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“The future’s bright” – and we don’t need to prove it…

Orange, and probably all other mobile phone service providers, seem to be able to charge you for expensive content without any real proof – or evidence – that you requested it. You, the customer, are left with nothing to prove your innocence as ?systems don?t lie?.

I got my Orange mobile phone bill today ? and reading it through I noticed that I had been charged for:

?09/11/04 08:22 game ? content £4.255?

?Er?? I thought, I haven?t downloaded games (people who know me will vouch for my avid distain for the whole pay-per-download game/ringtone market).

So, I called Orange billing department, who after much conversation stated ?well, our systems show you downloaded a game, so you must have downloaded a game?. There wasn?t any further path of redress unless I wished to take it up with their complaints team, who were only behind a lowly fax number. With my techie brain in gear, I asked for the name of the game that I had ?apparently downloaded? ? ?Colin McRae Rally 2005?.

I asked this question because I have a Sony Ericsson P900 ? a business phone based on the UIQ front end for Symbian, and as such not particularly compatible with games. I had a look on the Orange website, and as suspected I discovered that Colin McRae Rally 2005 isn?t compatible with my phone anyway. As such I couldn?t have downloaded it. The Orange website even gave me a list of games that were compatible with my P900 phone ? 4 in total to be exact, and none of them Colin McRae.

With this information in hand, I redialled the Orange billing team? And then the struggle really started. I was put through to a ?wap and data technician? who informed me that her screen said I had downloaded the game, and so I must have downloaded the game ? ?systems don?t lie? (apparently). She went on to inform me that ?a child in the household? must have done it instead ? which is funny because last time I checked Sofia and I didn?t have any.

I decided that I wasn?t getting anywhere with this tact so I decided to unleash my techno-bombshell of game/phone compatibility?

I informed her that the game was a Series 60 game, and that I had a UIQ phone ? to which she explained she had no idea what Series 60 and UIQ was. Surprised (being a ?wap and data technician?, and all) I used their own website to read out the phones that the game was compatible with (ie, not mine).

Some argument later, she decided that someone else in the household must have taken out the sim and downloaded the game to their phone. Sofia (the only other person in our house) also has a Sony Ericsson phone, and this game is not compatible with any SE phone whatsoever – not that Sofia would do such a thing (and quite a rude accusation to infer that my girlfriend would be devious enough to steal the sim from my phone and charge a game to my phone without telling me).

Finally, after checking with her colleague, she informed me that even though my phone was incompatible with the game I could still have downloaded it because ?my phone has Java?. From using the Orange site, I find that hard to believe because I get a special ?P900? version of their site, which I assume is based on the phone-version information sent in the HTTP header. But assuming she was right, it?s a surprising thing for her to have said, because this means that Orange are saying they have a system that will bill people who download games that won?t even work with their phones in the first place (which surely must be a necessary check when even Orange?s own ?data and wap technicians? can?t tell the difference between a Series 60 and UIQ phone ? how are the poor public supposed to know whether the game is compatible?). And anyway, I would have thought that if I had downloaded a game that wasn?t compatible with my phone I?d be entitled to a refund?

With all of this in mind, I was finally put through to a ?senior coach? who explained that ?these accidents can happen if you fall asleep with your phone in bed?(!). How ridiculous a thing to say ? particularly when she went on to ?assure me? that you can?t purchase a game download without going through several screens. All of which is impossible because a P900 can only surf the internet with the flip open, and I think the phone would have broken if I had fallen asleep with the flip open. I guess I could have tossed and turned in bed in such a way that my phone flipped open, Opera browser was selected (from the 5mm x 5mm icon), the Orange website was selected, the dialogue box asking me if I wanted to connect to the Internet was OK?d, the game sub-site was clicked on, several further screens were traversed, drilling down to the page for the game, the Colin McRae Rally game was selected, the ?purchase game? link was selected, the confirmation was selected, and the flip was then closed ? hmmm, I don?t think so.

Finally, after much persuasion she went through my 12 month+ billing history to see that I have never bought a game or ringtone and decided to credit my account for the cost of the game. Finally, justice is served!

However, my biggest frustration with all of this is the lack of ?receipt? or logging information that is available to me, the customer, to confirm (or otherwise) that I have purchased a game. All I have on my bill to show for it is ?Game ? Content? ? making their £4.255 charge difficult to challenge. Why should mobile phone service providers be allowed to operate their business in such a way that the emphasis is on you, the customer, to prove that you didn?t make a charge on your account? How can you prove that you didn?t do something? How can Orange get away with asserting that you did, without any documentary evidence?

It also is impossible to ?turn off? games and ringtones from being downloaded, unless GPRS is completely removed (thereby removing my email and web access also). I can?t see why this isn?t technically possible, and I wonder whether their inability to do this (even for customers who have stated they have no interest in purchasing this kind of content) is based around the speculation that you might want to buy a game/ringtone in the future. Especially seeing as their ringtone and games ?content? business is massively profitable.

Orange mobile phone billing software is buggy to say the least ? check your bills people!

UPDATE: More recent unusual billing issues on Orange

Published in Industry Thoughts and Rants Uncategorized

One Comment

  1. Adarsh Adarsh

    You, have just saved my sanity!

    My Orange bills insist that my girlfriends been downloading games and videos… at 0230 (their systems are down, so they can’t tell me which ones exactly).

    She’s also able to launch orange wap, navigate through each screen, and download between sending texts at hr:13 and hr:14 to me. I’m very proud of her.

    Now while i am perfectly willing to accept she can defy the laws of physics, and that playing games at 0230 can be immense fun… I don’t think she has been.

    I don’t see why – we get all our games off the PC, i doubt anything worth getting off orange is available for the w810i.

    One game… okay… 2 games… okay… 3 games and a video…. hmm…

    …but a monthly charge of £15-25 for 7 months? I’m sorry but something’s not right.

    Anyway, long story short – I’m not going mad! Thank you very much for proving I’m not alone.

    Google is my friend.

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