Freedom from what? I hear you ask.
Although as consumers we have almost unlimited choice in the number and range of products and services we can purchase, when you take a closer look, the reality is we have much less choice than we perceive.
Freedom from having limited choices
When you sign up to one of the main communication providers, for your mobile phone, home telephone, and home broadband, invariably there are ties, whether by contract or by your equipment being locked for use only with that particular supplier.
The Phone Coop does not lock any of the handsets they supply, nor do they tie customers with contracts which are designed around the tariff. The Phone Coop contracts exist mainly to allow customers to pay for their handsets as part of the monthly tariff. The tariffs on offer are designed for simplicity and flexibility and you can opt in our out of the tariff’s features at any time, and SIM only tariffs are based on a 30 day contract.
The Phone Co-op shines like a bright light of fairness in the shadowy world of hidden charges and small print..
Freedom from all the obstacles most of us face when trying to communicate with our providers of communication equipment and services.
When you try to make contact with your provider, often you are greeted with an automated voice menu which leads to more automated menus and is programmed to prevent you from speaking to a human being. When you do eventually get through to an operator, I have had experiences with O2 of waiting 40 minutes before the call gets answered, these are usually based in a remote call centre sometimes in the UK or Ireland, but more often in India, the Philippines or South Africa. None of these providers offer a 0800 number for existing customers and often the numbers they give are premium rate numbers which bring further revenue to them.
When you phone the Phone Coop, you dial a standard area code UK number and the phone is always answered within 3/5 rings first by a very simple automated message giving you the option to speak to someone about your broadband, or another option to speak to someone about mobile. Once you select your option, you get an answer within 3/5 rings and on rare occasions you may have to wait up to a minute or two.
Phone Coop operators have a calm and friendly manner and always give you all the time you need to explain your query without cutting across you. They will aim to resolve your query in that same telephone call, and are also empowered to make small concessions and allowances if it means resolving a problem or an issue, and in my personal experience, will always strive to go the ‘extra mile’ to provide outstanding customer service. Oh, and did I mention they will never try to sell you anything?
Freedom from giving our money to big business so they can pursue their relentless and apocalyptic obsession with growth with little or no regard for the Earth’s natural resources
Most communication providers such as BT, O2, Vodaphone, EE are huge companies and are often part of even bigger companies with millions of customers around the globe. Their sole mission is to grow and make money and in order to achieve this, they need to adopt efficiencies and economies of scale which pay little regard to working conditions for their employees, their supply chains and more importantly the impact which their activities have on the environment. Their directors are employees who are paid on the financial performance of the organisation and whose very jobs depend on delivering business growth and increased profits.
The Phone-Coop is a cooperative, which in simple terms means it is 100% owned by its members who are also its customers. Their profits are used to pay dividends to its members according to how much they have spent, and they will only invest in ethical and environmentally friendly schemes.
Freedom to acquire the World’s first ethical and environmentally friendly mobile handset
“Our partnership with Fairphone brings together two of Europe’s most radical social enterprises to challenge the mobile industry to be fairer and more transparent,” points out The Phone Coop’s CEO, Vivian Woodell.
Fairphone is a smartphone which does exactly the same as all other smartphones, it has a touch screen, wi-fi, two cameras, and you can download apps. The difference is that it has been developed and manufactured putting people and planet first and with deep social values at the heart of the organisation. The Fairphone is built using ethically-sourced minerals from conflict-free zones, and manufactured in factories with a worker-controlled welfare fund.
The Phone Coop and Fairphone have entered into an exclusive partnership based on shared values to market, sell and distribute these handsets in the UK. A recent customer survey carried out by The Phone Co-op found a customer satisfaction rate of 91%, with 70% saying they pay less for their phone than with their old provider. My own personal experience reflects this and it has prompted me to take a closer look at who I buy from and who I support with my custom, as the more people who take this approach, the sooner we can all transition to a more sustainable and equitable society.