Saturday, April 26, 2014

Terminating a phone contract... eventually!

Many years ago when we first moved to Cyprus, there was only one phone provider, the national organisation, known as CYTA. We needed a landline and (as I said, this was a LONG time ago) a modem with dial-up Internet connection. Since we were foreigners with no owned property, we had to pay a deposit - and presumably a connection fee - and after a few teething errors, it all worked.

Well, most of the time.

Our bills were initially sent to the PO Box of the organisation Richard was attached to. When that box was closed, we thought it would be straightforward to get everything sent to our own PO box - and it was, for the other utility companies, who still used the efficient method of jotting down notes randomly on ancient sheets of blotting paper or post-it notes.

Unfortunately, the phone company had computerised, so it took about three months for them to get it right.

Over the years we upgraded to broadband, and went through various routers. Mostly it worked; occasionally the service would go down, but - shrug - this is Cyprus. We couldn't understand why we received three different bills in the mail every month: one for the phone, one for the Internet, and one for the connected service. We asked several times if they would put them on just one bill, and the helpful people we spoke to assured us it was possible... but apparently not. Eventually the phone and one part of the Internet service were put on the same bill, so at least we were down to two per month.

Nearly eight years ago when we moved house, everything was straightforward and re-connected quickly. We were impressed.

Buying our own house meant that Richard could, at last, have a mobile phone contract in his name without paying a huge deposit. Previously it had been in the name of a friend who was already a home-owner.  He went to register... and, bizarrely, they could not find any details of our landline contract. So they set him up a new account which - for some reason - had his two first names reversed.   So we were back to having three bills in the mail each month, two to Richard James... and one to James Richard...

There was a slight hiatus about six months ago when we received a bill with both Internet services on the same sheet - hurrah! - although the landline phone bill was still separate.

The problem was that they insisted we were in arrears with our Internet payments. On the other hand, our phone was apparently in significant credit. Happily the amounts were the same, but they had no way to transfer from one part of the account to another.... I paid what they said we owed, and it evened out over a couple of months while our phone bill stayed in credit.

All that is mere introduction to the confusion of trying to transfer from CYTA to another phone provider. It's six weeks since I wrote about getting rid of our CYTA router (and the unexpected benefit of my backache vanishing). Returning the router meant that our Internet contract was finished at the end of February.

Backtracking a little more to the middle of February: if we had wanted a new phone number, we could have had that from the start of March too when it was all installed. But we've kept the same number for over sixteen years, and lots of people know it. And it should have been quite straightforward to transfer it to our new provider...

Except that when Cablenet looked into it, they spotted that Richard's passport (used as ID for many things here) did not have the same number as the one he was registered to with CYTA. Hardly surprising, since passports only last ten years. So they told him to go to CYTA and get his passport number updated.

Unfortunately, CYTA said they could not do that, because there was already an account registered to his new passport number.

'Yes,' he said, when he looked at it. 'That's the account for my mobile phone'. This, of course, explained why they could not find him in their system when he registered the mobile: his passport number had changed. He assumed it would be straightforward to merge the two accounts....


The helpful person at the desk understood the problem, but the computer would not allow them to do it. No problem, they said, they would get someone to do it manually.

But, surprise surprise, when the new provider tried to do the procedure to transfer the phone number, CYTA said they couldn't, because it was the wrong passport number.

So Richard went again, and went through the same process, and another very helpful person said the same thing, and even phoned him an hour later to say it was all done. The new provider asked for copies of both the old AND the new passport, so they could put in two transfer requests, one for each, in case CYTA still hadn't done it.

And it still didn't work. It was getting frustrating. But they kept at it, and eventually, on April 15th, our phone service was transferred from CYTA to Cablenet. Yay.

All's well that ends well, even if the path is a little bumpy en route...?

But no, it wasn't that simple.

CYTA bills are paid in arrears, so I knew we'd still have to pay the February bills (phone and Internet) at the end of March, and the March phone bill at the end of April. I duly paid the February bills online on March 24th and filed them away. I thought no more of it until, in our PO Box a couple of days ago, we found this:

Essentially it says, 'You haven't paid your February Internet bill, and we're a bit worried that you might not, since the service is discontinued.' Dated April 10th. Yes, mail is pretty slow here.

So I checked the online banking and printed out the receipt for that exact amount, which I certainly had paid. It occurred to me that perhaps they had made the account transfer BEFORE I paid the bill. In other words, the bill was to Richard James.... and I paid it to that account. But they now thought it was owed by James Richard...

We went into CYTA on Friday, yet again. We talked to another very helpful person, who totally understood the problem, and could indeed see that the payment had been made - but couldn't do anything about it. So she had to go to the accounts department and get them to deal with it. She couldn't give us any kind of receipt, either, but assured us they had taken care of it.

Richard double-checked that our phone account is now fully terminated, and we were told it was. It then occurred to me that there might still be a deposit - I couldn't remember if we'd claimed it back when we bought our house and moved. So the lady on the desk had a look and said yes, there was indeed a deposit of 150 euros. Richard muttered that it was an odd amount, given that we paid in Cyprus pounds all those years ago; but we weren't going to argue, since we hadn't been sure if the deposit was still there at all.

We had to wait another five minutes while forms were filled in, and the accounts department had to be consulted at length again... but finally, when the phone bills for March and April were deducted, we were handed - and signed for - just over 125 euros in cash.

So it seems that there was, after all, a happy ending.

Just so long as we don't get a summons for an unpaid February bill in the name of James Richard...

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