T-Mobile caught out purposefully misleading customers

I was very nearly tied into a 12-month contract with T-Mobile. In fact, I only had two days left before my seven-day grace period with my new phone ran out. The issue was that I had chosen a new phone for one reason and one reason only – I wanted to be able to pick up my email on it.

I received the phone and spent four days calling T-Mobile and Nokia and trawling the Internet to try to get my phone to work (to access my email) but even inputting numerous settings into the phone by hand didn't word. Finally I popped into Carphone Warehouse and the bloke there told me that T-Mobile simply did not allow me to pick up external email – at all.

This was news to me. So I called T-Mobile for the third time that week, determined to get a straight answer. I finally got it. T-Mobile does not allow access to external email accept through specific models. Except it won't tell you this.

In fact, it has a policy of purposefully misleading customers by referring them to the phone manufacturer and your ISP time and again. This has the effect of delaying any decision you may have to return the phone while you are trying to sort out the issue. If you don't sort it out within seven days and return the phone, you are tied into a 12-month contract.

T-Mobile clearly has a very compelling financial incentive to fail to inform its customers about its approach to external email.

I recorded the phone conversation for posterity. Here is a transcript of that conversation and a MP3 of it at the bottom.

I have since moved to Vodafone and have absolutely no problems getting hold of my email.

[You're through to David, can I take your mobile number please. Take your name. Full address and postcode etc.]

Me: I upgraded just under a week ago, the whole point being that I could get at email on my new phone. And it’s been impossible to get at it. I’ve got a Nokia 6230i. Now I spoke to yourselves, T-Mobile and you said ‘oh you need to speak to Nokia’. And I spoke to Nokia and they said you need to speak to T-Mobile.

So I went on the Internet and I got all the settings. And that hasn’t worked either. I simply cannot get. T-Mobile working. I have to get some kind of GPRS settings to get hold of my email.

Then I went to Carphone Warehouse and the guys there said – and I don’t know whether this is true, which is partly why I’m calling – that T-Mobile has a walled garden and I will not be able to access external email.

Right, okay. Just bear with me for a sec. [2 mins 3 seconds later…] Hey Mr McCarthy. What you need to find out is… you will need to get in touch with Nokia unfortunately…

No, I’ve just spoken to Nokia. I went through it 10 times with them. And they told me you [T-Mobile] need to send me the GPRS settings to my phone.

Right. To get external email?

Yes. The first question is: Is it possible for me to get external email on this phone through T-Mobile? Is that possible?

It is down to the handset…

Yeah, okay, the Nokia 6230i. Is it possible for me…

That’s why we’re advising you to go ask Nokia…

No, no. You must be able to tell me whether it is possible.

Right, basically, what you need is whether your handset has an email client.

Of course it does. You should know. You know this. It’s the 6230i. It is not Nokia – either T-Mobile lets me pick up email on this phone or it does not.

It’s not something that we support. But if you have the correct settings which you need…

Exactly, and it is T-Mobile that needs to send me those settings. It is not Nokia.

Right, basically it was… T-Mobile did not send them settings…

No I need you to be able to send me those settings.

But we don’t do them…

Well then where am I supposed to get them from?

It you will bear with me for two seconds, I’m just about to tell you that.


You get them from your Internet Service Provider…

No, no, I’ve done that. That is not possible. I need to input some T-Mobile settings. They either exist or they don’t exist. If they do not exist I do not want either the phone or the price plan I’m on.

[Five second pause] Just bear with me a sec [39 seconds later] Hello Mr McCarthy, basically, we do not do them settings. You can get them from your Internet Service Provider. That is the only people who will be able to give you them.

They are T-Mobile settings that I need. No other settings.

We can send you, you can send email but not external email.

So are you telling me I am not able to access external email through T-Mobile with…

It’s not something that we support.

What does that mean? Does that mean I can do it or I can’t do it?

It’s means that we don’t support it. We don’t do it.

It means it doesn’t work.

If you get settings from your Internet Service Provider then you may be able to do that, but we do not support it…

What are these settings? These settings are T-Mobile settings.

If it’s external it will need to be something from your Internet Service Provider. We do not do them.

No, that’s not true. I can’t magic up a connection to my ISP using a phone through your network. It doesn’t happen. They have to be T-Mobile settings. So either these settings exist or they do not exist.

Are you set up for your mobile Internet?

And for your mobile email – which you can send, which is set up on your account?

I can send email but not receive it, is that what you’re saying?

That’s right.

Well why didn’t you say that?

But not external email.

Why didn’t you say that? I’ve spent three, four days on this and no one’s told me I will not be able to receive email on this phone using T-Mobile. The only person is some bloke in Carphone Warehouse.

Yeah, you cannot receive.

Why didn’t you say that before?

I was saying we don’t support…

You know that support doesn’t mean receive. Support can mean anything.

It’s not something that we… we don’t do mobile email.

Right so look – what I need to do is I need to change this now. Is there any way that I can receive – using any phone with T-Mobile – external email. Does T-Mobile do that?

Right, basically the phones we do where you can receive external email would be the MDA range and also the Blackberry devices.

Okay, but no Nokias?


And there you have it. MP3 of the conversation below.

Update on situation: [4pm, Mon 19 Sep]

Okay, I've just got off the phone with the International Messaging Development Manager for T-Mobile – a nice bloke called Matt Rogers.

He tells me that it *is* possible to get outside of T-Mobile's network by inputting these settings into your phone:

GPRS APN address: general.t-mobile.uk
Gateway (IP) address :
Username : user
Password: wap

There is a caveat though – you can't be sure that your ISP will allow you to pick up or send email even with these put into the phone.

I am certain I put these exact settings in my phone and they didn't work however. An official response will come tomorrow which I will then add to the story I wrote for The Register.

Mr Rogers readily accepted however that these settings are not available on T-Mobile's website and that its customer services and call centre also have no access to any information on this.

Next month, T-Mobile will release its own configuration service that will automatically store the relevant email settings for your ISP on your phone. Customer services will also be briefed and provided with the information to deal with such queries in future.

Again though, I tried Nokia's Web-based configuration process for my exact phone and my exact ISP and it still didn't work.

Anyway, it's a success. T-Mobile is now not only aware of the problem (and I put in five phonecalls, two to the company's press office outlining the problems, which cannot be good). Even better – it is doing something about it. A result. I like being a journalist sometimes. Hopefully I've saved thousands of people a load of hassle.

Thanks to all those that have sent me emails and commented on this story below btw.