EE

Many companies I interact with on a regular basis let me down in one way or another, but I rarely feel as compelled to publicly complain about it as I do right now with EE. Their failures have been frequent and large. I want to write about them to warn away anyone expecting great customer service and a premium product in return for paying their premium prices.

I signed up with them solely to get access to their 4G LTE network, the only one live in the UK at the time. Anticipating using it quite heavily, I chose their 8GB data tariff and bought a 32GB iPhone 5 from them to go with it as part of the 24 month contract terms, at a cost of £56 per month plus £29 up-front. With EE, you get unlimited SMS and unlimited non-premium rate calls.

At the time — christmas 2012 — I felt like it was reasonable value for money: £1373 total over 24 months meant ‘just’ £31 per month for the network service, since £658 of the total went towards the phone (£629 to Apple, £29 to EE). I was paying £12 per month before for 250 minutes of non-premium rate calls and unlimited data and SMS. I don’t call that much but I use a lot of data, so I’ve been paying roughly 2.5x per month to get access to EE’s 4G LTE, versus what I used to pay my old 3G provider.

Network performance when the phone gets an LTE signal is excellent, especially in central London. I can’t fault the bandwidth or latency and it’s almost identical in feel to being on Wi-Fi at home. It’s genuinely great and a huge step up in every way from 3G data provision, which is high latency and often congested with low bandwidth in the UK.

That’s about the only benefit I’ve realised from joining EE.

Since signing up nearly a year ago I’ve barely been able to make or receive reliable calls in my house, due to what EE claim is reduced cell tower performance. Most of the time at home my phone shows the “No service” message. I’ve contacted them on multiple occasions, via phone, Facebook and Twitter, and while the customer service agents fielding my queries have been friendly and keen at the time, nobody from the technical team who are required sign off the issue as legitimate, to get me a signal booster, has ever got in touch. Each time I’ve got in contact to chase I’ve been promised a call back. I’ve never been called.

For several months this year the ‘My EE’ online account portal was unavailable for large portions of EE’s customer base, including me. I couldn’t login to check my bills, add and remove roaming add-ons while I travelled, or do anything else that’s only available inside of the My EE site. As a nasty side-effect, the EE iOS app also couldn’t manage my account. I complained repeatedly and was never given a date for a fix, or a promise I’d be notified when it was, so I had to check myself.

EE has a content filter active on their network, or at least parts of it, that blocks over-18s content (I think by law in the UK, so not entirely their fault). A technology website I use, which is just a different UI to another website I use, gets blocked. It has no over-18s content at all. The website it’s a front-end to works just fine. The best thing is it appears to depend on where in the country you are at the time as to whether the filter’s active. I can access the blocked site right now for example, but couldn’t recently on a holiday to Cornwall.

You’re apparently able to deactivate the content filter on your account by visiting My EE. I’ve clearly turned the filter off when I view my account, but it’s still active for certain portions of the EE network.

Recently they updated their contract terms for new customers to offer 20GB of data every month for £5 a month less than I currently pay. EE upgraded some customers on the same tariff as me to 20GB for free, paying the same amount per month. I asked for the same, but was told I’d have to pay £5 more every month for the 20GB data tier. When I point out they clearly upgraded some customers to the new data limits for free, something visible on their own customer support forums, they repeat that it’s still going to cost me £5 per extra per month. I’ve yet to use more than the current 8GB in any month, so in some sense there’s no point in me asking, but neither is there any loss to EE for giving me up to 20GB.

Lastly, I’ve moved on from the iPhone 5 I bought from them to a new phone. EE allow you to unlock contract phones you buy from them for a small fee, if you’re more than 6 months into your contract and your account is in good standing in terms of paying your bill. I meet both criteria, and I want to sell the iPhone 5 to help pay for my new one. The phone was repaired under warranty by Apple a few months ago, and repaired by them giving me a completely new phone, so it has a different IMEI number. Because of that, EE say the new phone doesn’t exist as far as they’re concerned, so they can’t unlock it for me.

They provide an email address to send Apple repair receipts to, so they can do IMEI reconciliation for your account precisely to perform correct device unlocking. I did that ahead of issuing the unlock request, but EE are painfully unable to join the dots for me and unlock the replacement phone with its different IMEI. I don’t know anyone else on EE that would buy it in its carrier-locked state, so I need to take the £20 hit they charge to unlock it, despite it being something they could do in a completely automated fashion for nearly zero cost.

In summary: great 4G LTE performance, but I can’t make or receive phone calls at home, they have a content filter you can’t completely disable, they locked me out of account management for several months, they inexplicably treat me completely differently to other customers on the same tariff, and they can’t unlock my phone despite following their detailed procedures to do so to the letter.

I’d let one or two customer service or operational mishaps slide, but a repeated volley of big issues over the course of nearly a year makes me confident that bad customer service is something endemic to their business and they simply don’t care about their customers. I highly recommend you avoid EE because of that.