Not going to let a few bad emails stop me from fixing this T-Mobile case!

When Angelika Blendstrup and her daughter arrived in France recently, they were certain that they wouldn’t be cut off from their friends and family back in the U.S. After all, they’d carefully selected a pricey T-Mobile plan that they were assured would work in Europe.

But when they deplaned, they found that their mobile phones didn’t work — and they had to pay extra for inadequate service.

The Blendstrups’ story is one of politeness and perseverance when pursuing a customer service claim — especially when it involves international service.

T-Mobile promised both Blendstrup and her daughter unlimited 3G data international service for $70 per month before they departed for France. On the basis of this promise, Blendstrup’s daughter switched providers from AT&T to T-Mobile, and both upgraded their plans to a total rate of $120 per month.

But when the Blendstrups deplaned in France, they found that they did not have even 2G service. Their phone data speeds did not allow them to use their Google Maps apps to navigate their way through France. Nor could they launch their T-Mobile apps for help. According to their phones, there was “no Internet connection.”

The Blendstrups spent five hours on international calls to T-Mobile customer support, but T-Mobile’s agents argued with the Blendstrups rather than offering assistance. Adding insult to injury, T-Mobile billed the Blendstrups $220 instead of $120. Its agents refused to discuss the increased charges with the Blendstrups but merely instructed them to pay the higher rate. Blendstrup was forced to pay an extra $25 per month for a “one plus” plan, which she claims was “minimally better” than the service she and her daughter had.

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Blendstrup then sent a “very polite” email to T-Mobile’s CEO and head of customer care, neither of whom responded to Blendstrup’s email. The only response she received was from another T-Mobile agent who gave Blendstrup “the same canned answers, not any help at all.”

Ultimately, Blendstrup and her daughter said “Adieu!” to T-Mobile and switched to a French mobile service provider. They asked our advocates for assistance after attempting to use the contact information for T-Mobile on our website to escalate their complaint.

T-Mobile’s terms and conditions acknowledge both that T-Mobile may provide reduced or no international service, for which it may charge higher rates:

International Roaming & Dialing: Availability and features offered for international roaming and dialing vary depending on your Rate Plan and Device. All countries may not be available for roaming and available countries may change from time to time…. Whether roaming internationally … you may be charged international rates (including for voicemails left for you and for data usage). This includes per minute rates for calls and per minute rates for calls transferred to your voicemail and the relevant data rates for data usage. You may be charged for more than one call for unanswered calls that are forwarded to voicemail regardless of whether the calls result in an actual voicemail message being left for you and regardless of whether your Device is on or off. Different rates and rounding increments apply in different countries. … While roaming internationally, your data throughput may be reduced and your Service may be otherwise limited or terminated at any time without notice.

So the Blendstrups’ issues with both the reduced service and higher rates are, unfortunately, consistent with T-Mobile’s terms and conditions. Even so, its agents not only failed to deliver on their promises but responded with defensiveness and pushback. That’s not appropriate customer service – even in an industry that isn’t known for treating its customers well.

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Luckily for Blendstrup, she received an email from a T-Mobile agent, who contacted her at the request of its CEO. This agent, whom Blendstrup describes as “very nice,” agreed that T-Mobile would refund her the extra $100 she had to pay for service as well as the $25 she paid to switch mobile services in France.

We have since learned that T-Mobile has reversed and refunded the extra charges to Blendstrup.  Her bad T-Mobile customer experience ended with a cordial “Au revoir!” and a positive resolution of her issues.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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