In this section

Spring 2015

Spotlight
Our co-operative difference
New products and services
Meet out Affinity Partner
icon_pdf.gif You can also download a pdf version of this newsletter here.

Built on firm foundations

When we launched our PAYG service in April 2014, we were excited at the chance of becoming much more visible to the 18 million people who shop at The Co-operative Food stores each week. Within less than a year, our PAYG SIMs are now displayed on permanent fixtures in 2,800 of these stores so our plans have become a reality.

Our PAYG SIM cards, together with leaflets promoting our landline and broadband services, are now displayed permanently at the end of aisles, branded The Co-operative Mobile, Phone & Broadband.

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An example of our PAYG and leaflets on a permanet fixture in a
Co-operative Food in Shipstion-on-Stour, Warks. 

 

10% PAYG bonus for students and Co-op staff on their online top-ups

 ...along with low PAYG rates that are charged per second, not rounded up to the next minute. That's one of the best PAYG deals around.

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Pay as You Go with great service and fair prices. Help us spread the word!

In November, 6 months after launching our PAYG mobile service, we surveyed our customers to find out what they thought. We were pleased that 91% were satisfied with the service (62% "very satisfied") and 89% would recommend it to a friend.

These are great results from the 232 people who completed the survey. The fact that we charge per second rather than rounding up to the nearest minute, like many other mobile providers, will be one of the reasons
why 76% are 'especially happy' about our fair pricing. 70% of our customers say they are now saving money when compared to with their previous provider. The ease of setting up, topping up and good coverage are also appreciated, along with our award winning customer service.

Although good rates are clearly important, the co-operative ethos is key for our customers; people say the primary reason they switched is because we are a co-operative.

So our biggest challenge now is raising awareness about what we offer. With almost 10% of our current customers coming from recommendations, we can all help to spread the word.

Please remember that you can order up to 5 SIM cards for you, your friends and family so that you can all keep in touch for only 4p per minute for UK calls. Yes, that's correct, only 20p for a 5 minute catch up! Please
go to our website payg.thephone.coop for further details and to check out the bundles we offer starting at £5.

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2015 Board Election

The first big date in The Phone Co-op's calendar for 2015 was the ballot count, determining which of our five candidates would be joining the board for the next three years.

We feel that it is very important to involve our own colleagues in the election so that they can see democracy in action. Various people from Vivian, our Chief Executive, to Jess, our newest recruit in the customer services team, opened envelopes, removed staples, checked for duplicates and counted votes, whilst being closely watched by our two member scrutineers, Tia and George. All were sustained by sandwiches and chips from the local café and a conclusion was reached by 3.30pm.

10,029 ballot papers were posted out with a return of 2,124 - a turnout of 21.18%. Shelagh Young, our Chair, was re-elected with 1,321 votes and Fiona Nicholls was voted onto the board for the first time with 831. Congratulations to both of them and also many thanks are due to Richard Cox, our outgoing director, who decided not to stand again this time. We're proud of our democracy and would like to thank all of those who stood for our board.

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Colleagues Rachel and Estelle assisting with ballot paper count. 

 

AGM

Our AGM was held on Saturday 21 February in Birmingham and was preceded by presentations on our Pay You Go (PAYG) SIM cards and member engagement. We were delighted to welcome Joe Mier from Fairphone as our guest speaker. Joe aso manned a stand in the foyer where he demonstrated the phone and answered questions from interested members.

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Update on Phone Co-op Champions

One of our priorities for the coming year is to engage more with our members: to make sure that we are offering the service that they need, at a competitive price, with the bonuses of both excellent customer service and feeling part of a democratic organisation that truly listens.

To enable us to get a better understanding of how members feel, we sent out a survey recently and were delighted to receive over 1,000 responses. One of the questions asked if any members would like to "champion" our cause and spread the word about The Phone Co-op to their friends, relatives and groups who meet in their location. 109 of you said yes, you would like to help in different ways, be that by handing out leaflets, or giving a talk to a local interest group. We are providing each of our Champions with a pack including a PowerPoint presentation, leaflets, an email signature and as much information as they may need. We would like to thank our volunteers for their participation and also thank all of you who completed and returned the survey and attended our first Half Yearly Meeting in July last year and the AGM in February.

Exclusive member offer with Credit Union

Member engagement is one of our key aims in everything that we do and we were really pleased that a great example of this occurred at our last AGM in 2014. An enquiry was made about joining with The Co-operative Credit Union, who offer saving and loan services. This was followed up and links were put in place. Now members and employees can take advantage of their services - democracy and member ownership in action. Please see here for further details www.thephone.coop/member-offer or call them on 0845 602 355.

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How we believe the Mobile market needs to change

There's been much in the media about BT's proposed takeover of EE, and Three's plans to acquire O2. But what are the implications for us?

