Democratic phone network turns dictatorial
Giffgaff, the network run by... someone else
A mobile network billed as being "run by you" is bowing to commercial pressure, adopting the more-dictatorial tone common to its competitors.
Giffgaff is a virtual network owned by Telefonica. While it runs in Telefonica's infrastructure, it promises cheaper costs though peer-support (instead of call centres), and tariffs discussed by the community – which is encouraged into activity with bribes for signing up mates and providing online support.
However, it has been forced to take a less matey stance by dropping its highest-cost tariff without consultation.
"Could we have consulted the community? The answer is of course yes, but then at the same time we can't consult on everything we do," says The Gaffer in a forum posting. Customers of the "user-run" network are told to "watch the blog" to find out what giffgaff will be offering as an alternative, presumably also without consultation.
The announcement came on giffgaff's first birthday, along with a promise of four months more free data and a block on numbers that claim to be mobile but aren't always so.
Despite some wobbles as that community formed, the project has been pretty successful. Customers seem to fall into two types: those enjoying the free data that comes with every bundle (originally offered for six months but already lasting for 12 and now extended for another four) and those searching for the cheapest way to make calls who've found giffgaff's bundles suit their needs.
But it is the most needy of that latter group, those prepared to pay £30 a month for unlimited calls and texts, whose tariff has been dropped. According to The Gaffer, that's 'cos fewer than 5 per cent of giffgaff customers were using it, though many customers are responding that 5 per cent should be enough and the forums are rife with customers threatening to leave.
It's the lack of consultation that has upset people more than the dropping of the tariff. Giffgaff expects customers to operate as sales staff, and it would be madness not to let your sales staff know about imminent changes to the tariffs. Many of the most-vocal forum users feel let down having sold giffgaff to their mates on the merits of the £30 unlimited tariff.
Ultimately, giffgaff is an MVNO owned by Telefonica, and competing with other low-cost MVNOs (such as Tesco, Asda and Virgin) would be next to impossible if one had to share future tariff plans with the world. Giffgaff might not really be a network run by its customers, but it is supported by them, and the forums demonstrate a sense of loyalty that other networks would be grateful for.
El Reg readers on the network seem mostly to be interested in the free data, and might not prove so loyal when the free data runs out at the end of February - unless that gets extended again. ®
giffgaff have bigger problems than pissing of their cult like users
There are 2 big problems with giffgaff
1: the forums are infested by freeloaders and delusional users that read far too much into their place in the deal. giffgaff make enough mistakes to trigger this herd into loud wailing on a regular basis. giffgaff's often misleading PR attracts a whole class of users that want to believe anything but the truth, that they're just customers. Doesn't take much reading of the community support pages to realise most of the posters see gold in them thar posts and post any old rubbish, with little regard to whether they're helping or misleading others.
2: giffgaff as a service provider are totally incompetent.
Cant keep their website running properly, really great for an exclusively online company.
The data is free because they cant get the charging software to work, as a consequence you cant have roaming data (probably an advantage with the price of roaming).
Cant get the card payment system to work reliably.
Cant even get the registration system to work all the time.
They offer a smartphone friendly tariff but the SIMs dont work in smartphones without tedious manual configuration
Running of O2 means lots of other stuff is broken as well and coverage is pathetic.
giffgaff must have seemed like a great wheeze, marketing guy goes to Web2.0 workshop, thinks 'I can herd hapless users for a good milking' and starts an extended self pleasuring session. But forgets to actually build a mobile phone company to go with the wet tissues. 12 months on it still a shambles and the growth rate of rival MVNOs leaves them looking pathetic.
for clearing that up. As I'm looking for something truly unlimited and I am usually in prtty good coverage areas.
Thanks you for your feedback
I'm Heather and I work as the social media manager at giffgaff. We take all feedback very seriously so it's great to hear your thoughts. We do have commitment to consultation and this is one of the guiding principles of our business. Yesterday the gaffer posted a new blog post explaining the £30 goodybag decision further as well as asking the community what they would like as an alternative. If you want to add your voice to the conversation, we'd love to have you. The post is here: http://community.giffgaff.com/t5/Blog/30-goodybag-closer-look/ba-p/157451