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That’s One Super-Annoying Loophole

, , , , , | Working | March 9, 2023

When I got my first smartphone, I decided to hang on to my trusty old Nokia 3310 as a backup. Then, I decided that I also wanted it to be active with its own SIM card so that I could use it to call the smartphone if needed or if the smartphone died. I bought a prepaid card from [Phone Company #1], put it in the old phone, and left it on a shelf.

Then, a weird thing happened. I started getting calls to the old phone. As I didn’t carry it with me, I couldn’t pick up, but there would be several missed calls on it every day. As it was a prepaid card, I didn’t want to waste any money calling back; it would just use up what I’d paid into it.

The following weekend, though, I was home when the phone rang.

Me: “[My Surname] here.”

Telemarketer #1: “Hi, is this [My First Name]?”

This already annoyed me, as I don’t like telemarketers being so informal with me.

Me: “Yeah?”

Telemarketer #1: “Hi, [My First Name]. I’m calling to hear if you’d be interested in—”

Me: “Who is this?”

Telemarketer #1: “It’s [Telemarketer #1] from [Phone Company #2]. I was wondering if you’d be interested in a subscription to—”

Me: “How’d you get this number? This is a prepaid phone. Why are you even calling?”

Telemarketer #1: “I just wanted to make you a good offer.”

Me: “No, thanks.” *Hangs up*

Later the same day, the phone rang again.

Me: “[My Surname].”

Telemarketer #2: “Hi, is this [My First Name]?”

Me: “Yeah, what is it?”

Telemarketer #2: “Hi, [My First Name], this is [Telemarketer #2] from [Phone Company #2]. I was wondering…”

Me: “You guys again? I just said no; you’ve already called me.”

Telemarketer #2: “I just wanted to give you this really good offer…”

Me: *Sighs* “What’s the offer?”

The telemarketer went through a script telling me about a monthly subscription plan, no better or worse than any other out there.

Me: “No, I’m not interested in that.”

Telemarketer #2: “Okay. Could I ask why not?”

Me: “Look, this is a prepaid phone. It’s a backup phone. I already have a subscription on my smartphone; I don’t need a second one. I’m not interested, so stop calling me.”

I hung up again.

I was getting both annoyed and confused. Here’s an interesting thing: in Norway, you can opt out of telemarketing. You enter your number into a public database, and all companies in the country have to check their lists every few months. Serious companies do actually follow this, and I had opted out years ago, so I was both surprised and annoyed to get this call.

Turns out, there’s an exemption. If you’re already in a customer relationship with a company, they’re allowed to communicate with you. The intention of the exemption is to let companies communicate valuable information since you’re already a customer. Many companies, however, abuse this and use the opportunity to simply send a bunch of ads in the mail or call you on the phone, wanting to sell you stuff.

It gets worse. I didn’t even have a relationship with [Phone Company #2]! So how could they call me? I did some digging into the legal stuff and found out: the company that sold me the prepaid card was the parent company of the company that kept calling, so technically, they were within the boundaries of the law.

The calls kept coming, and I eventually answered one, attempting to really explain why I wasn’t interested.

Me: “[My Surname].”

Telemarketer #3: “Hi, is this [My First Name]?”

Me: “Yeah…”

Telemarketer #3: “Hi, [My First Name], this is [Telemarketer #3] from [Phone Company #2]. I was wondering…”

Me: “…if you can sell me a monthly plan, yes, I know.”

Telemarketer #3: “I have this great offer for you—”

Me: “Look: I know what you’re offering. Here’s the thing: I’ve bought this prepaid card specifically because I didn’t want a monthly plan. If I wanted that, I would have bought one. I didn’t. So I don’t. I already have a monthly subscription on my other phone; this is just a backup, a phone I’m not using. Understand?”

Telemarketer #3: “But you can get…”

They started to go through a script of the plan: such and such a number of call minutes and SMS texts included, etc.

Me: “It’s irrelevant. I’m not using this phone.”

Telemarketer #3: “But it’s a great offer—”

Me: “It’s really not. I’m not sending any text messages or making any calls per month from this phone, so why would I want to pay for that? I preferred to just pay that one amount I already paid so that I can make a couple of calls to alert people if the other phone dies. There’s no reason for me to buy any monthly plan for this phone. Can you take me off your call list now?”

Telemarketer #3: “Okay, I just wanted to make you this good offer.”

Me: “Yeah, so you’ve told me…” *Hangs up*

I kept getting calls up to five times a day. I never picked up. I eventually turned off the phone so that whenever they called, they’d get a busy signal. Later, wanting to test how often they tried, I turned it on for a while to see how long it took for the phone to ring. It was never more than an hour. I figured they actually had me on a priority call list and tried to call me once every hour. Talk about not getting the message.

Eventually, they shut the phone down. Turns out, they can do that; it’s in the fine print. If the prepaid card hasn’t been used up in six months — I told you I wasn’t really using that phone, didn’t I? — the number goes inactive and they can shut down the service. They said it was because they needed to limit the number of active numbers, but I think they just want to force people to buy their subscriptions. I didn’t care much, since I didn’t really use the phone anyway and the calls just became a nuisance.

That parent company still exists and is one of the biggest in the country. They are not known for their good customer service, though, and having experienced this first-hand, I haven’t done any business with them since. And I never will.

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