Three's eSIM delay - how I was compensated £400

edited 24 February at 3:09PM in Mobiles
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NFHNFH Forumite
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edited 24 February at 3:09PM in Mobiles
It is clear on social media, particularly Twitter, that a large number of Three customers are frustrated by Three's delay in launching eSIM (embedded SIM) support. I will explain below how Three had to compensate me for half of the £549 purchase price of my new iPhone SE 2020, which I purchased from Apple, plus £125, total £399.50, as a direct result of its delay in issuing me with an eSIM.

Three tweeted about its plans to support eSIM functionality:
  • On 5th December 2018we’re working with Apple on supporting eSIM and plan to introduce soon as we can”;
  • On 28th June 2019we’re currently testing eSIMs for various phones to make sure you guys get the best possible experience we expect to be able to support these in autumn 2019”;
  • On 29th January 2020we're planning on launching eSIM for phones in spring 2020”;
  • On 27th April 2020in regards to esim, unfortunately, due to coronavirus, we’ve had to delay our trials, which were due to take place in march. this is now likely to move out to june/july with launch in september"; and
  • On 30th August 2020We'll be launching the eSIM this September!
  • On 25th September 2020eSIM is finally here”.
Also on or around 25th September 2020, Three wrote on its web siteeSIMs are here on Three”; “You can also swap your current physical SIM for an eSIM. Just request one here”; and “Take note that when we process your eSIM request, your physical SIM will be disconnected. You'll need to wait for your new eSIM to arrive. This will mean you'll have to go 1-2 days without service”. This text remained unchanged until early November 2020.

I had wanted since September 2018 to use Three’s services via an eSIM so that I could use my iPhone’s physical SIM card slot for multiple SIM cards from other suppliers, for example when travelling abroad, as well as for a second mobile number while in the UK. I previously had an iPhone 8 256GB, which does not contain an eSIM. Therefore, after reading Three’s public statements of 25th September 2020 quoted above, I bought an iPhone SE 2020 256GB, which is dual SIM comprising one embedded SIM (eSIM) and one physical SIM card slot, from Apple for £549. I would have preferred a flagship iPhone model, but I hate the ugly notch on the latest iPhones, so I decided using on a iPhone SE 2020 for 12 months until Apple releases its next flagship iPhones in September or October 2021.

The only significant functional difference between my previous iPhone 8 and my new iPhone SE 2020 is the inclusion of an eSIM with the latter. Both iPhones are otherwise almost identical, including but not limited to, shape, size, screen resolution, camera resolution and memory capacity. Therefore the only reason that I bought an iPhone SE 2020 was to use its eSIM for Three’s services, which would then allow me to use the iPhone's physical SIM card slot for other suppliers’ services.

Given that I took Three’s public statements quoted above into account when deciding to buy my iPhone SE 2020, these public statements formed binding contractual terms pursuant to Section 50(b) of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which states:
Every contract to supply a service is to be treated as including as a term of the contract anything that is said or written to the consumer, by or on behalf of the trader, about the trader or the service, if—
(a) it is taken into account by the consumer when deciding to enter into the contract, or

(b) it is taken into account by the consumer when making any decision about the service after entering into the contract.

I started using my new iPhone SE 2020 immediately after receipt, using my existing Three physical SIM card, and I gave my previous iPhone 8 to my daughter. I did not immediately request an eSIM from Three, as I needed to choose a convenient time “to go 1-2 days without service” as quoted above.

After buying my iPhone SE 2020, I asked Three numerous times in late October 2020 to replace my existing physical SIM card with an eSIM pursuant to Three’s binding contractual terms quoted above. Three responded that it could not yet replace my physical SIM card with an eSIM and it did not know the date when it would do so. The result was that I could not benefit from the only reason for which I bought my iPhone SE 2020.

Three subsequently tweeted:
  • On 24th October 2020You should be able to get an eSIM without effort sooner rather than later”;
  • On 26th October 2020You can read more details on eSIM, including the list of current stores providing the activation codes here: https://!!!!!!/31HL6VT It shouldn't be too long before this rolls out across the board”; and
  • On 27th October 2020the eSIM roll-out is currently going through a low key trial at the moment in a limited number of stores. Is should become widely available very soon” [sic].
These three tweets caused me to choose not to cancel my contract with Apple the purchase of the iPhone SE 2020 within the 14-day cancellation period allowed by Regulation 30(3) of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. In any case, returning the iPhone SE 2020 would have unreasonably left me with no iPhone at all, after Three’s earlier tweets quoted above caused me to replace my iPhone 8 and give it to my daughter.

