back to article Overheard at a Brit mobe network: On the count of Three UK, smile and say, er... we lost how many customers?

Hutchison's Three UK network lost 44,000 active customers last year, but saw its revenue increase slightly to £2.439bn from £2.425bn. The country's fourth biggest network boasts just over 10 million active customers, with 6.89 million of them on contracts and just under one-third on pre-pay (PDF). Three UK Fiscal Year results …

  1. DontFeedTheTrolls

    "lost 44,000 active customers last year"

    Three make it as hard as possible to leave. Took me 40 minutes to get the PAC code, being passed to a Supervisor, then a Manager. They would not accept that I wanted to move from a Personal to a Business contract: "but we can just change the Direct Debit, you'll be fine". After the number transferred they attempted to bill a further month as they didn't close the account properly.

    Friends have a had similar experiences with their customer services, sometimes incompetent, sometimes deliberately obstructive, sometimes downright wrong, all of which is behaviour driven from the top down.

    1. beaker_72

      Leaving Three

      Agreed - the only way I was eventually able to extricate myself from their clutches was by filing a complaint with the Ombudsman. That resulted in me being contacted by a very helpful and friendly lady from an office in Glasgow who got me sorted out and a lot of money refunded.

      Three have call centres / offices in the UK - who knew.....?

      1. drogo

        Re: Leaving Three

        I filled in the form on their website and it all happened with no further input

        Received a closing account statement a month later

        Very straightforward

    2. wurdsmiff

      Should be the last time

      You shouldn't have to go through that charade again. Ofcom regs coming in from July (I think) mean that all networks will have to give you a PAC by text or online without having to go through the retentions rigmarole.

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Three make it as hard as possible to leave. Took me 40 minutes to get the PAC code, being passed to a Supervisor, then a Manager.

      I left Three a month ago and got my PAC in less than 10 minutes, but mainly by repeating "give me my PAC now" and refusing to answer any questions they tried asking me. Later in the month they sent me a text saying my final (I hope) bill was available online, but the login was tied to the phone number which I'd already transferred so I couldn't see it. The DD was cancelled the day the final bill arrived so if they try billing me again it isn't going to work.

      1. Kastenbrust

        If they're still billing you then they'll finally stop after about 6 months of not being able to take any money and send it to debt collection, if the bill is big enough they'll attempt to gain a CCJ, I know I went through it. Just because you've cancelled the Direct Debit doesn't mean you've properly cancelled your contract with them, check the T's & C's super carefully and make sure they consider your relationship closed from their end.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I had a similar experience with O2 who were really keen to keep me. They asked when I first got through to someone if I really wanted to leave. I said Yes and could I have my PAC code please. I was then transferred to the retentions department who looked at my history with them. I'm a PAYG person because it's actually cheaper as most of the calls are ones I receive not make.

      So then he suggested making me a contract customer. I explained that I'd just be paying for line rental needlessly and I wouldn't use the data on a feature phone. I pointed out if he could see my top up history he could see that I only topped up 60gbp in the last twelve months and all the plans he was suggesting were more expensive than that. Could I please have my PAC code?

      So chappy on the other end points out that I'm on a feature phone. Wouldn't I like a nice shiny new smartphone instead? I've already got one thanks I just need the PAC code if you would be so kind. So I then have to listen to the list of smartphones he's offering me which is boring in the extreme. I remember thinking I had some paint that I urgently needed to watch dry instead.. Anyway after I rejected all of those he asked why and I said I work in building sites doing retail shopfitting. I need to have a phone for calls that's tough and a has long battery life and I already have one of those. I also pointed out that I had a smartphone on Three that is a toughphone and as such I didn't need a new one. He asked why if I had a smartphone was I not using that for everything as then his plans were doubtless going to be cheaper. I said I normally use the smartphone with WiFi and topped up around 10gbp last year giving me 1GB of data.

