OCTOBER 18 — After over two decades with DiGi I decided to switch to Maxis and who would have thought that porting out to another provider would be like kicking myself in the teeth?
On paper switching telcos is just a matter of telling the telco you wish to subscribe to of your intentions, and then the latter makes an application to the other telco to take you on.
Your old telco is then supposed to send you a text asking you to confirm your move, to which you have a limited time window to reply.
It feels like that old cliché of sending your kindergarten crush a note with “Do you like me? Yes or No?” but doing that to your partner instead, while asking for a divorce.
In reality, the whole process was convoluted and weird.
I didn't want to be tied down to a contract and Maxis' new signup offers weren't that attractive (rebates only for more expensive plans? No thanks) so i just signed up for the cheapest, no-frills plan.
Then I got the option to wait for my new SIM to be delivered or to pick it up. I chose the latter.
The next day I went to collect my SIM only to be called up by someone while I was on the way, asking if I had applied to port out, then saying they couldn't find me in the system and wanted more details.
I found it strange and said look, I'm on the way to Maxis now, goodbye.
Then after I picked up my SIM, I was just told to “wait for an SMS”.
Anyhow while I was trying to order lunch I called DiGi to ask the status of my porting request. I was told... they had received no request.
Then I called up Maxis and the customer service person was also very confused as they couldn't find a record of me applying to port out, despite my just having come back from Maxis to pick up my SIM.
A little while later, I got a call from DiGi where a pleasant-sounding woman offered me three months of a tiny rebate not to change providers.
That was all I got for over two decades? I just laughed and told her she was hilarious and hung up.
Later on two of my Facebook friends said they had received similar calls that were apparently scams where someone shady asked for their OTP and bank account numbers.
I have no idea if it was a scam or not but I found it rather disturbing.
Just a while later the Maxis person called me back and said they would resubmit my application.
Nothing else happened until I was woken up the next morning by an SMS telling me my application had been rejected due to “non compliance of your contract”.
I was very tired and wanted to go back to sleep but alas! This looked like my porting saga was about to turn into a tragicomedy.
After getting a glass of water for my dehydrated brain, I called up DiGi to ask what was up.
“Oh miss, your AirSIM (the SIM I used on my Apple Watch) hasn't been cancelled yet so we can't port you out. You have to go to a DiGi centre to cancel it.”
Younger me would have been irate and argued. Older me was too tired and decided I might as well try and get breakfast at Oriental Kopi.
That was also a failed mission as there was a queue so long I would have fainted from low blood sugar, so I had curry beef brisket with rice instead, which I would need as fuel for the telco drama to come.
Having eaten and prevented any hunger-induced tantrums, I went to DiGi, waited around 15 minutes perched on an overly high chair that I nearly tumbled out of, then was met by a pleasant customer service rep who expeditiously canceled my watch SIM and gave me a new physical SIM to replace my eSIM.
As I'd asked him if I had any subscriptions or contracts active, he correctly deduced I was planning on switching telcos.
“Well, ma'am you just wait for the SMS that will tell you how much you owe.” Apparently I would only have two hours or so to pay the sum from within my app.
This is rather bad news for the senior citizens I know who still have not gotten the hang of paying for things online and still queue at the post office to pay bills.
Then I had to go to Maxis (thankfully just one escalator ride up) to tell them to resubmit my porting application.
It took just two minutes for someone to attend to me and assure me the application had been done so I was free to go my merry way and spend too much money at KLCC.
Just as my back and feet were getting very sore from walking to Pavilion and back from KLCC, I finally received that SMS again to ask if I would pretty please confirm I would be leaving the longest relationship I'd had with anything in my life.
Before that SMS I had been contemplating a change of heart, maybe I was being too hasty, perhaps I should just stick with my telco even if my mobile reception and customer service experience had worsened since the CelcomDiGi merger.
RIght after thinking that, I lost my mobile data connection in the middle of KLCC and was reminded just why I was switching telcos in the first place.
Then the very next morning, again, I got a text saying my porting request was rejected.
I was too tired to feel any other emotion and instead called DiGi and was told it was just a “system thing” and to ask Maxis to resubmit the application.
“It is easier to get a divorce,” I told the customer service rep before I hung up, called Maxis and fortunately it took just one minute to get confirmation they resubmitted the porting request.
By then I was emotionally and physically drained and decided to just sleep in the entire morning.
Some hours later I again got that “yes/no” SMS and tiredly, again, confirmed I wanted to leave.
This time, within another few hours, I was sent an SMS saying what I owed and that I had just two hours to settle it.
What was concerning was that I was given URL links in my text, something that could easily be copied by scammers who could easily send fake texts with links to fool people into sending money.
I did not click the payment link but went to my DiGi app, manually selected the amount I wished to pay, because the app did not display my final required payment, paid, received a confirmation SMS and waited.
Hours again went by and no SMS to confirm the switch. Out of boredom I checked the link that showed me my current outstanding and was greeted by “the number is invalid”.
I popped in my Maxis SIM and in 30 seconds my line was activated with a bunch of texts welcoming me to the service.
Thus I surmise that even though number portability should have been seamless it has just become an annoying fiasco.
It's not an isolated case with just one telco; friends have complained of finding it just as hard to leave Maxis for DiGi and a cursory search of Lowyat.net forums finds many people bemoaning how annoyingly convoluted the process of porting to a new number can become.
Telcos should work harder to keep their customers or bring in new ones, rather than put up administrative barriers to them switching.
My telco experience rather mirrors the Malaysian experience when it comes to anything involving procedures.
Things that are supposed to be simple are made difficult for no reason, to the point it feels too easy to just give up entirely.
I just hope that I won't have to do this again anytime soon and that whoever's reading this will at least be prepared for all the hoops you will have to jump just to change providers.
Do better, Malaysian telcos.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.