INVESTIGATE: Orange peel away the dodgy dealers
Mirror, Thursday January 25th, 2007
(c) 2007 Mirror Group Ltd
MOBILE giants Orange have finally admitted using rogue dealers to flog
their phones - just as we revealed last year. We uncovered how the big
mobile phone providers drum up business by paying conmen to recruit
Dodgy dealers use the promise of cashback to lure mobile phone users
into signing expensive contracts.
But often these offers aren't worth the paper they are scribbled on.
And scores of readers have complained that it's impossible to get your
hands on the money.
Either your cashback claim form gets lost in the post, or you fail to
meet complex terms and conditions, or your phone dealer goes bust
before coughing up the money you are owed.
It means customers can find themselves paying far more - sometimes up
to £1,000 more - than they had planned for a 12 or 18 month deal.
Orange have finally taken notice. This month they barred 20 dealers
around the country from flogging Orange contracts.
They've also introduced a more "rigorous" application process for new
One of their ex-dealers who we've received complaints about is West
London outfit Microline Mobiles. Farhat Quaisar from Bristol is just
one of their unhappy customers. He lost £570 cashback on three phones
- for him, his wife and his uncle. Farhat tells us he sent off his
first five bills well within the 28-day deadline set by Microline.
But one month later the mysterious Agency 5 - apparently Microline's
"processing agency" - ruled that he was too late, and had no chance of
Meanwhile, Kashif Syed of East London says he lost £105 on a deal for
free sim cards when Orange and Vodafone raised their prices, and that
Microline wouldn't cover the difference.
We visited Microline's bosses Jaspal and Inderjit Dhother at their
£700,000 Berkshire home. At first Jaspal claimed he couldn't open the
door and then he denied any knowledge of Microline.
Sommerlad: "I'd like to pass on readers' complaints about Microline
Dhother: "Micro who?"
Sommerlad: "Microline Mobiles, the firm you run with your wife."
Dhother: "I'm just part of the management."
We finally spoke to the company's customer services manager, Rahim
Merali, who promised to investigate the complaints. He added that
cashback amounts were agreed at the point of sale, and that Microline
are not responsible if mobile phone companies change their tariffs.
Another Microline spokesman added that Orange cut them off 12 months
ago for not providing enough business - and not for shortchanging
Odd considering that Microline is the eighth fastest-growing company
in the country, according to market researchers Fast Track, and hit
£22million sales in 2005.
Still, now that Orange has dumped another 20 dealers this year that's
all right, then, isn't it?
Well, no, not really. These cashback deals are good business for
Orange. One dealer, Mobiles4Free, went bust last year owing more than
£1.5million in cashback. And more than 100,000 customers were left
stuck with Orange contracts after the dealership folded.
Then Direct Mobile Networks Ltd - trading as thephoneworld.com,
MobileDeal4U and Mobile2Talk - was shut down by the courts, owing
Now that Orange have effectively admitted their customers have been
ripped off - by culling 20 of their dealers - are they going to do the
decent thing and free these customers from the remainder of their
Er, no. That wouldn't be "fair", apparently.