      What is the reason you're leaving? Because you're phenomenally expensive, It was 10p per text and 25p a minute for the first three minutes of each day and then 5p a minute after that on O2. The offer I was moving to on Three was 3p a minute and 2p texts (and 1p/MB data) - much cheaper. So my 60gbp would last longer much longer with Three and the credit wouldn't expire. Is there anything we can do to keep you as a customer? Yes will you match the Three prices? No sorry! Then for the love of whichever deity you pray to can I please have my PAC Code ? It was then supplied. If I had been less concerned about my number I would just have chucked the O2 SIM card away and switched. That took 40 at least minutes and I remember being amazed that they were willing to keep me on the line for that long. Especially as I was using the landline in the local O2 shop (as otherwise I'd be paying for the call) and customers could hear me.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Especially as I was using the landline in the local O2 shop (as otherwise I'd be paying for the call) and customers could hear me."

        Perhaps you should have told him that at the start.

    5. Phlebas

      I tried to sign up with them as a business customer. Absolutely hopeless at replying to emails or following up on chats from their website.

    6. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Ah balls, I just switched to a Three based provider and have found reception at my current home is actually much poorer than the checker made out.

      I must admit O2 were actually very helpful, there was an automated option to get a PAC code which I wasn't expecting but as usual the bloody thing didn't understand a word I said.

      Then got through to someone straight away who did understand me, only real delaying tactic was the operator said I could get money for my old phone and they had an offer for a wireless charger for £20, neither of which I took up (My G3 is worth £5 at the most and it doesn't have wireless charging). My phone switched today actually as they said (Although 2 days, come on to slow!)

      Hopefully the virtual provider will be much easier to leave than it is from Three.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cant see the point of 3

    We've moved on from 3G

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Aebleskiver


    I've found the most efficient way to get a PAC code from any network is to simply say you have poor/non-existant signal combined with the occasional bellow down to the operator of "SORRY, CAN YOU REPEAT THAT AGAIN?". I most recently got a code from Three in less than five minutes using this method.

    1. WallMeerkat

      Re: Pacman

      Or do like I do and just live in a rural area, every phone call is like that, and every phone network I've tried so far has been useless.

  5. Lee D

    As I commented on their Facebook page earlier in the month.

    If you want to sell me 5G, then you need to cater to both phones and mobile broadband dongles that you sell.

    I can buy a phone with them, and put a SIM in, and share out a 100Gb data plan for much less than the cost of buying a contract sim, sticking it into a 4G Wifi box (that they also sell) and offering that connection out directly over Wifi as my primary Internet connection - which is limited to 40Gb max on their mobile broadband plans and 9Gb if you try to "mis-use" a phone plan to do it.

    Who's going to use more traffic? Who's more likely to want 5G speeds? Who's going to pay more for it? Who's more likely to actually achieve top speed and look good on your data? Someone with an iPhone? Or someone who bought a mobile broadband SIM for a mobile broadband box that they sell themselves, with a huge feck-off antenna, and who uses every Gb of data every month as they don't use any other Internet connection?

    I get great speed, great coverage, and pathetic amounts of data - I literally can't even up it, in any way, shape or form, to 50Gb, 60Gb, 100Gb, or beyond. So why would I touch a 5G SIM with them? And how is someone using 100Gb of iPhone data roaming damn well everywhere any worse for you than me sitting here and using 100Gb of data on one of your SIMs in a fixed place?

    Cater to the market that WANTS to burn data, WANTS to pay you for it, WANTS the higher speeds and can use them, and WANTS as little from you as possible (just gimme data, I don't care about voice, text, etc. as I can't even use them anyway!).

    Literally, scale the existing 40Gb / £30 up and allow me to buy that and I'll be happy. Other providers allow me to go to ridiculous allowances for stupid money, but that's not even an option.

    And why are we still treating "tethering" clients as second-class citizens when you're actually producing a SIM designed especially for them, and selling devices especially for that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Erm, they already do. The restrictions on what SIM you can use in what device went away over a year ago.

