The Inventiveness of the Mobile Carriers

 The mobile phone companies have gone through serious turbulence in the past years and changes and adaptation to the new situation have been evident and necessary.

In the early years of mobile telephone service, the Israeli service providers had the Israeli consumer by the throat.  If you had a mobile phone, you paid for everything, when you made a call, when you received a call, when you sent a text message and when you received one. When you took your phone abroad, just thinking about making a call would cost you money (almost) and actually making one would take a serious bite out of your vacation budget, and of course you would find out about that only after you returned.

With the start of the mobile data era, a new source of income was found by the mobile phone companies and, especially when going abroad, the charges could be (and still are) brutal, even if you don’t use the internet, only because applications perform updates.

And then came Kahlon.  The “mobile phone Revolution” initiated and executed by then Communications minister Kahlon, changed the picture completely. Today, calling, receiving calls, and SMS messages in both directions, are mostly unlimited and mobile data use is included in the packages with limits ranging from 3-20 GB and more. And not less important, you are no longer chained to your mobile phone company. The moment you feel cheated, mistreated, or simply think you can get a better deal elsewhere, you just move to another service provider.

The cost of the packages offered today are a fraction of what people spent before on their mobile phone use and everybody is pleased and happy.

Everybody? Well, with the exception of the mobile phone companies of course. Gone are the exorbitant profits that were made until then, gone is the control over the customer base, and competition for the customer has become fierce, with only price playing a significant role.

So the mobile phone companies are constantly looking for alternative sources of income, methods to outdo the completion (including by buying them) and pushing the limits of what a customer is willing to suffer.

Last week I got a clear example of how the mobile phone companies are reorganizing and how they are able to recuperate at least some of the income of earlier days.

I have four children and each (of course) has a mobile phone. For a long time I bought the services of YouPhone, but with the demise of the You supermarket chain, also the phone service ran into trouble and YouPhone was sold to Pelephone, one of the early and large mobile phone companies in Israel (the acquisition of course was part of the strategy mentioned above to reduce competition by buying them out.)

The cost for four mobile phone lines, including unlimited calls and SMS and 5GB data with YouPhone, was NIS 39.

However, as it turns out, the contract was only for 12 months. This important fact is (to be honest) indeed mentioned on the monthly bill, but the size of the print used is so small that nobody in his right mind would pay attention.

So, last month, instead of receiving the regular bill for four phone lines of NIS 156, I was surprised and dismayed to see the total rise to NIS 360!

When I called Pelephone, I was simply told that there is nothing they can do, this is what I agreed to in the first place and they sent an SMS message to all four phones with a warning it is going to happen.  

When asked what the options are now, I was offered, (after pressing them) a new package, identical to the previous one, but now at a cost of NIS 49 per phone line, bringing the monthly bill to NIS 198.

But, as a surprise, I was told that switching from package to package carries a cost of NIS 60 per phone line for a total of NIS 240.

And, the cherry on top of it all, the new package takes effect about a month from now so one more month I will need to pay the price of NIS 90 per line for a total of NIS 360.

Thus, when making an easy calculation, the cost of a phone line went up from NIS 39, to NIS 61 a month, a whopping 56% increase!

I must admit that I did what Israeli consumers do in situations like this and screamed at them. That is the only wat to get things done here anyway, and they took half of the costs of the changeover off. But that is beside the point here.

Pelephone indeed found a solution to increase its reduced cash flow, since I am sure I am not the only one who misses the warnings (if you may call them that) and in any case, continuing a package for more than one year costs a fortune and a new package will cost more than the previous one and will automatically add NIS 5 per month because of the changeover costs!

I wrote to the Communications ministry, but I assume that the carriers are not doing something illegal and the ministry has better things to do than listening to consumer complaints.

Mr. Kahlon, are you taking notice? Are you aware that the mobile carriers are very busy destroying the only real achievement that you have to show for yourself? Are the carriers allowed what they are doing? Are you going to do something about it?

And Pelephone! Does it feel good to be able to squeeze your customers? Let me help you a bit:

ü  Charge customers who use Bluetooth. It is more convenience so worth paying for

ü  Charge people who hold their phone in their left hand. Leftist can pay!

ü  Charge people who make calls through Whatsup. It really isn’t fair to try and circumvent you, especially on international calls.

I could think of additional easy ways for more squeezing but I am sure you have your own people doing exactly that: coming up with ideas how to get more money out of the customer’s pocket. And they get paid, so if you want more ideas from me, you will need to pay me as well.