Customer service representatives at O2, one of the competing telecommunications providers here in Britain, have shown blatant disregard for customer privacy. My friend Briony has been embroiled in an increasingly one-sided Twitter war after receiving an unsolicited phone call from the customer service department. Unsolicited calls are annoying enough but can be quickly dispatched if you feel your time is being wasted. However, in this instance, the customer service rep told Briony about the possibility of a better deal.
Refreshingly cynical, Briony asked if she was being data-mined or whether there was a genuinely better deal to be had. Apparently there was a better deal to be had, but she was told she could not be informed about the details of the upgrade unless she went through a security screening process. As it was an unsolicited call, Briony had no idea whether it was a genuine call from O2 or not. Briony is not an idiot, gullible or naive, and, as such, she did not give out personal details over the phone to a stranger who called her out of the blue.
A Twitter discussion ensued in which Briony was told she would have to give over personal information in order to hear the best offers for her account. There was, however, no explanation as to why O2 cannot offer proof that it is a genuine customer service call.
Briony also tried to access this very blog yesterday but O2 had blocked her from accessing this "over-18 site" (I had no idea this blog was so saucy but I digress...). Briony is 40 and O2 already have her date of birth, but they want to charge her another quid to lift this block.
Respecting customers who request email contact rather than phonecalls is also important. There is no reason why a customer cannot be made aware of special offers by email. In Briony's case, she was told via Twitter to change her preferences to "email only contact." Turns out, she had already done that before the calls started coming in.
Today she received a second call from someone at O2 who only identified himself as "Moh", but Briony cut him off before he could ask for any personal details. The number that came up on her phone, 0800 064 1087, is indeed a genuine O2 number, but this does not excuse the fact they've ignored Briony's preference for email contact only or the request for personal and password details over the phone.
1. purchase products or services from us whether in store, online, by phone or elsewhere;
2. register to become an O2 customer;
3. submit enquiries to us or contact us
4. enter any promotions, competitions or prize draws via the Services;
5. use O2 products and Services;
6. take part in market research; and/or
7. when you terminate your account with us.
The " including but not limited to" clause seems to have given O2 free rein to ask for personal details during the course of an unsolicited customer service call which ironically seems to have been made with the intention of keeping Briony's business.
If someone from O2 would like to respond to this situation, please contact me via this blog or feel free to comment at the end - the right of reply is always welcome here at The Rant Mistress. It would appear an urgent change in policy is required or else there may be a rapid loss of customers.
I have received a response via Twitter from O2 via the @O2 account:
This is indeed a baffling response. Imagine if other businesses refused to share information about special offers until personal details were shared. "I'm sorry, madam, but Sainsburys cannot possibly tell you any more about that special offer on the tinned tomatoes until you share some personal details with us...".
Now whoever manages O2's social media has shared this Tweet with Briony and I:
Briony is not taking this lying down and has responded thus:
O2 has now requested more information from Briony about the situation than can be squeezed into a 140-character tweet. Stay tuned for more updates as they come in.
And we have a further Twitter exchange between Briony and O2.
First, O2 responds to Briony's questioning of the use of the term "straight forward":
And we have a magnificent response to all this from Briony:
Briony now seems to be trapped in some sort of surreal circular logic nightmare as the conversation moved off Twitter and into direct messages. She has been told by O2 that they can tell her the reasons why all this happened without her supplying her phone number but for them to fix the issue, they need her phone number. Which is weird given they have already called her on her phone number as they are her phone provider.
It is baffling although possibly unsurprising that it has reached this point without O2 admitting any fault in the first place or starting by offering to fix the issue. This takes me back many, many moons to my days at Pizza Hut when I was a student. We were told that when a customer makes a complaint, the first thing to do is to offer to fix the problem and ask the customer what can be done to make the situation better. That is the starting point, not the end of a tiresome online discussion.
Briony has just tweeted this:
It is not surprising that Briony is now losing the will to live as O2 keeps on asking for her number. She has asked them, quite reasonably, "when you say 'fix the issue', what will you be doing exactly. My preferences are set to email only contact."
O2 has informed her that they want to make sure her preferences are indeed set to "email only". They have also said they want to "feedback your experience to the relevant people so any training needs can be addressed."
Disturbingly, "feedback" is now a verb...
An exsperated Briony has reiterated that her experience has not been good and she has tweeted the following:
We are still no closer to finding out why O2 thinks it is not a privacy failure to ask for personal details before sharing information about special offers with a supposedly valued customer or why they ignored her preference for email only contact to begin with, or indeed why they locked her out of an over-18 site when they know she is 40 years old...
Briony, like me, tries to maintain a zero tolerance of idiocy policy. As such, she has tried to cut out the frustrating 140-character direct message conversation she has been having with O2 all day and has now offered them her email address in an attempt to have a proper discussion. Stay tuned...
And the madness continues as she is asked, via a Twitter direct message, for her Twitter ID... O2 has her email address so there is no reason why the conversation cannot be conducted by email now. Apart from "Moh", she has not been given the name of anyone at a senior level in customer service or the social media manager.
Oh, and we're still no closer to finding out from O2 why personal details are necessary in order for someone in "customer service" to share information about special offers with an existing customer. Or why Briony was called out of the blue when her preferences stated "email only contact". Or why she was locked out of an over-18 site when O2 knew her birthdate. None of this has actually been resolved.
And in news just at hand from the frequently fabulous Lady Chappers Twitter account, it seems O2 is not alone in ignoring customers who set their preferences to "email contact only." She has just sent me this missive about Three:
O2 AND THE HEAVY-HANDED INTERNET CENSORSHIP
It would appear it's not just Briony who is having trouble accessing my blog. Another two people have just alerted me to O2 blocking them from this apparently scandalous Over-18 website. This is his Tweet:
And here is another:
Here is the a screen grab of the message O2 customers are receiving when they try to click on my blog:
I can only assume it is the word "mistress" in the blog title that is setting off O2's pearl-clutching filters. Despite the fact that Briony, Marcus and Barry are all over 18 and O2 would have their dates of birth on file, they are still content to charge £1 to unblock my site. In fairness to O2, they will very generously credit £1 back to their mobile bills.
Why would they block anything on the phones of adults in a supposedly free society?
I have received these tweets from Mark telling me he has had to verify his age four times in person because he doesn't have a credit card:
With many thanks to Jamie Smith, who tweets as @JamieSmiff, I have now discovered O2 implemented this ridiculous policy in March 2011. That still doesn't make it right or explain why my blog is considered adult content. I can only assume this is because of the word "mistress" in the blog title. In any case, it reminds me of the absurdity of internet censorship that I experienced when I worked for five years in the United Arab Emirates.
And in further news, O2 has just opened up my blog for Barry Butler after he opened a can of whoop-ass via Twitter:
However, this was not before O2 suggested Barry call an expensive number to discuss the situation...
Now, according to O2, this site was not blocked
But Barry begs to differ:
Barry has shared with me the message he received when he tried to access this blog:
Marcus Boothby-Lund tweeted me last night to tell me that my blog had been unblocked:
And today, I am blocked again with the same warning as last time:
Michael K B tweeted me this on O2's lack of trust in adult customers:
In the meantime, I have called out O2 on why they feel the need to censor internet access for adults and I got this response:
Won't someone think of the children? Yes, how about parents think of the children. It is perfectly fine to limit internet access for underage users and O2 offers a Parental Control function so that parents can be parents and take some responsibility for their kids' internet usage. This is surely enough without censoring access for adults and making them jump through cumbersome hoops every time they are hit by the O2 ban-hammer.
Image courtesy of www.kozzi.com