      Of course they'll still try to sell you the broadband subscription for a dongle/router, but there's nothing to stop you buying a SIM only handset plan and using that. I'm doing exactly that.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >The restrictions on what SIM you can use in what device went away over a year ago.

        Three don't draw much attention to the real differences between broadband and phone plans, which is odd given way back there were noticeable network service differences between the two, which meant that you wanted a broadband SIM in your router rather than a phone SIM.

  6. HamsterNet

    By By BT land line in the sticks

    Out in the sticks of Essex, I've moved from BT landline internet to Three.

    My Speeds went from 15/1 Mbps to 35/15 Mbps. Price from £44 down to £24.

    Three do unlimited data contracts.

    I can see 5G, if rolled out to all their towers seriously compleating with landlines. If I was on EE here I would get 96Mbps down, as their tower is on a later LTE generation than the Three tower.

  7. trydk

    Good experiences with Three

    I don't know if I dare say this: I have only good experiences with Three. Oh blast, now it's out. Ah well.

    I have a phone with 12GB of data and a MiFi box (my internet connection) with unlimited data for a monthly total of £26. Yesterday I had a problem with the internet connection on their network (affected my phone and the MiFi box), called them. They said it was a problem with their network and would be fixed in two days. I complained and said that it was my only internet connection and I used it for my work. Within a few minutes they gave a £15 credit, suggesting I bought a SIM card from another network supplier and used that as an interim solution until their system was up again. I got a text message a few hours later saying it was now working, and so it was ... and not a few days later, as they had predicted.

    Way better service than my previous provider TalkTalk, who did improve their service just before I left them for Three, to be fair.

    I chose Three for their good data offers and because I can use my allowance in the countries I most often travel to.

  8. Andre Carneiro

    I found them a very reliable network, with very good value for money.

    Only reason I left them for EE was in order to have my eSIM, but as soon as Three deploy that (whenever that might be, they’ve been promising it for months), I’ll be returning to them...

    1. K

      Me too, I find them excellent value, and I've never had an outage affect me.

      I've got unlimited on everything and cost £25ish a month - Whilat all the other mobile operators were trying to screw people over with roaming charges, they offered Feel at Home, and I've travelled the world being able to use my phone as free as I like, including places like the 3 week in the USA, 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, and countless months spent in Europe!

      Though yhe signal at my new house isn't as strong as I had previously, which is annoying as I'd use and abuse the tethering, but i've now got a fat pipe coming into the house, so I'm happy.

  9. Efer Brick


    Statistical noise, Shirley

  10. streaky


    I left EE because they screwed me around sending my new sim and then cancelled my contract without any contact despite being an existing customer since before EE was T-Mobile. I was going to get angry and rant at them but before I did I shopped around and found 100GB/mo for 20 quid and when EE asked me what I was going to be paying (presumably in an attempt to price match them) when I was getting a PAC they baulked when I told them "yep, we can't match that". Moved to Three and they've been absolutely solid so far. I can pay 5 quid a month to upgrade to unlimited for a months as a one-off whenever I like and upgrade without extending my contract too, both of which I like very much.

  11. Admiral Grace Hopper


    Over the last 12 years or so, Three have yet piss me off enough to make me want to move, whereas Vodafone, O2 and EE all managed to do that within one or two contracts. T-Mobile were ok before they were Borged into EE, but they’re long gone.

  12. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

    The reason I am with Three was that they were giving free roaming when abroad in many countries before the EU introduced it. And it covers more than just the EU.

    It was quite nice to be able to use your phone freely in San Francisco.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap, no nonsense pricing

    PAYG credit that never expires with 3p per minute calls, 2p per text and 1p per MB, plus roaming on the very cheap. My only gripe is needing a 3G phone and not being able to use my Nokia 6210 and a cell nearby that has been out of service for months. Seriously considering them for a broadband connection when my current fixed line ADSL deal expires as FTTP is as far away as ever despite Openreach sticking up new telegraph poles and fibre within 100m of our home.

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