Why I Wouldn't Trust a Phone Shop's MVNO on any Given Day of the Week

By Sam Gibbs on at

Phones shops, in general, are dire; there's no two ways about it. With out-to-get-you customer service, often-crummy technical knowledge, and dodgy upsell-dealings left and right, they're just terrible. How about an actual mobile network brought to you by a phone shop then? No bloody way, mate.

Today we were graced with the news that Phones 4u, one of the most heinous names on the list of phone-shop offenders, has launched its own MVNO, meaning there's another UK network in town. Great! You say. More competition in the mobile space can only be good, right?

Yeah, you're right, competition is good, but hell, would you trust a network born out of the aggressiveness of phone shops? Hell, no. Or at least I wouldn't, and here's why.

Think about it for a second. Phone shops, for the most part, are all about the upsell. That's not unusual, most retailers practice upselling as it's about the only way they can make money. But phone shops have been known to upsell people based on totally factually incorrect information, selling people rubbish products they're stuck with on contract for literally years. It's bad enough when they're attempting to force an ageing, crappy BlackBerry on you, because "it's the best for email; none of the others do email", but now Phones 4u is actually capable of upselling you to its own network too -- just think of the bullshit it could now pump out.

"Nah, you don't want EE -- you want LIFE Mobile, because it's way better for the Internet"

"No no, O2's rubbish. If you want email on your phone you're going to need LIFE Mobile"

"Yep, Three's cheap, but if you want to life-stream your, err, life, you need the network with integrated life, LIFE Mobile"

OK, so I don't know whether Phones 4u is actually going to do that, of course. But if you've ever actually been into a Phones 4u, or pretty much any other phone shop out there, you know it happens.

I'm sure the actual network will be fine, though, coverage and data rate-wise, because it's actually running on top of EE's network, which is pretty good all things considered. You'll even be able to get 4G at some point too, which could turn out to be killer. But would you actually trust a network from a shop that would sell you just about anything, regardless of whether you need, want, or deserve it?

I know I sure wouldn't. I wouldn't trust them to make sure I was on the right tariff, to not try to upsell my bill, and to not jack-up the prices at every turn. You went 1KB over your monthly allowance -- that'll be £50 please. The problem with being stuck with a rubbish network is that you're locked into it, for a not-exactly-cheap monthly fee, sucking your bank account dry. Of course, LIFE Mobile might launch with pre-pay plans, which would negate that side of things, but we'll have to wait until March to find that kind of thing out.

Having said all this, I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised, but you wouldn't catch me sinking my own cash into any sort of contract tying me to Phones 4u or any other phone shop for that matter.