It's important to understand the role of regulation in shaping our industry. In fixed line and broadband, the regulator, Ofcom, broke BT's monopoly by requiring them to open their network to other operators at prices Ofcom determined. This was seen as necessary to avoid the creation of a private monopoly after BT was privatised. The mobile industry had a very different startingpoint. Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s the government wanted new mobile networks to be built from scratch and granted licenses to mobile operators. The mobile industry has matured a lot since then. Not only have Orange and T-Mobile merged to form EE, but behind the scenes the main operators have combined their networks into just two sets of infrastructure. The combined O2/ Three would have access to all of it.

For some years The Phone Co-op has argued that the regulator should treat the mobile operators more like they treat BT, and require them to open up their networks at regulated prices. What we need is a new regulatory framework in which anyone could enter the market for infrastructure, provided they meet the technical requirements, and any service provider could use it. The latest round of mergers make this all the more important, because the big mobile networks currently don't have much incentive to sell their services wholesale, meaning they usually only do it when they think it gives them an advantage over other operators. This doesn't make for a transparent or fair market, and we don't believe it's in the long-term interest of consumers either. As The Phone Co-op demonstrates, the telecoms market benefits from smaller operators that can be innovative, not just large corporates. We're worried that we will be placed at a long-term disadvantage in the mobile market unless this is addressed urgently.

We are working through industry bodies to make our case, but it needs further support from the public. If you would like a fairer and more open mobile market, please email us fairmobilemarket@thephone.coop to find out how you can help.

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The Phone Co-op and Midcounties Co-op renew their co-operation

Our Business Telecoms team has won the contract to supply phone services to The Midcounties Co-operative for the third time running. Midcounties is the largest regional co-operative in the UK with over 450 stores in many counties including: Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire,  Worcestershire and West Midlands.

Aaron Clayton, Head of Group Technology & Operations at Midcounties said: "We are pleased to renew our contract with The Co-operative Business Telecoms, they have provided excellent service to us, and, are a very flexible provider who allows us to be agile in a fast paced marketplace."

As part of the service, a member of our business support team will periodically work on-site at The Midcounties Co-operative HQ to provide liaison and staff training. Guy Ohlenschlager, Corporate Sales
Manager at The Phone Co-op said: "Our shared values are important. We see working with The Midcounties
as a partnership to provide the best service and solutions." One of the universally recognised principles, enshrined by the International Co-operative Alliance is co-operation between co-operatives, of which this is a perfect example. 

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"Midcounties" Head Office in Warwick

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Ethical Consumer: 'An ethical match made in heaven'

As an independent, not-for-profit co-operative magazine, Ethical Consumer has been at the hub of the movement to empower ethical driven consumers for over 20 years. Our 10 year Affinity Partnership with them has aligned our joint missions to make global business more sustainable through consumer pressure.

Mobile phones are a good example of this as they have revolutionised modern life and now most of us cannot do without them. But what is their ethical and environmental cost?

Around the world there are 4 billion mobiles now in operation, each using tiny amounts of more than 40 metals
whose production results in enormous environmental damage. Many of these metals come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where violent militias have seized the most valuable mines to fund their devastating conflict. On top of this, there are allegations of human rights abuses in the Chinese manufacturing factories of many of the top brands.

The good news is that, at last through the Fairphone, shoppers can choose a smartphone which represents an important step towards sustainability and justice.

The Fairphone, like us at The Phone Co-op, has been independently accredited by Ethical Consumer. Ethics are embedded within the operation of both businesses meaning that we top the Ethical Consumer unique rankings tables in our respective sectors. Both are recommended as 'Best Buys' for mobile and network respectively.

Tim Hunt, co-editor of Ethical Consumer said: "The Phone Co-op retailing the Fairphone is an ethical match made in heaven. This link-up between two 'Best Buy' organisations is a first for us and we are genuinely
excited by the difference that this partnership can make." "We hope that shoppers looking to buy a smartphone will choose to buy a Fairphone and sign up with The Phone Co-op. Partnerships such as this provide an empowering choice for consumers and can really help to make a difference."

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Take advantage of Ethical Consumer's 30 day trial with a money back guarantee. For more information, visit their website www.ethicalconsumer.org or call them on 0161 226 2929.

 

Phone Hacking Trial

Are you interested to learn more about the unprecedented trial that closed a national newspaper and sent shockwaves through the Government? Then come along to the talk we're sponsoring this year at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. Journalists Martin Hickman and Peter Jukes will discuss the reporting they did and subsequent fallout. Sunday 26th April from 2-5pm at Chipping Norton Town Hall. www.chiplitfest.com/events/the-phone-hacking-trial01608 642350.

 

Blog reminder

Don't forget to see the blogs on our website. These cover stories from updates on our products and services, guest blogs on key topics, events, opinions, customer testimonials and useful info. Just go to www.thephone.coop/about-us/blog or www.thephone.coop/membership/blogfor membership updates.

 

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