“I’ve got this”, I heard God say to me (about a new phone deal)

One morning in August 2022 I was at my desk doing something or other. The phone rang. Sometimes I ignore such calls from unknown numbers. But this time I decided to answer. I was polite as usual. I was being offered a mobile phone contract. I explained I was currently paying about £10 for a pay-as-you-go per month contract, having come to the end of my previous contract. Of course, I could have continued with the current arrangement. It was a case of ‘it’s not broken’ so I didn’t need to fix it. But clearly I wasn’t thinking.

After a minute or so of the initial sale conversation, I was passed to a colleague who then began to talk me through the phone contract. He went into some detail. After a few minutes I began to get impatient. I just wanted to get back to whatever I had been doing before the call. It was also time to go for my coffee break. During this period of impatience, I probably stopped listening to what I was being told. I do remember agreeing to pay just over £10 per month for a three-year contract. I quickly signed a contract and went for my coffee break.

About a month later, out of the blue, I received £70 into our bank account. I did not understand where this had come from or why. In investigating this I was told by the phone company, OneCom, that this amount was a refund towards my monthly bill, which would be about £80. When I expressed confusion about this it was explained that there was ‘discount’ ‘investment’ of £70 which I would receive for the first 17 months. This raised a question in my mind: what about after 17 months? (as this was a 36 month contract). When I queried the whole arrangement with an agent of the company they extended the ‘discount’ to 24 months.

I explained the full episode to my wife and business partner. I was expecting her to say how stupid I had been or worse. But all she managed was to say words to the effect of “ah well, no one has died”.  Very true.  

I began to think: what about the last 12 months? A couple of months later it was explained in an email that after 24 months I will have the option of entering a further 36 months contract, with a new discount I presume. However, if I did not wish to enter into a new contract then my discount would end, leaving me to pay an additional £70 per month for the remaining 12 months. In an email, a representative of OneCom stated that “I fully appreciate our discount is not the norm”. This made me think: if it is not normal then surely they should have explained the whole think in a more explicit way instead of not even mentioning the word ‘discount’ before I signed the contract, especially as it was going to lead me to pay the additional £70 per month for 12 months. Had they explained the discount arrangement I would not have signed the contract.

So, how am I feeling about all this? Frustrated, angry, stupid, bit of an idiot…. The word depression may be too strong but I was definitely low. I so wanted to turn the clock back so I could undo the whole business. I did not need a new contract. I was fine as I was. But, as they say, ‘it was water under the bridge’. I had signed on the dotted line. I was stuck. For a £10 a month contract I was either stuck with the company for life (by signing a new contract every 24 months) or having to pay an extra £70 per month for the final 12 months; a total of £840.

I live in the present normally. But this was ruining that by taking me into the future. I kept thinking about what would happen after 18 months or 24 months. Do I want to wait till then or do I terminate the contract now? Of course if I took the latter option I would have to pay them even more money, for early cancellation.

Throughout these three or four months I constantly emailed the company. Back and forth. Always polite exchanges, with their customer services people and the secretary of the CEO, who I had tracked down and linked up on LinkedIn. 

How I felt was made worse by me reading horror stories on the internet from other customers with OneCom. So, now I am thinking (isn’t hindsight wonderful): why didn’t I look up the company before I signed the contract!

The frustration and the feeling low (pretty low, for a person who is normally glass half-full) continued. It was all-consuming. I would think about it all my waking hours, especially those moments in the middle of the night when I was trying to go back to sleep.

Of course, as a man of faith I was praying all the time, for God to intervene, to do something, do anything to help. Was he listening to what I was saying?  Along the way I was able to describe the whole episode to the two guys from our church with whom I meet every fortnight to share what is going on in our lives and pray for each other. I remember saying how stupid I felt. To this I was told by one of the men: don’t say that; you are not stupid.  

Then, one day I heard God speak to me; very clearly, as clear as I am about sitting here now writing this blog…. I had just finished my hospital chaplaincy ward round and was sitting there in the waiting room so I could have my Covid jab. At the time, like most days I was having another very LOW moment. Just then I audibly heard a voice which I took to be from God, saying: I’ve got this. So, now God was saying he had heard me, he knew what was going on and he will sort it. Did that help? A little. But I still wanted to go back in time to not make (the stupid) mistake.

I considered writing to the BBC Watchdog. I contacted Citizens Advice. I considered writing the full story and name and shame the company…. I tried my best to persuade OneCom, their CEO, his secretary, their customers service….. I considered writing to my Member of Parliament.

I then decided to complain to OfCom. But it turned out that OneCom were not within their jurisdiction but had their own Complaints System. This did not give me much hope. I didn’t think this would be a system that would give me a fair hearing. Still I tried them. I wrote the full story. They considered whether I had a case for them to take on. They did think I had a case and that they would take it up on my behalf.

My main case was that because the ‘discount’ and its likely end at 24 months had not been made clear to me when I first signed the contract, I wished to terminate the contract, without having to pay any termination charges. Alternatively, I was happy to continue with the contract if the £70 discount was extended to the full 36 months of the full duration of the contract. I also explained to the Adjudicator that I had signed the contract in good faith, based on the phone sales conversation, but without reading the small print of the contract which did explain the ‘discount’. In summary, I was of the view that it was a 36 month contract and I would pay just over £10 per month. Simple.

I waited for the decision by the Adjudicator. They took a few weeks before reaching their decision. I expected bad news. So, I began to prepare for it. Occasionally I would remind myself of what God had promised. It helped a little, to get me through my days.

The Adjudicator decided in my favour. They instructed the company to terminate my contract, after making sure that, over the 8 months duration of the contract I only pay £10.70 per month. I was owed over a £100 which I was pleased to have refunded.

There was a bonus! The month following the resolution of my case, I received my normal £70 discount. I wrote to the company to inform them of this, expecting they would expect a refund. They didn’t. Instead they wrote to me to say I could keep the money. But then the same happened the month after. Again I wrote to them to inform them of this discount money. I did not hear from them. So, I ended up benefiting from £140. By this time I had a new phone contract with a different company which was below £10 a month. Moreover, my OneCom contract had come free membership of Amazon Prime. I have tried to cancel this but have not been able to. So, I continue to have this free membership and probably will have it for 36 months.

In conclusion…

The episode has renewed my faith in our systems, such as, adjudication.

I have learnt that next time someone phones me to sell me something I shall be less trusting and less quick to enter into a contract.

And, maybe, next time God says, “I’ve got this”, I will be more trusting.