MVNO accuses operator of “failing customers” over call bundle exclusion, while operator hits back with claims of “number arbitrage”
A war of words has broken out between T-Mobile and MVNO Lycamobile after it emerged the operator has been billing its customers above average call rates to phone Lyca SIMs.
T-Mobile confirmed it charges extra for calls to Lyca and doesn’t include its numbers in any of its call bundles. At the same time it accused the MVNO of carrying out “commercial exploitation” through “number arbitrage” in the past.
Lyca in return said T-Mobile was “failing its customers” and that its comments had no basis.
The issue was raised when a T-Mobile customer contacted Mobile News upon receiving an abnormally high bill after calling a Lyca SIM. Lyca said the issue has been ongoing for “some time”.
The customer said he had not been told calls to Lyca were not included in his UK mobile-to- mobile minutes bundle – something T-Mobile denies.
A T-Mobile spokesperson said the higher call-rates came after it emerged Lyca was charging higher than average termination rates to end calls to its network.
The spokesperson said: “While Ofcom have introduced some recent changes to mobile termination rates (MTRs), responsibility for call-bundle policy, including which numbers are classed as inside and outside of bundle, sits with all the major network operators.
“Historically, it has been necessary to introduce and control these bundle policies, because of the high risk of commercial exploitation through number arbitrage.
Examples include manipulating call termination payments to finance call forwarding, or setting much higher termination rates for standard calls, than the rest of the industry.
“Lycamobile was one of these companies and, as a result, Lyca numbers were removed from our in-bundle, inclusive call list.”
Lyca hit back saying T-Mobile had no basis for such accusations, as its MTRs were regulatedby Ofcom.
It said all the other operators include calls to Lyca SIMs in their call bundles and that it had received a number of complaints from T-Mobile customers regarding a lack of clarity on call charges to its numbers.
Lyca has complained to Ofcom and trading standards about T-Mobile and called on the operator’s customers to do the same.
A Lyca spokesperson said: “It sounds like T-Mobile should make their terms clearer for customers.
“In short, what they appear to have done is reach their own commercial decision as to what to include as either ‘in’ or ‘out’ of its bundles, and now confuse the position with references to jar- gon. T-Mobile is clearly failing its customers.”
“Lycamobile’s call termination rates are regulated by Ofcom. It is not our policy to engage in number arbitrage or manipulate call termination payments to finance call forwarding.”
T-Mobile said it had “recently kicked off” an internal review of its bundle policy and could make adjustments to this in “due course”.
Vodafone, meanwhile, has admitted it also charges extra for calls to “one or two” MVNOs, although it would not reveal them. It said it is now texting customers to alert them to the out of bundle status of calls to these companies.
O2 and Orange both said they charged a flat rate to all MVNOS and included them in their call bundles. Three was unavailable at press.