FAISAL says … what dealers want

Faisal Sheik, Average Dealer, avid emailer, king of the Mobile Business Dealer forum, just wants a level playing field for the independents and the chance to make lots of money.

I am hooked on ‘24’. I got into  the real-time US drama starring Keifer Sutherland as US counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer towards the end of the last series, and now I’m totally absorbed.
In many ways Jack Bauer is the ultimate super-hero. He has a strong sense of justice, and he’s determined to chase down the criminals, no matter who they are. What we wouldn’t give for a Jack Bauer in the UK mobile phone industry!?!
Crime is a much neglected issue in the phone business. Everyone pays lip-service to tackling it, but who’s doing anything to tackle it seriously? I’m not just referring to handsets being stolen: ID fraud is also a huge problem.

Last year, along with other London retailers, we were targeted by an organised gang. It was a familiar pattern. The customer would come in; they’d decide very quickly which phone they wanted, and had their proofs ready at hand. They’d connect on a high tariff with an expensive phone, mostly on 3. When the credit check went through and the connections were completed, they would suddenly decide to take a second connection for their wife/brother/boyfriend/mother.
It was only when the clawbacks started coming through that the scale of the problem became apparent. We put some measures in place, and we started checking debit and credit cards to make sure they hadn’t been reported lost or stolen. The results were quite spectacular – five arrests in three weeks … and we suddenly saw our 3 connection numbers plummet.
What’s going on here?
As a responsible retailer, we feel an obligation to protect our genuine customers. Sadly, though, not one of those arrests has led to a prosecution. I lost count of the number of times I tried to chase 3 to see what they were doing about the fraudsters.
My 3 account manager at Hugh Symons, Mary Daniels, went through the same aggro, trying to make sure something came of the arrests. We might as well have banged our heads on a brick wall.
To be honest, it would have been better for me to have connected the customer and taken the proof. I would have been clawed-back, but with 3’s clawback protection policy I would have got the money back – and still made a profit from the original connection. And sadly, that is the approach many take. A friend who used to work in one of the network’s direct retail stores told me shortly after the first arrests that his team had been advised by their area manager to put the connection through, as long as the proofs were correct – even if the customer was obviously not who he/she claimed to be! They were there to deliver numbers, not to be policemen.
How hard is it for a potential fraudster? Go through someone’s dustbin, pull out an old bank statement, and you’ve got a proof of address. Steal a bag, and you’ll have a debit or credit card too. On 3 and Orange, that’ll be enough to get you connected. The credit-checking procedure on both networks simply requires that the dealer has seen proof: It doesn’t ask for details of these proofs to be entered on to the system, and it certainly does not perform any checks on the proofs provided.
Jaffa for T-Mobile
I must take this opportunity to commend T-Mobile for its excellent WebReg system which requires details of the proofs. Best of all, it has the option to do CV2 and AVS checks on a debit or credit card, giving both the dealer and customer peace of mind.
At the end of the day, it’s the network which has lost out. But it seems too many are placing a greater emphasis on the quantity of connections, as opposed to the quality. It’s all about meeting connection targets for quarterly results, and is typical of the short-termism plaguing this industry.
All networks should follow T-Mobile’s lead – but take things a step further. Maybe it would be better to have a process where a debit or credit card (including Solo and Electron) is the only proof required. No driving licences, no passports. The card would be subject to a mandatory AVS and CV2 check.
This may result in a loss of numbers for networks, but it will certainly help improve the quality of customers being connected. And we also need to see more prosecutions when customers are arrested, to send a clear message out to the fraudsters!
Guys, at the end of the day I’m no expert, and definitely no Jack Bauer, but I’m hoping this starts to get all of you thinking. Please be sure to put your thoughts down on the forum – where you’ll find a fuller version of this column. Or send opinions directly to faisal@mbmagazine.co.uk. And if you can’t send comments, send Jaffa cakes!


1- T-Mobile FlexT 35 and Web’n’ Walk on MDA Vario for £42.50 a month.
The ultimate mass-market smartphone – when it’s in stock, nothing else sells. Come on T-Mobile, get some in!
2- T-Mobile Web’n’Walk Pro Data Card for £20 a month, free on an 18-month contract. Only a £35 margin, but broadband on the move for the masses at an amazing price makes this a winner!
3- T-Mobile FlexT 35 and Web’n’Walk on Nokia N70 for £42.50. A hit when the Vario was out of stock; still doing well, thanks to its fast 3G net connection.

1- Not enough coordinated action on phone crime. It’s the innocent, honest folks who suffer.
2- 3 joining the it’s better to go direct bandwagon – this from the network which promised never to offer deals direct that its dealers couldn’t match.
3- Pricing still coming through late – how can we plan if we have no notice of what’s happening?


Michael Sheehan from wheresmymobile.com, for realising that the crooks are easily outnumbered by honest folk who would gladly return someone’s lost phone!

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