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Meet first the legal requirements first, then speak about customer service: the Mobistar case

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First of all please allow me to mention than by sharing this post on Facebook and twitter you will help other individuals. The purpose of this post is to write about my fight against Mobistar in an attempt to enforce my rights as a customer. Don’t hesitate thus to use the above Facebook and Twitter buttons. Help me make this world better. Thank you.

Let’s start with the end, that’s to say the result I achieved. It took me ca. 6 months to get this

Office of the Ombudsman for telecommunications
Mobistar apologizes for the inconvenience and the delay in answering your request.

The operator confirms that a 2-year warranty applies to your accessory

instead of this

“warranty denied”

or this

“Dear Customer,

per our phone call I’m herewith confirming you that the warranty on [cell phone] accessories is 6 months. This complies with European laws”

or this

“accessories are guaranteed 6 months”

Here is how my fight against Mobistar, started 6 months earlier, ended up positively

I already recounted on this blog my adventures with Mobistar. In April 2011 I tried to enforce my consumer’s rights without much success. But I didn’t give up like most of other customers.

Mobistar kept denying my rights and although I sent them complaints by registered mail (which never got answered by the way) and although I went in person to complain at their headquarters, I was eventually forced to start a procedure against them. At the end of this procedure, which was managed by the Office of the Ombudsman for telecommunications, Mobistar eventually recognized in writing that they were wrong and that a 2-year warranty does apply.

Still, I can’t be happy with this. While I was winning my fight against Mobistar other individuals were denied their rights and this must stop. There is a huge gap between Mobistar’s official speech on the importance of customer service (especially since they were turned ridiculous by the members of the Basta team) and the daily reality as it is practiced in Mobistar’s sales points. Actually it’s not a gap. There is just no fit.

Every single time I went to a Mobistar store to try to have the warranty applied, I made sure that Mobistar employees gave me in writing their denial. After I told them that the legal warranty was 2 years they all told me (without exception) that the 6-month story was what they had learned during their training. I even had an employee telling me that Mobistar was the only company in Belgium giving a 2-year warranty on cell phones. This reveals a deep lack of knowledge on the part of sales representatives.

Mobistar should actually thank me because I helped the company correct this lack of knowledge. I taught employees where they could find the terms and conditions and, more importantly, where they could read that the 2-year warranty applies. Believe it or not employees are prompt to tell you that the warranty is only 6 months per the terms and conditions but they don’t know where to find those very T&C and have never read them. When I first handed them over their own T&C and pointed at section 4.2 you can guess they had a hard time. For you information the T&C are printed on the back of each invoice. Be warned.

My quest for truth and justice allowed me to discover other abnormalities. I discovered for instance that certain stores (probably franchisees), with their own websites, modify the T&C to mention solely a 6-month warranty. Here’s a screen capture that I took on October, 30th which says that “wear parts (batteries, keyboards, protective coverings, …) are guaranteed only 6 months”

The CRIOC, which is a NGO defending consumers’ rights, dealt with this case and clearly stated that a 2-year warranty applies. No doubt about this.

Last but not least I took a picture which says a lot. While an employee of Mobistar was desperately trying to send my accessory to the repair centre (after he was forced to by the Ombudsman), he authorized me to take a picture of the screen of his computer. Believe it or not, the interface is made to have the repair under warranty denied if the purchase date is older than 6 months. And there is no way to change it as all fruitless attempts by the Mobistar employee revealed.

My take:

Enough is enough. For one client who decides to fight back, 999 other will give up and end up in buying something new.

Stop talking about customer service, customer relationship and the likes if you are not able to respect the most basic legal requirements. At the least all firms must respect the law and must make sure that their employees are trained to know the regulations which apply. It makes no sense to invent an illusory customer service promise if you break the law.

Belgian consumers are already the victims of a market without any real competition. The threats of the EU Commissioner and all new regulations aiming at lowering prices paid by consumers don’t seem to be very effective. For one cent saved on the price of a sms, you can be sure that telecom giants will slightly change their offers to compensate the loss.

Banks championned financial engineering techniques. Telecom firms invented the pricing plans engineering, a new discipline that allows them to make sure that they can’t be compared to their competitors. Without comparison points the consumer can’t choose consciously.

My fight and my little success are however nothing if my story is not diffused, if it doesn’t help other individuals and customers. I spend time fighting against injustices because I believe that I can help make this world better. Help me and help the world around you.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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