In early December 2020, Three's customer services advised me that I could obtain an eSIM from any Three store with effect from the following day. Therefore I went to a Three store in the City of London, but it turns out that I had again been misled by Three, because no Three store in London could yet issue eSIMs. The City of London is London's financial district which is almost deserted because almost everyone is working from home. Despite the very low footfall, the store manager told me that eight customers had visited the shop on that same day to request an eSIM, who had been similarly misled by Three. Clearly a lot of Three customers want eSIMs and are frustrated by Three's misleading communications on the subject.

Regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 states:
1) A commercial practice is a misleading action if it satisfies the conditions in either paragraph (2) or paragraph (3).
2) A commercial practice satisfies the conditions of this paragraph—
a) if it contains false information and is therefore untruthful in relation to any of the matters in paragraph (4) or if it or its overall presentation in any way deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer in relation to any of the matters in that paragraph, even if the information is factually correct; and
b) it causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he would not have taken otherwise.
Regulation 5(4)(b) is defined as “the main characteristics of the product (as defined in paragraph 5)” and Regulation 5(5)(a) is defined as “availability of the product”.

I am an experienced litigant-in-person, and was planning to issue a County Court claim against Three. However, I decided instead to submit a complaint to the Ombudsman Service Limited, in which I argued that Three’s public statements concerning availability of its eSIM functionality quoted above were a misleading action in breach of Regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in that they caused me to take a transactional decision that I would not have taken otherwise, specifically my purchase of an iPhone SE 2020 for the sole purpose of using its eSIM with Three’s services. I also argued that Three, by refusing to supply an eSIM to me, breached the binding contractual terms formed by its public statements quoted above.

The misleading action and breach of contract were by Three concerning services, and that nothing turned on my choice of supplier with whom I entered into a separate contract to purchase the goods. My complaint would have been equally valid whether I had bought the goods from Three or from Apple, because it was not the contract for the purchase of goods that suffered the breach of contract and the breach of Regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The Ombudsman Service Limited agreed with me and determined that Three must pay me half of the cost of my new iPhone SE 2020, i.e. £274.50, plus a goodwill payment of £125. Although a court might have determined that Three should have reimbursed me for a greater proportion of the cost of my iPhone SE 2020, the courts almost never award amounts for distress and inconvenience (e.g. the £125), unlike ombudsmen. So it was a good result without a probable 12-month wait for a court hearing. Three's Executive Office quickly paid the £399.50 after I prompted them to do so.

Since then, Three's subsequent tweets falsely claim retrospectively that its eSIM launch in September 2020 had been a trial. The truth is that the trial took place in June and July 2020, as confirmed by Three's much earlier tweets quoted above, but I am guessing that something went wrong with the launch, during which time Three continued to state misleadingly that eSIMs were available. Three has still not resumed issuing eSIMs, despite having tweeted on 29th January 2021 "Yes, eSIM has been tested and trialled, Adrian, and we'll be releasing it to all customers with compatible handsets very, very soon".

If anyone else has suffered a wasted purchase as a result of Three's misleading communications about eSIM functionality, then I suggest that you make a similar complaint. If Three starts to feel a financial impact of its unreasonable eSIM delay, then it might resume issuing eSIMs sooner rather than later.

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Replies

  • ReecesWaffleReecesWaffle Forumite
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    What a result! Pretty poor of them to offer a service they hadnt even been able to get ready for release.
  • liggerz87liggerz87 Forumite
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    Good result you could have left 3 though and had esim with another network
  • NFHNFH Forumite
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    liggerz87 said:
    you could have left 3 though and had esim with another network
    No, I could not have left Three and got an eSIM from another network. I bought my iPhone SE 2020 to use specifically with a Three eSIM because:
    • My substantial credit balance, which I had built up using Amex Shop Small, was with Three.
    • I pay Three 1p per megabyte, now on a Data Reward SIM. This is ideal for my usage, because living in London I have almost constant access to wifi so a monthly data allowance would be a waste of money. No other UK network has such low pricing except for O2 Classic PAYG, which is not available on an eSIM.
    • Vodafone is the only other UK network offering eSIMs to prepaid customers, but it charges £1 per day for any usage up to 50MB per day. Therefore if I use 1MB in a day (quite typical during lockdown), then it will cost me £1 on Vodafone vs only £0.01 on Three.
    • Three is the only UK network to charge UK domestic prices when roaming in 59 countries and territories (not the "71 destinations" that it misleadingly advertises by counting five countries multiple times).
  • NFHNFH Forumite
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    Starting on 18th November 2020, and most recently on 29th December 2020, Three tweeted 11 times "eSIM isn't available right now, but we recently finished trialing it in some of our stores. It's gone well so we plan to roll it out across all stores and then other channels early next year, so keep an eye out for that".

    Then on 29th January 2021 Three tweeted "Yes, eSIM has been tested and trialled, Adrian, and we'll be releasing it to all customers with compatible handsets very, very soon".

