Letter:A message for Mercury

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am one of the many victims of the Mercury One-2-One "free Christmas call" promotional offer debacle reported in your story today ("Mercury lines flooded by free phone call offer", 27 December). This incident raises important issues about who was responsible, how the quality of telephone service should be monitored and how compensation should be paid to the victims.

When I walked into the telephone store in late November, the salesman said: "You can have the Cellnet phone for £80 or the Mercury One-2-One M3Ol phone for £249. Take the One-2-One phone and you can call anywhere in the world for free on Christmas day aslong and as many times as you want." Based on a quick calculation that I would save at least £200 on Christmas Day phone charges calling Australia, Hong Kong and the US, I bought the One-2-One M3Ol phone. It came in a Christmas package, which said in big white letters: "call the world for free on Christmas Day".

My experience was almost as frustrating as Sally Pope's, as reported in your story. At 8.20 am on Christmas Day, I started trying to call my international telephone numbers. By 10:15pm, I had tried more than 150 times to reach my intended international

numbers on my One-2-One phone. Most annoying, whenever I tried to reach the One-2-One Customer Services number to complain about the failed service, there was never any reply.

The primary fault for this debacle lies with the Department of Trade and Industry, which licensed One-2-One to provide a telephone service without verifying it had the capacity to provide an adequate service. The UK government has a responsibility to require that proper compensation be paid. The offers of compensation in your story today (£40 or £75) are derisory.

Obviously, an individual that has been duped by One-2-One's promotional offer cannot, economically, obtain redress through the courts, because the damages to be recovered do not justify the court costs and other risks of litigation.

I would like to see the DTI force One-2-One to provide a proper customer response service and to pay compensation to the victims of its promotional offer. Only a government agency, which has the power to revoke One-2-One's licence, can achieve both of these objectives effectively and quickly.

Yours faithfully, MICHAEL McNULTY London, NW8

27 December