Monday, 7 October 2013

A tale of three phone companies

    I have a tale to tell about the mechanics of changing the name on accounts with UK utilities following a legal change of name. It's not in itself unpleasant, but it demonstrates perfectly the kind of petty jobsworth application of invented non-existent laws that blights the process for those of us who are going through it.
    One of the first things I did on transition was to change my name with the first of my three phone companies, the UK's national near-monopoly, BT. Like most Brits I use them for my fixed line phone, and in my case they also provide my broadband. To change my name with them I simply logged in to my online account with them and updated my details. No need to provide any documents as there is no such thing as a legal name in UK law, they know exactly who I am through my address and bank account. Job done, not bad for a usually slow-moving former nationalised near-monopoly.
    My second phone company was the next on my list for a name change update. EE are one of the UK's larger mobile phone networks, having been formed from the merger of T-Mobile and Orange. I've been with them for more years than I'd care to remember, and have always been pretty satisfied with them.
    So I logged into the EE web site and worked through the section for updating my details. That's strange, no place to update your account name. I must have missed something. So I asked them where to look, via my social network of choice.
    Their reply was this link. A page telling me I needed "A covering letter with a copy of the change of name deed poll document and also the documented proof of gender change." Oops, I don't have a deed poll, I have a statutory declaration. And also what exactly is "documented proof of gender change"? A picture of me dressed as a drag queen? A letter from my doctor? My BT phone bill?
    I pointed out to them that (a)not everyone has a deed poll, and (b)was the requirement for documentation really necessary considering it is not a legal requirement and BT can happily do the change without it. The reply: "Just send us the documents we ask for". More than their jobsworth.
    I am physically unable to send them a deed poll, I don't have one. A statutory declaration is functionally the same thing, I advised them to talk to their legal department. I am not spending money with a lawyer to get my "documented proof", just for a poxy phone company who are demanding something they have no legal requirement for. I refer them to the case of Arkell vs. Pressdram.
    Which brings me neatly to the third phone company I mentioned. I don't know who they are yet, but I know they'll have no problem with my name change. You see, the UK mobile phone market is one of cut-throat competition. There are the network owners, EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three, and a host of secondary service providers such as Tesco Mobile, Talk Talk, Virgin Mobile, and GiffGaff who lease capacity from the network owners. Moving providers is a very simple process.
    So I don't have to put up with EE's frankly ludicrous requirement. I'll simply wait for the end of my contract - not too long now - and move mobile provider to my as-yet-undecided third phone company. Start with them in my new name, and the transphobic EE jobsworths can go to hell.
    Everything Everywhere - except in my pocket, that is.


  1. Interesting about EE. I'm was with Orange and my change of details went through without the need to give any proof of gender change, just gave them a copy of my Deed Poll.
    So far my contact with Orange staff has been quite positive. I suppose like anything you get people that are really helpful doing the job and dealing with people and then you get others that should never be in a customer facing role in a million years.

  2. I was with T-Mobile, now part of EE and I just had to go into one of their shops with my Deed Poll and it was that easy; sounds like you were unlucky with the individual you were dealing with.

  3. I had a mixture of reactions from the various companies. The worst is probably my cable provider, who insist on a letter on paper saying you wish to change your details from "De Heer" to "Mervrouw". I'll be honest and say that I have not got around to it yet.

    Or the HSBC who insisted on the original copy of my Deed Poll, not even the certified copies that I ordered with it would do (they were a waste of money, not a single entity would accept them!). I refused to send it off through the post, as i needed it for other things and did it in person on my next trip to the UK. The face to face change of details went without a single hitch, with very nice staff in the Inverness branch dealing with it quickly and efficiently.

    The best was XS4ALL, my old internet provider. When I called them I was told that they don't store any gender information, and only initials of the first names, and so nothing had to be changed.


  4. I'm indebted to Jane Fae for writing this gaystarnews piece. EE however continue to parrot the "Deed poll only" line.

    TBH I'm not bothered about EE as I'll dump them at contract end. But it's more general than just them, an insistence on ludicrous made-up requirements. And it's not just for trans people either, the vast majority of people this affects are natal women who change their name on marriage or divorce.