    But then on 25th February 2021 Three tweeted "To use the cellular aspect of the watch, you'll need an eSIM though, which we're rolling out fully, across all channels, in the coming months". There's a big difference between "very, very soon" and "in the coming months". Three seems incapable of sticking to its own promised timelines, constantly moving the goalposts without explanation.

    Even worse, having stated that eSIM would be released to "all customers with compatible handsets very, very soon", Three subsequently tweeted on 1st March 2021 "Sorry, it's not available for PAYG PussiPetter. We aim to bring eSIM to any pay monthly customer with a compatible handset very soon though". So PAYG customers, who have been waiting very patiently and believing Three's public updates, will still not be able to get an eSIM.

    My guess it that Three plans to relaunch eSIM in the week starting 12th April 2021, when non-essential shops can reopen. During its bungled launch of eSIM in September 2020, Three hadn't understood that eSIMs are virtual, because it issued every eSIM with a QR code physically printed on paper in a small number of Three stores in northern England, unlike Vodafone which issues eSIMs by e-mail. It was highly irresponsible of Three to require customers to visit physical shops to obtain QR codes during a pandemic, avoidably endangering its customers' and employees' health, which was no doubt a factor in its eSIM launch being suspended.

  • liggerz87liggerz87 Forumite
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    I get you I don't use esim so don't understand what you need for it I just use a sim and swap that to phones lol 
  • liggerz87liggerz87 Forumite
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    I did try quote you but said I was 9 characters short added more and still wouldn't send lol
  • NFHNFH Forumite
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    It was false information by Three on Twitter that caused the ombudsman to find in my favour above. But it now seems that Three's social media team's incompetence has reached a new level. Despite being employed to carry out public communications for Three, they are incapable of even writing basic English sentences without simple errors. Starting on 15th March 2021 and most recently on 12th April 2021, six different members of Three's social media team have written publicly 11 times:
    "you may of heard we trialled eSIM last year in selected retails stores" [sic]
    Even if this text was copied and pasted from one original version by multiple team members, it is astonishing that none of them noticed the bad English, and it casts further doubt over the team's general credibility and professionalism. Most large businesses have dedicated corporate communications departments who ensure their public communications are accurate and of high quality, but no doubt Three outsources this task to an external company, just as it does with customer services and even customer relations. It seems that almost all of Three is outsourced to external companies whose employees have little interest in the credibility and success of the business.
    Last week I contacted Three's customer services, who insisted that all Three stores now issue eSIMs, including to prepaid customers. I challenged this, expressing my doubts, and I was then put through to customer relations. Customer relations likewise insisted that Three stores can now issue eSIMs, and they promised me compensation if I subsequently spent money travelling to a Three store without being able to obtain an eSIM. Therefore I went to a Three store on Saturday, which was unsurprisingly unable to issue me with an eSIM. They noted my account, and customer relations subsequently compensated me for my wasted journey. Three's incompetence over eSIMs is extraordinary.
  • edited 29 May at 5:23PM
    NFHNFH Forumite
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    edited 29 May at 5:23PM
    I see that Three has recently removed its page at https://www.three.co.uk/support/sim-support/esim where it had misleadingly stated since September 2020 "eSIMs are here on Three". The last cache of this page was on 4th March 2021, but several other pages on Three's web site still link to it. I also see that Three now more truthfully states at https://answers.three.co.uk/faq?query=esim "Currently, Three don't support eSIM".
    I notice that Pocket-lint has helpfully referred to this thread in a report: Three UK set to finally fully launch eSIM later this year - will it include Apple Watch?
  • THEL00SEM00SETHEL00SEM00SE Forumite
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    Whilst reading NFH's original post it felt like deja vu.  I too was told similar things like "go in to your local Three shop to get an eSim", yet when going to my local store was told this was not the case.  I was told so many different things from different representatives I spoke to, yet I was never able to get the eSim resolved as I was promised when I purchased my iPhone 12.  Eventually after many dozens of calls over many months I spoke to trading standards whom informed me that at the very least Three were in breach of contract and it was also mentioned that it could be a case of false advertising as their website clearly stated that eSim was available.  Whilst my success story isn't as grand as NFH's, I was compensated £95 for the 'Unique Sim' number that I bought specifically for eSim purposes.  Perhaps I should have held out for more as it was clearly a breach of contract, but in the end settled for the hundred pounds compensation.  The frustrating thing was, no matter how much I requested to speak to a senior member of management who could actually provided some factual information I was constantly, time after time, apologised to and told how much of a valuable customer I was, but never got an actual answer.   My advise - speak to trading standards, confirm all the details, then threaten 'Breach of Contract' with Three.  I hope if everybody does this, this will push Three to at least if nothing else, be clear with their information and stop making false claims or promises, and actually give a DATE as to when eSims will be available rather than "coming soon".
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