixed.
One major issue experienced locally is when trying to make a call. o2 users claim that after trying to make or receive a call they hear an echo of their own voice.
Sending and receiving text messages is another headache local phone users say they are encountering. Many have reported delays of hours, and shockingly in some cases days, between sending a text message and the intended recipient actually receiving it.
Local lady Victoria Magowan says she was a loyal 02 customer for over ten years but recently decided to leave the network due to all the problems.
“I’ve been with o2 since I had my first mobile phone, so about 10 years or more. I decided to leave because I am sick of the bad signal, even when my phone says I have full signal.
Speaking about one of the reported ‘echo problems’, Victoria continued, “For a few months now I have been hearing my own echo every time I try to ring people.
“I haven’t been receiving texts from people until hours after they have been sent and it’s almost impossible to get on the internet anywhere without Wi-fi.
“Often,” she revealed, “my signal would just completely disappear, even in built up areas where you would expect better network coverage.”
Victoria says she has contacted o2 on several occasions to explain the difficulties but was ‘fobbed off’.
The Bessbrook woman explained, “I contacted o2 on several occasions about the trouble I was having. First, I spoke with someone online as the customer service phone line was so busy that they could not take my call.
“The online adviser told me that there was a problem with my phone. I explained that I knew of other people who were having the same difficulties but he still denied all responsibility and fobbed me off with the customer service phone line again.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Victoria decided to fire off emails to the o2 hierarchy in an attempt to get some answers. “My next step was to email the CEO of o2 and explain my concern about the way my issues were being dealt with.
Victoria continued, “I sent 2 emails without reply and finally received a letter, explaining that they had tried to contact me but could not get through (I wonder why), and again suggesting the problem was with my phone and informing me that they were working on masts in the area around the 6th September 2013.”
The 24 year old insists though, that masts should not be causing her network problems and decided that her lousy experience with o2’s Customer Service team had made her mind up to leave the network. “I wasn’t offered anything in the way of compensation and it was at this stage I decided it was time to change network,” she added.
Victoria was so desperate to leave the non-performing network that she decided to pay to quit her contract with o2.
“My contract was not finished until April 2014 but I happily bought the contract out just for the peace of mind that I would no longer have to deal with o2. I am now a happy Vodafone user and I am glad I made the decision to change.”
She insists the problems she encountered are not isolated incidents but from speaking to friends and family, similar to the experiences of a significant number of other local people.
She explained, “I know so many other people who feel exactly the same way I do and are already considering making the same move I have and getting rid of o2 for good.”
Should the service not drastically improve soon, Victoria is left in no doubt where the future lies for 02 in the Newry area. “If something doesn’t change soon o2 will lose many more loyal customers like me. Perhaps if I had been taken more seriously it could have been avoided.”
The issues though, have been ongoing for over 12 months with no signs of a solution, and Victoria seems to be just one of a growing number of disgruntled o2 users throughout Newry & Mourne.
The denials of any issues with their service by o2 is what has infuriated Victoria and hundreds of people throughout Newry, and SDLP Councillor Connaire McGreevy agrees.
He told Newry Times, “The problems faced by o2 users throughout the BT34 post code area have been nothing short of a corporate disaster. The company have continually denied to me and other elected representatives that there has been and is no problem. Hundreds of people can not be wrong.”
McGreevy says he thinks the issues might have ‘eased somewhat’ in recent days but o2’s silence on the issue angers the SDLP Councillor. “The people of Newry and Mourne deserve answers. Again, I will make my call for a community compensation fund to be set up.
“I originally made this call over the excessive roaming charges but once again we have been failed for another reason, that being network quality and as such a special fund should be set up.
He added, “o2 have a duty to their customers who pay for a fully functional and reliable service, that has not happened over the last few months.”
Back in October 2012, McGreevy called on the Council to write to O2 outlining concerns over their mobile network coverage in Newry and Mourne.
At the time McGreevy described the service as ‘totally unacceptable’ and described the shoddy service as ‘active discrimination’.
We asked Newry & Mourne District Council if the letter was ever sent to o2 and a Spokesman confirmed, “The Council did indeed write to o2 on 1st October 2012 outlining concerns about their network coverage.
According to the Council, o2 replied stating that they were reviewing their service procedures. However, eleven months later Newry Council again contacted o2.
The spokesperson continued, “In September 2013 the Council again contacted o2 expressing concerns about poor network coverage specifically in the Mournes and South Down areas and requesting a meeting to discuss this matter.
“No meeting date has as yet been arranged and at the Council’s District Development Committee Meeting on 21st October 2013 it was agreed to write to o2 about this issue. A letter has today been posted from the Chief Executive outlining further the Council’s concerns and requesting o2 to attend a relevant Committee meeting of the Council.
The Spokesman added, “The Council will continue to follow up this matter with o2 to ensure the proposed meeting is scheduled as quickly as possible as we fully appreciate the importance of this matter to our citizens.”
Speaking today to Newry Times, Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin described the situation as ‘an annoyance’ for local people and said he has been inundated with concerns.
“I had a well known cement company contact me who stated that they were having massive issues in terms of contacting their drivers whilst on deliveries and I have also had a significant number of taxi drivers contact me.
“Taxi drivers have to go outside the area for better signal so as not to miss out on trade and you can imagine the inconvenience this is causing them.”
Irwin says he discovered the same poor attitude as Victoria and Councillor McGreevy when speaking to o2 about the problem. “On my offices contacting O2 directly, I was left with the impression that the company is not taking this matter seriously enough.
“That attitude must change in commercial terms for o2 as people in this day and age want the best coverage for the best price and customer satisfaction should be the sole focus of the company,” he added.
Over the past 24 hours Newry Times contacted o2 on numerous occasions to get answers about the issues and we experienced the same denials as Victoria, MLA Irwin and Councillor McGreevy.
We submitted a list of key questions about the issues in Newry & Mourne and none were addressed. Instead, a spokesperson for o2 commented, “Our O2 status checker does not show any problem in Newry at the moment.
“In some areas the geographic, economic and technology challenges to build base stations (masts) and supporting infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, mean that it is not viable for mobile operators to build base stations.
The o2 Spokesperson added, “Our coverage in many areas of County Down is good despite the challenges of the natural landscape and, since 2012, we have been jointly operating and managing a single network grid in the UK with Vodafone which consolidates the basic physical infrastructure of our respective networks.”
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