Why Hot Mobile Needs To Be Cancelled

Every oleh has a story like this and similar ones about other cellphone carriers but Hot seems to be the worst of the worst.

Female Israeli soldiers from the Haraam artillery battalion use their mobile phones as they stand in the women's living quarters at a military base in the Golan Heights March 1, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Female Israeli soldiers from the Haraam artillery battalion use their mobile phones as they stand in the women's living quarters at a military base in the Golan Heights March 1, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
I’m not alone, every oleh has a story like this and similar ones about other cellphone carriers but Hot seems to be the worst of the worst.
First, let me tell you my story. I made aliyah in September 2013. The very next day, aware of the many stories about communications companies taking advantage of olim, I brought my Hebrew-speaking roommate with me to get mine set up. We looked at prices on our already-existing Internet at home prior to leaving, so they wouldn’t try and tell us the price was higher than we knew it to be.
Throughout the process they asked if we wanted Internet as well. Each time we told them we had no need. Not even five days later my phone was stolen at the beach. I went to the same kiosk, bought myself a new phone and clearly miserable about it, still confirmed it was the same phone plan with unlimited data and free calls to the US.
I’ve now been here five years and have of course replaced my phone a few times for a variety of reasons. Every time I made a point to clarify it was the same plan -essentially unlimited everything for 99 shekels. Yes, I admit I was a bit of a freier (sucker) on this one.
How dare I think that my phone plan should stay the same unless I agree to change it! The audacity I had for not reading every single line of the small print of my (occasionally received) monthly bill, it’s only 99 shekels after all.
About a year ago, I realized my data was being used up very early by the month, but I kind of dismissed this as being on my phone too much or maybe because I hadn’t bothered to look at my phone plan in four years since we use more data these days. I finally mentioned it to my friends. I’m not sure I’ve never felt dumber as they all chorused at me “what kind of phone plan do you have?! I pay half of that and never run out of data and I don’t even have Wi-Fi at home!” (Yes this is true, multiple friends of mine do not have Wi-Fi at home. I don’t know what’s wrong with them or how they survive.) However, I got the hint that something was definitely off so I had an Israeli friend look at my bill and sure enough, Hot was also charging me for home Internet; which I have never used once, ever.
I went to the kiosk to ask them about it and was told they can’t help because they only work in sales. So, they can sell me a new phone and set up a plan for the new phone but they don’t have the ability to change a user's existing plan on a phone purchased and set up at that exact same kiosk. The “employees” were literally playing with each other’s hair rather than even bothering to pull up my account. After days of calling and getting people who claimed they don’t speak English while magically understanding every word I said, false promises of call backs, and multiple outright hang ups, after an entire week I managed to shout and swear my way to get to speak to a human who actually owned up to speaking English. I first confirmed to her that my line was cancelled.
I then calmly volunteered to wait on hold while the “customer service” representative dug through my bills and found out at what point they started charging me for home Internet. Initially, the representative came back saying that my original plan expired after one year and usually the price goes up after that. So essentially they “held the price for me” by adding Internet so that I would be paying the same amount. In actuality, my plan was now half the price and instead of paying 50 shekels, Hot wanted their 99 shekels a month and added Internet to my plan without asking me. Once she realized she inadvertently admitted this, she scrambled me back onto hold, only to come back suddenly claiming I had signed a contract including the Internet from the very beginning.
Remember that whole part about having a Hebrew speaker with me for this exact purpose? Yeah, that’s how I know this representative is lying, and likely at the command of her manager. When I protested that there was no way, the only way that would happen would be if they verbally told us one thing (in both languages) and had me sign something else to which she said “well it’s not my fault if you don’t understand the language.” As if I am supposed to be contractually fluent the day after I make Aliyah, while implying the sneaky contract switch out isn’t entirely unethical.
Their Twitter account blocked me upon my first attempts to contact them and when my friends called them out, they claimed they had never done so, unblocked me and repeatedly insisted that I publicly tweet them my phone number since they can’t figure out how to turn on private messages. It’s been over a week since a manager was supposed to call me back, so I’ve had a little time on my hands to read through others stories and have found out quite a few things.
