I’VE been a Smart mobile subscriber for the past nine years, maintaining the same number, changing plans only once, and subscribing to the same services, to ensure that I keep within the same range of mobile expenses every month.
Yes, creature of habit. Yes, absolutely paranoid about mobile data charges.
Which is why when a message popped up on my phone on April 21 telling me that my bill for March 18 to April 17 was at P4,021—almost quadruple the usual amount I pay—I knew it was a mistake. I also knew it was not borne of my mistake, but that of Smart’s.
Now I’m told I have a P2,900 bill for this month, eight days before the next cut-off.
For someone who’s been able to keep her bill down to the general vicinity of P1,200 every month, you can imagine how this is reason for distress.
Strike 1: Customer-service fail
On April 5, I went to Smart’s Megamall branch to ask that my SIM be replaced with a nano-SIM. I was served by a nice guy who explained that once the new SIM was activated, my auto-renewal on subscriptions (Giga Surg 799 and Tri Net Plus 399) would be discontinued.
The auto-renewal, not the subscriptions that were ongoing? I clarified. And he confirmed: the current subscription would be fine, it’s just that once those expire, I’d have to re-enroll and activate auto-renewal.
On April 6, after having put in the new SIM, I checked the status of my subscriptions and kept receiving blank messages. All the way in Bacolod, I called Smart’s customer service (5:17 p.m.), and asked if I had lost my subscriptions and needed to re-enroll.
The lady who answered my call said that as far as their computers showed, I was still subscribed to both Giga Surf 799 until May 1, and Trinet 399 until April 11, so I was fine. I asked if she was sure, because I had just changed to a new SIM, and I didn’t want to pay for additional charges. She said yes, the computers showed I was still enrolled in the services I had before the SIM change.
On April 9, I get a message from Smart reminding me that my Tri Net 399 was to expire on the 11th – again, an indication that I continued to be enrolled in my services.
On April 18, I get another message from Smart, telling me that my All-in Plan had been “refreshed,” and that my “registered packages were renewed.” Again, an indication that my subscriptions were in order and renewed, too!
Two days after, I get the text telling me the bill was at P4,021.71.
All my mobile messages from Smart will bear me out here, as would that recorded April 6 phone call.
Strike 2: Smart computers, SMS fail
On April 21, the day I received the message showing my bill was quadruple my usual, I called Smart’s customer service again, this time talking to the amiable Zoe. I explained what had happened, and he informed me that I should have been told by the Smart Megamall guy who served me that I needed to renew my services the moment I started using the new SIM.
So, since April 6, when the new SIM was activated on my phone, Smart was charging me for data mobile internet use – that’s 16 days of my mobile internet outside the Giga Surf 799 plan.
As I told Zoe, I wasn’t only misinformed by the Smart Megamall branch on April 5, I was also misinformed by the customer service lady I talked to on April 6. That’s two people’s mistakes, and me paying quadruple my standard bill for those mistakes.
Ultimately though, this was Smart’s mistake. On April 21, Smart’s computers still showed that I was registered to my original (pre-SIM-change) data services until May 1. So, while I needed to have re-registered on April 6, Smart’s computers showed otherwise.
How in the world can a telecom service provider not have updated information on its customers’ plans and usage? How can something so simple as inputting data and ensuring that it’s always refreshed and up-to-date, be difficult for one of the two largest telecom companies in the country?
More importantly: how could Smart computers say one thing, the SMS from Smart say another, and Smart customer service reps say yet another?
And why must subscribers pay for this kind of inefficient service?
Strike 3: Live more? Pay more!
The only upside to this was Zoe, customer service rep from April 21, who told me that he would file my complaint, and that someone would get back to me after 10 calendar days.
As of today, still nothing from Smart.
And the suffering isn’t over.
On May 7, a mere 17 days after I last subscribed to my data plan Giga Surf 799 on April 21, Smart sent me an SMS informing that I had used up my 4.5 gig of data. This is the first time ever that I have been told that I’ve used up my gig for Giga Surf 799, only over two weeks since subscribing.
No, I do not watch videos on my phone, I do not use any streaming apps, and I limit my usage to checking my mail and keeping track of social media – the way I’ve always used it.
Today, May 9, I call customer service yet again (around 8:00 p.m.), and talked to Alvin, who told me that not only have I used up my data because of internet use, my bill for April 18 to May 17 is already at P2,900 – already more than double my P1,200 plan.
I also found out today that while Smart had texted me that last month’s bill was at P4,012, on their computers it was at P4,500-plus. Why? Who knows? Smart would, except that their computers, their SMS messages, and their customer service reps all say different things.
Too: what are the chances that they will admit they made a mistake here, and what are the chances of getting my money back? At the rate I’ve been overcharged solely on Smart’s mistakes since April, I shouldn’t have to pay Smart anything for the next three months.
This nine-year Smart subscriber is exhausted and exasperated. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
The question is: when will our telecoms pay subscribers back for bad service? When do we ever get payback?