Wireless company failed to deliver modem, then pocketed my money

Klaus Schuller’s wireless modem doesn’t arrive before his trip to Europe. It doesn’t arrive while he’s in Europe. Instead, it’s waiting for him when he gets home. Why can’t he get a refund for a hotspot he never got to use?

Question: I recently had a terrible experience with a company called TEP Wireless, and I need your help. TEP rents a wireless modem that connects any Wi-Fi enabled device when you’re traveling internationally.

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Two days before a recent international trip, the device had not arrived, despite being booked months in advance, so I contacted TEP via email. They replied promptly that my device would be shipped the next day – which means it would arrive after my departure.

Not good.

I contacted TEP again, and they said “No problem, we’ll ship it directly to your hotel in Europe instead.” Great. Except that it didn’t arrive.

I contacted them again, and three days later they responded, asking for another address to ship it to. My vacation was halfway over at this point, so I declined, and used the hotel’s Internet instead.

When I returned home, the device was waiting for me. In other words, they lied and never shipped it to my hotel.

I asked for a refund since no service was provided, and they hemmed and hawed. Finally, they agreed and I asked for a mailing label to ship the device back to them. They apparently can’t do that for Canadians, so I had to ship it back at my own expense and bill them. I did.

Now, two months later, I still have no refund and am out of pocket the rental and shipping — and they won’t respond to my emails. Not only that, but they also sent me aPaypal invoice for the customs duty on the returned device. Thanks so much for any help you can provide. — Klaus Schuller, Toronto

Answer: TEP should have delivered your wireless modem months before your trip, not while you were on your trip.

The idea behind TEP is pretty clever, when it works. It offers a Wi-Fi hotspot for when you’re traveling overseas and trying to avoid the ridiculously high roaming charges that your wireless company will impose. And believe me, it will.

Of course, that did you absolutely no good. You needed the hotspot on your trip to Europe, not back home in Toronto.

TEP’s refund policy is detailed on its site. You can cancel your booking without penalty seven days before your rental starts. Otherwise, TEP will charge a cancellation fee equal to the greater of either 20 percent of the total rental cost, or $19. All delivery costs and the rental fees for the period you had the device will be exempt from the refund.

But that policy doesn’t address TEP’s failure to send you the device as promised. The way I see it, the company makes an implicit promise to deliver its modem to you before you travel, if not during your trip. If TEP had months to fulfill its order, it really doesn’t have an excuse.

As it turns out, it didn’t have an excuse. Well, kind of.

“We are a start-up company with under 10 employees, and over the past 3 months we have been going through a very drawn out management change and restructing process,” said a company representative. “Unfortunately, in the midst of this, a handful of our refunds have slipped through the cracks, Klaus’ being one of them.”

TEP agreed to refund your purchase immediately.

As a sidenote, it’s difficult to know whether the company you’re dealing with is a multinational conglomerate or a small business, based on its website. TEP’s site looks really professional — better than those of some Fortune 500 companies. But a little due diligence, like running a quick online search for TEP’s customer service complaints, might have made you think twice before giving the company your business.

I’m happy that TEP finally refunded your charges, but it stuck you with the shipping charges. Not the ideal solution, and in your estimation — and mine — too little, too late.

Did TEP offer Klaus Schuller enough compensation?

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