Tesco Internet Phone Service … sort of

And at last, after 5 days of not being available (!) the registration part of the Tesco Internet Phone Service (I’m going to call them “TIPS” for short) finally came back from the dead and started working again. So I dutifully registered myself, picked a phone number in the local area, and selected their “All day UK” inclusive package for £2.89 a month.

They then sent me an email with confirmation details, and an activation URL, which then triggered the credit-card authentication processing, and as if by magic, I am the proud owner of a new phone line.

Well, sort of.

Despite selecting the “All day UK” package, and them taking all my credit-card details, it turns out that they’ve provisioned me on a “Pay as you go” account.


So I called up the helpline (somewhere in India) and talked to a nice chap, who tells me that to turn my “Pay as you go” account into the requested “All day UK” account, I just need to enter the code from the upgrade voucher that was included in the box with my Tesco phone.


I point out that I don’t have a Tesco phone, and that in fact, I’d already told them I was planning to use their service with non-Tesco hardware when they asked me that as part of the registration process. Can the chap in India just flip the bit in their database to enable my account? No, but he tells me I can buy a £10 “Pay as you go” top-up in-store, which will also have an upgrade voucher in it.

I’m starting to get a bit tetchy at this point, and make clear to them that I don’t want to pay £10 to enable the account that I thought I’d already registered for. So the nice man offers to send me an upgrade voucher through the mail. It will take about a week to get to me, if that’s OK?

I ask if he can’t just read me the damned code so I can enter it into the website while I have him on the phone? No. All he can do is have one sent to me.

Words fail me. Do they want my business or not for &deities. sake? Anyway, since I have some time on my hands, I’ve just added a letter to Terry Leahy to my todo list… I can’t believe an aggressive, modern retailer would stand for a farce like this.

In other respects, the service looks like it could be quite good, if I can ever get them to properly provision it for me. The inbound number works well, the call quality seems perfectly fine, and there is built in voicemail too. You just have to get past the bizarre sign-up process.

7 thoughts on “Tesco Internet Phone Service … sort of

  1. Pingback: VoIP update « Richard’s Blog

  2. So after a couple of months, how’s it working for you?

    I recently signed up but since i’m in the USA i can’t credit the account until my next visit to Tesco, which will probably be in November. Still, it does give my friends and family back home a clocal number they can call me on, even if i can’t call them on it.

    • It’s working well, now they’ve properly provisioned it. You probably want to read this post where I talk a little more about that: https://richardappleby.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/voip-update/

      Bottom line for me is that it now “just works”, and in combination with the simple call routing that my Gigaset phone can do, I can just pick up the phone and dial, and it goes down the cheapest provider automatically. Inbound calls to my different numbers ring different phones too.

      By the way, you shouldn’t actually need to visit a store to charge up the account. You can associate a credit card with the account, and then you can put funds onto the account that way (or pay for one of their packages, such as Anytime UK, which at £2.89 a month is pretty cost-effective). Worth calling the customer services number which is free, and talking to their people about your options. I found them helpful, though their strong Indian accents sometimes made communications quite slow.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Thanks for the update Richard. I did try and get them to add my debit card to the account (it’s a US one, my UK Bank account just has an ATM card since i’m not living there now) but they insisted i got a voucher first – from the store. I’m going to try again and ask them to send me a voucher either here to the US or to my Mum’s home in the UK


    • Yes, they do seem rather dependent on those paper vouchers to enable you to get the system working. They were happy to post me a free voucher (it came from somewhere in the UK) so that may be your best option. Note that they probably need your card to be a major credit card of some type – think Visa or Mastercard – so not sure if your debit card will be suitable or not. Worth asking though.

      I now run the UK Anytime option, which allows me to call UK geographic numbers for an all inclusive £2.89 per month. Calls have to be less than 70 minutes duration (they start charging you 2p per minute beyond 70 minutes) but you can have a series of 69 minute calls for free, subject to an overall fair usage limit of 3000 minutes per month in total.

      Which is much more than I’m likely to ever use 🙂

  4. I just purchased the tesco USB StickPhone from the store and thats where the customer experience ends.

    I cannot register for an account with the wizard when it starts. No problem, I thought! I will signup online then login with my software. Great! I filled in all the forms, picked my number, and got the activation code. Clicked on the link in my email to activate the account and I get internal server error, the developers have been notified. Hmmm.

    Called customer services and they sent a new activation link, but with the same error. Called them again and the reply was “I don’t know what’s wrong, you will have to wait for the developers.”
    How long will it take?
    “Don’t know!”
    So, I can’t use this service then.
    Thanks, Bye! That’s about the level of customer service you can expect – so seriously think before you buy the Tesco Internet Phone service.
    It’s really not ready at all for anyone to use.

    • Harsh, but fair. The contortions I had to go through to get signed up for the service were completely ridiculous too.

      However, all my problems were purely with the registration process, which appeared to be broken “at the back end” behind the website. Like you, I found that the customer support / contact centre weren’t able to help with that. However, it did eventually get fixed after a couple of days (yes, really!) which then finally allowed me to get registered.

      Having done so, I find that the VoIP service itself works flawlessly; it’s working right now, and so far I’ve never experienced an outage. In addition, it’s half the monthly price of equivalent offerings. Of course, whether that justifies persevering with the dreadful registration process is another matter – that’s up to you!

      It still amazes me that a retailer like Tesco would be happy to offer a product that is so difficult to sign up to. Since it’s actually outsourced, you’d think that they’d be leaning on their partner to improve things. But apparently not.

      Anyway, sorry to hear that their registration experience has not improved, and good luck with either getting registered or your money refunded for the handsets.

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