Mark Bridge writes:
Supermarkets. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Actually, that’s not true. Most of us seem to be happy enough with a half-price bottle of wine but less convinced about globalisation and supplier relationships.
But none of that’s bothering me today. Instead, I’m troubled – as I have been for several months – by the TV commercial for Tesco’s prepay mobile phone tariff.
It starts as a parody of the kind of ads we saw in the mid-90s when the future was bright for Orange. “I want to live in a world where I can transform a whisper into a shout”.
Soon, a Tesco Mobile customer says she’d rather live in a world where people transform her £10 into £30 if she buys a top-up every month.
Lovely. £30 of credit for £10 cash.
Except… well… that’s completely meaningless, isn’t it?
After all, it’s Tesco that’s setting those charges – and in the ad it’s not telling us what they are. For all it’s saying, those basic charges could be three times higher than other networks. You might as well advertise the Apple iPad as being ‘thin’ instead of being a tablet computer.
In reality, Tesco's charges aren't outstanding – neither the best nor the worst – but they’re okay, which means the deal for £20 of ‘free credit’ is appealing. (Although it’s worth pointing out that existing Tesco Mobile customers don’t get the deal automatically; they need to register for it).
Which all brings me to the point of what’s starting to sound like a Meldrew rant. In its ad, Tesco is harking back to a day when mobile phones were relatively new and exciting. But it was also a day when pricing was rather more straightforward. Today, we’re faced with tariffs that – despite the best efforts of an Ofcom-approved comparison site – are nigh-on impossible to compare.
Do you want free music with your mobile phone?
Free calls when you’re visiting your favourite place?
Free texts for life? (Whose life?)
Free weekend calls?
Don't get me wrong, Tesco's basic tariff is reasonably simple. However, despite mocking the big networks, it’s still involved in the same kind of tariff games as its playmates.
Have we really reached a situation where the biggest UK mobile operators can't afford to offer a prepay tariff that doesn't include any discounts?