Let’s start with the lawsuits. In 2013, Hot was fined NIS100,000 for not answering and returning phone calls in a reasonable amount of time, therefore breaching the requirements of their license. In 2015, they were fined NIS 88,000 for illegally charging customers for things they never agreed to (sound familiar?) and had to also pay back NIS 75,000 to the customers who actually bothered to complain and deal with the legal process. Then, just recently in November 2018, they were fined one million shekels for misleading customers, mostly elderly, by getting them to sign up for different plans, claiming they’d get a free tablet, phone, etc. by doing so, only to change their contract and them for the tablets or whatever other items had been promised as free. Clearly they have not learned their lesson from any of these fines, since they still partake in close to all of these scandalous behaviors.
As I scrolled through olim groups I saw many similar complaints about other companies, but Hot seemed to be the most often and aggressively complained about. When I asked people for details of their stories, their first reaction was often actual groaning. Hot repeatedly and outright refuses to cancel plans, even if the initial contracts were already expired. Sometimes they’ll try to keep you on the plan, by offering you a cheaper plan, only to continue to charge you a higher amount than what was originally agreed upon. The only way many of these people escaped from Hot was by going to small claims court or by cancelling their credit cards.
One lone soldier had a horrific story of how his mechina provided a Hot rep who told him the wrong exit code to use when calling his family abroad. This resulted in Hot demanding he pay close to ten thousand shekels for a plan that was supposed to include free international calling. This man left his family to come serve and fight for his people and this is how Hot treats him? Are you kidding me?!
I genuinely lost count of how many stories I read about people calling for months, even years trying to cancel Hot Mobile, while actively using another carrier. I have one friend who has been trying for two years to get them to stop charging him and they still have not done so. One woman told me she and her husband tried multiple times to change the card on an account from their daughter’s bank account to their own, but were told repeatedly that it had been done, only for Hot to continue to charge the daughter’s account that had no money in it. Then not-so-Hot threatened to call the police on their daughter over it. It took them over a year to resolve it, they had a mountain of overdraft fees they had to pay but hey, at least the Hot representative repeatedly asked their daughter to marry him, that’s completely appropriate, right?
I could continue but I think I’ve gotten my point across. Hot Mobile, HotNet, whatever label they want to call themselves in order to endlessly transfer you until you give up or die, has no issue taking advantage of the elderly, lone soldiers, olim, or any of us. They are lying thieves who tell you one thing to your face and hide another contract in front you. If you ever even saw the contract beyond just signing a mystery black pad - while the actual contract is on the screen for them and only them to see - they’re probably adding in all those things that none of us ever asked for, only to claim later that we signed for it.
It is a shame on our nation. It is an embarrassment that many of us make aliyah based on our ideals and our love of the Jewish state, only to be schemed out of what little money we make by a company that just perpetuates ancient antisemitic caricatures of the lying, scheming Jew. The fact that they have been fined three times and yet continue almost all of this downright sinful and evil behavior, they still insist that they tell you everything you need to know about them. They’re going to keep doing it until someone forces them to stop. It's pathetic.
So many people have just accepted this as one of the burdens we should accept for moving here, but why should we when we already know they are in breach of the law?! I hope anyone reading this who has had any (or probably all) of these issues with Hot to speak up, make our officials know just how tired we are of this, and how many olim leave the country because of behavior like this. Only when we really get loud, make our voices heard and hold them accountable will we ever be able to see any change. Maybe that change will be the entire dismantling of this reprehensible company. Maybe then, and only then, other communications companies that commit similar  practices will see that we are no longer going to stand for it. We cannot expect change to come by just through complaining in Facebook groups, we must demand better from those who can actually do something about it.
Arielle Calvo is a Seattle native who made Aliyah in 2013 and resides in Tel Aviv. She holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and writes about her experiences in Israel.