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Choosing a Mobile Phone & Network Provider

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 18th Mar 2010

You would have thought that in this day and age, that choosing, buying and keeping a mobile phone would be pretty straightforward – anywhere in the world.

In the UK you can pick up a pay-as-you-go, ready to use mobile in most supermarkets, even in petrol stations and train station concourses – it’s a reasonably easy process.

And even if you are a contract user in the UK you get almost pestered on a weekly basis by some customer service operative who tells you that you are eligible for a free upgraded handset, or that there is a more cost effective tariff for you to be on. Customer service : It makes more sense to look after your existing clientele rather than put all your resources and effort into attracting new business.

Not so in Spain! - Firstly you have to be able to find a service provider that has reasonable coverage in your area – no easy task! Once you move away from the centre of your nearest town or village the coverage drops dramatically for at least one of the networks that you may consider. In my immediate area Vodafone is a real problem, whereas in other areas of the valley Movistar has limited coverage (It’s always useful to remember this as an excuse whenever you want to avoid a call from somebody!).

Secondly, once you have chosen a Network and service provider that you would like to connect to you have to go through the whole rigmarole of finding a suitable call plan to contract to. For some reason the most competitive plan that I could find for me gives cheap call between 4pm and 7pm on weekdays – it’s almost as though that time window was chosen by some grey suited executive sat in his ivory tower in Madrid sticking a pin into a daily diary planner.

Signing the contract causes an issue in most stores - They always seem to ask for whatever paperwork you haven’t brought with you : In my case it was NIE, Passport, Bank Statement (all going well so far…) and then a utility bill. At that time I was in rented accommodation and none of the utility bills were in my name – so I could not provide anything.

““Could you not let us have a copy of your phone bill?” they asked. How can you reason (in a foreign language) with a jobsworth that doesn’t understand that if you had a phone with which to be provided a bill with, then you would be unlikely to be stood in their shop requesting a new one ?

Anyway, after a second visit to the store, armed with a copy of my partners employment contract and pardon (for some reason they only liked the look of the details that we could provide for her) I managed to satisfy them that a cheap and nasty mobile phone was safe in my hands and that I was unlikely to mastermind a drugs cartel using it, or anything else too sinister.

Contract up and running, network coverage passable all went well for a few years until I wanted to make some changes. Firstly I wanted to change the name on the bill into my name – I had just registered as being self-employed and as an ‘Autonomo’ could claim back the IVA from the Invoice. None of the stores wanted to do this and instead said that I should do it all online. No easy task in itself – once I had managed to find the correct area of the website to do this and registered (all in Spanish) the process kept throwing my details out as being invalid – NIE number not recognised.

It was only by getting a Spanish colleague to help out that I managed to get this sorted – of couse, it was expected that everybody knows to omit the “X” and replace it with a “00” when registering your NIE Number in situations like this…

And heaven forbid that after 5 years as a loyal customer, ask for a ‘free handset upgrade’ – that will just cause no end of hysteria in the store.

It amazes me how Movistar in particular can be owned and operated by Telefonica - one of the largest Companies on the planet, let alone in Spain – even owning O2 in the UK and other Telecomms companies in America and Germany, and yet they can still not manage to hold a prayer in a mosque.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are companies here in Spain that can consolidate mobile phone, ADSL and Landline bills; offer a decent standard of customer service - in the English language; and oversee the transition from Telefonica/ Movistar on your behalf. Add that to the fact that many of them are actually competitive aswell and it seems like a winner !

Unless many of these service providers get their house in order, and quick, it seems that their days are numbered.

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