When you call up any of the main mobile networks you’d expect that their industry’s intricate regulations would ensure that what you are told over the phone, in-store and online will be completely honest and clear. But an undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Supershoppers programme has revealed that this is not always the case and that EE, O2, Three and Vodafone all provided the show’s investigators with inaccurate information about their signal coverage.
The issue centres around the coverage maps that all the larger mobile networks have on their websites. The four mentioned in the Daily Mail article we found in our research are no exception – to be fair, all have a disclaimer under their maps though they vary in accessibility and visibility. All are in small text and some are under links and, therefore, not visible on the map page.
- EE – “These results are only a guide and not a guarantee of service availability in a particular location. Coverage may be affected by a number of factors, such as building materials, tree cover and weather conditions and how many other people are using the network too. Results are based on computer prediction and are not error free.” [This can only be seen when you click on an additional button called ‘The Legal Bit’.]
- O2 – “Data reception and speeds may not be as good indoors or in a car. Signal can also be affected by buildings, trees and even weather conditions. This map is just a guide and does not guarantee signal coverage.”
- Three – “*Although we try to make these coverage results as accurate as possible, the information is only a guide and doesn’t guarantee service availability in a particular location. Our roll-out plans are updated regularly but may change over time.”
- Vodafone – “Coverage may vary by location. This map shows a computer-generated prediction in a given area. It should be used as a guide only and is not a guarantee of actual signal coverage. As with all radio-based systems, service may be affected by a number of local factors, such as building materials, tree cover and even weather conditions. Data reception or speed may not be as good indoors or in a car.” [This is only accessible via a small link under the map via the text ‘coverage disclaimer’.]
So, it’s by no means clear that the coverage maps for all these networks are ‘just a guide’ and should not be considered to be 100% accurate. In the Channel 4 investigation, in around 80% of the enquiries to these main four mobile networks the company’s representatives “failed to state the limitations of the coverage maps or say that they were ‘a guide only’ – with one salesman saying they were ‘as accurate as it gets’. When pushed for more details, just four admitted that there were some limitations to their maps.”
As consumers we should expect that the staff at these companies, tasked with helping us make our purchases, will understand the limitations of the maps and the importance of actually getting a signal at your home or place of work. After all, what is the point of paying a monthly fee for something you cannot use or get a degraded service from?
When it comes to the workplace this is all the more important. If you’re in charge of telecoms purchasing for an organisation, your reputation in your firm is based on the quality of your purchases. So, if your teams are not able to speak to suppliers or take calls from clients, or signal issues have an impact on the perception people have of your firm when they call you, this could affect not only your job, but also the profits of the company as a whole.