Challenges for an expat

For a new expat, figuring out new services, and which ones are best, can be daunting. After a huge move, now you have to figure out services like electricity, internet, TV and mobile phone service. Fortunately, most of the companies behind these services in the Netherlands are very good. They have reasonable customer service, transparent terms and understandable bills. Most of these companies offer websites in English and with most of them it’s easy to change or stop services, and also to reach them. Well, most of them.

I’ve had a recent experience with one company that really stands out – and not in a good way. I won’t mention their name but let’s just say that I haven’t “ben” (sic) happy with them. They are a reseller mobile service for one of the larger national mobile companies. And like most mobile service resellers, they are affordable and easy to sign up for. This makes them particularly attractive to expats, immigrants and newbies in the Netherlands.

I’ve had experience with two of them. The first reseller was – and probably is still – the best option for a newly arrived person without a bank account. I was able to get a mobile phone number, which is essential for all the administrative and immigration business when first arriving in the Netherlands. Many services do identity verification via text message (not WhatsApp, Google Voice, Skype or the like),  so that newly arrived foreigners must have a Dutch mobile number.

This company was great and I really had no reason to leave them, except that I was lured away by slightly lower prices and an entertaining commercial from another reseller with people who had tattooed the name of a previous love interest on themselves, only to reveal that they were new with someone else. Even though mobile services here are incredibly cheap, I thought, why not change mobile services to save a few euros? So I switched.

The move from the old company to the new one was seamless. The previous company even had an option where I could extend or cancel my subscription. I figured the new company would too. Several months into the new contract, I needed a phone that could be used as a hotspot modem for my business. I found out the hard way that this is not possible with resellers.

Crud. I needed to start a new mobile contract with a national seller to be able to use my phone as a hotspot. Furthermore, I needed to get a new number. I decided to retire the number from the mobile service reseller, ride out the contract (ugh, it was two years!), set a reminder two months before the contracted ended and cancel it in enough time that it wouldn’t revert to month-to-month.

Fast forward to two months before the end of the contract. Knowing the contract would be ending soon, I logged into my account with the mobile reseller and discovered there was no way to cancel my account. Not only that, there was no way to contact the company. There was no phone number on their site and though they said they had several ways to contact them – Knowledge forum, WhatsApp, AI chatbox – nothing worked. No answers anywhere. It was frustrating but, like most people, I couldn’t spend all my time trying to contact this company.

I am now in month number four of trying to cancel my account with this company. I’m not on social media, but wound up signing up for Twitter just so I could try to reach someone there. One day, I finally sat on the phone for 45 minutes and finally got connected with a representative. They cancelled my account and even sent a confirmation email. Two weeks later – today – I received another bill for them. I am currently DM’ing with this company trying to get my money back and to finally – once and for all – cancel this account.

The moral of this story is that even though most Dutch companies have good customer service and are transparent with their practices, not all of them are. The mobile reselling business is cutthroat competitive. But at the end of the day, they are resellers of someone else’s service and the only thing they have is customer service. So do your research and make sure the mobile company you have – especially if it’s a reseller – has an easy way to reach them and a reasonably easy way to cancel your subscription. Me? “Ben” there, done that already.

Written by Marla Thomson