SHODDY SERVICE MADE ME CALL TIME
ON SPAIN'S COMMUNICATIONS GIANTSAfter waiting several years for Telefonica to venture into the comparatively new urbanisation in which I live, their eventual arrival was more than overdue.
Now I wish they’d never bothered because my subsequent dealings with the Spanish national telephone service developed into one long, frustrating nightmare. That’s why I got rid of them a few months ago – and reverted to My Bubble, a local provider here in the southern Costa Blanca.
As a result, I am at least 20 euros a month better off and can contact an English-speaking technician at their offices within seconds. On the downside, I can’t call the emergency services except from my UK-contract mobile – and have learnt to my cost that calling premium rate numbers in Britain is a ridiculously expensive Bubble burster.
From the start, Telefonica made me feel I wasn’t really wanted. I’m not talking about the engineer who installed my line and internet wirelesss equipment. He was remarkably quick and efficient…even if I did pay through the nose to be connected.
The problems seemed to mount when I called their English-language helpline number, 1004. My first problem was in obtaining a bill. They either couldn’t or wouldn’t mail me one, depending on whether I wanted it sending to my Spanish or UK address. The best they could offer was online billing. Only I simply could not get my user name or password to work, even when they gave me new ones.
Consequently, my only way of knowing how much I was being charged was to check my bank statement each month.
The 1004 people also insisted that I provided my NIE number as well as my name and phone number every time I called them. That’s equivalent to BT asking for my passport number. Surely the fact I was the subscriber calling from my own private number – which they could clearly see using their own office technology - should have sufficed.
In my eyes, they were just being plain bloody-minded.
Even more frustrating was that when I rang to request temporary suspension of my ADSL each time I went to England (which reduces internet charges by 75 per cent or more), the 1004 operator insisted this could only be done by their business department.
‘‘But this is not a business line, it’s a private house,’’ I repeatedly told them. ‘‘Well, we have it down as a business number,’’ they insisted. ‘’You’ll have to ask them if you want it changing to a private one.’’
The punchline is that the business department don’t (or more accurately won’t) speak English – and the English-speaking operators on 1004 won’t do the job on your behalf.
During my 18 months as a Telefonica customer, I made several unsuccessful attempts to have the line switched to a private one, using my far-from-perfect Spanish – and when my umpteenth effort once again elicited the obligatory request for my NIE number, I snapped.
I called 1004 and said I no longer wished to do business with them and would be instructing my bank to cancel my Direct Debit. The operator showed not the slightest inclination to persuade me to rethink. The clear message was, ‘‘If that’s what you want, please yourself. We don’t care.’’
So I wrote off the extra amount I had been charged for the suspended service Telefonica didn’t suspend and told my bank to refuse any future demands for money from them.
I’m well rid, I thought – and for six months or more I heard nothing. Then, out of the blue, I received a demand from a collection agency recently saying I owed Telefonica 55 euros and that if I didn’t pay, the amount would be increased and I would face legal action.
I would not even have known about the demand had the Correos not finally started delivering mail, a luxury my locality has only been blessed with for the last few months.
I toyed with the idea of ignoring the demand because I knew that in reality I owed Telefonica nothing while they owed ME at least 100 euros. But I quickly realised I was fighting a war I couldn’t win…so I swallowed my anger and wrote off another 55 euros.
Whether I have now seen the back of the company once and for all I don’t know. What I would say is that if YOU are planning to become a Telefonica subscriber, do so with caution. Better still, ask a few people who have done business with them how they got on.
Most expats reckon life in Spain is generally much better than in the rapidly deteriorating UK, yet could you imagine British Telecom treating anyone with such an abysmal ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude?
Still, at the end of the day, whether you get your telephone service from Telefonica is your call...