Tesco Mobile ask you for your Password (and are Rubbish)

September 11, 2012

in Featured Articles, Personal

Let me tell you a story about Tesco Mobile. I recently bought myself a iPhone to mark my graduation into the worst job market in decades, and changed my network to GiffGaff, as my previous provider Tesco Mobile didn’t do unlimited mobile internet, without which there would be little point in having an iPhone. So, I set everything up with GiffGaff, and then called Tesco Mobile to get my port authorisation code (PAC), so I could keep my old number. They told me that I was on a twelve month contract I hadn’t actually signed up for, and I would have to pay a cancellation fee. Not much I could do about that, having never known I was on a contract (their rolling one month contract is the same price, and that is what I had asked for, having a tendency to go abroad for months at a time). Notwithstanding that discovery, I then got a standard transfer to the Upgrades department where the nice guy at the other end admitted that he could hardly sell me a product that Tesco Mobile didn’t actually offer, and he gave me my PAC and everything was lovely. Then it turned into the customer service enquiry from hell.

"Please hold, your call is meaningless to us."

When I gave said PAC to GiffGaff, I got an email back a day later saying that they had tried to use it and Tesco Mobile had refused it, and I needed to get another one. So I rang up Tesco Mobile again, and met an agent named “Chris”. “Chris” asked me down the phone for my password. As I have been long taught by every company on the internet ever to not give my password out to anyone, I refused. I can’t actually recall being asked for it by the other guy, but I am pretty sure he didn’t ask me for my password. However, “Chris” was adamant that I either had to give him my password or “for data protection”, he wouldn’t go any further. I hung up the phone and wrote a complaint to Tesco Mobile (who, incidentally, don’t provide an email address on their website, but it is support@tescomobile.com) about what I thought of customer service agents who try to get me to give out my password.

Someone from customer support then got back to me to say that it is Tesco policy to make all customers give out their passwords over the phone. I wrote back to point out that this is entirely at odds with internet security best practice and, indeed, my previous experiences with their own agents, and the fact that they have a secondary security procedure where you give out your bank details (also unsafe, and which I had also refused to give out) surely demonstrated the extent to which their customer base had refused to give out their passwords.

I got an email back basically politely saying “fuck you, we’re not changing our policy”, but offering to give me my PAC over email if I sent them parts of my card information. This I did, but forgot to put my card’s expiry date. When they pointed this out and I replied with the date, however, I then received no reply for two weeks.

Having carried around two phones for about a month, I therefore sent ANOTHER email with the entire conversation to date copied in, asking for my PAC. The customer service agent got back to me to mutter an apology, and also to tell me that they couldn’t issue PACs over email and I had to call the Upgrades team again. Honestly, a team of script-writing manatees would probably have done a better job at customer service.

"Hi, I'm your manatee for the day, how may I help you? Why certainly, here's your PAC, sorry to see you go! Have a great day." IT'S NOT HARD.

So I called the Upgrades team AGAIN, and told a chap called Aaron that I wasn’t going to be giving them my password but at this point, I was willing to give them my bank details if that’s what it was going to take to get my PAC. Aaron then disclosed that he could see my password on the screen in front of him, but I wasn’t giving up now, and gave my account number and sort code – again, an insecure thing to ask of me, but I just wanted the damn PAC by then. Aaron then asked me why I was leaving and fighting the urge to say, “because your customer service is the stuff of nightmares”, I said that I wanted mobile internet, and Tesco Mobile didn’t offer it. Aaron then proceeded to tell me that, apparently, Tesco Mobile does offer mobile internet and on the same contract I was on (I subsequently discovered that he meant that you get 500mb included in their 12 month contract, which I suppose would cover, ooh, cover me up to about lunchtime on the first day of my allowance?), and there was a surreal moment where I asked him to just please give me my PAC and he blithely continued through his script until he reached the end and hit my stony silence. And I got my PAC.

[By the way, Tesco: I’m sure your staff are trained “to the highest standards” and customer satisfaction “is your primary concern” or whatever, but you know what you should add to your training curriculum? When to shut up and give the customer what they want. I understand that you probably make a lot of money dissuading your customers from leaving by offering them better contracts, and that’s why I usually patiently listen to sales staff who are only doing their job, but when you have an increasingly irate customer at the end of the phone who has made it clear they have already switched networks and have been put through the “please don’t cancel, we love you” spiel at least once, every extra second you let your monkeys burble on about your awesome deal that I’ve already cancelled is another percentage point added to my determination to never, ever buy from you again. Just a thought.]

Off went the PAC to GiffGaff, and 24 hours later, my phone number had been transferred and I was one happy Giffgaff customer. (Check them out here. No fixed contract, £10/m, 250 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited internet, and not making me give out my password down the phone? Yes please.)

Given this, and a similarly horrific experience with Tesco Bank (in which they made it so hard to access my account I never succeeded in putting any money in it and it took me over two years just to shut it down), I’ll be damned if I am going to be taking out a Tesco product again. I was sold a contract I didn’t want, had to call three times and send five emails just to transfer phone numbers, none of the people I spoke could get their story straight, and did I mention again how they tried to make me give out my password that they had already given in full to one of their employees?

There are some places I’ll accept poor service because what I’m getting is worth the inconvenience (Harvester, Barclaycard, the University of Manchester), and there’s some who taken themselves to a whole new level, that could offer me thousands of pounds to go with them and I’d tell them where to stick it (Santander, Bath public toilets, the Church of England). Tesco Mobile has found itself in the latter category. Never again. No wonder their profits are falling.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

David February 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Can I point out at this point that the “password” you are talking about is the security phrase to the account which every single ISP/Mobile network / service should have so that they can confirm Data Protection on the account which if not done carries a 5000 pound fine?

Your ignorance is supreme.


sarah February 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

No, it wasn’t a security phrase. That’s the point. If I had been issued with a special telephone password that people would ask me down the phone, that would have been fine. If I’d had to tell them my mother’s maiden name, or my first school, that would have been fine. But that wasn’t what they were doing, they were asking me for the same password that I was using to log into my online account. And apparently they were giving out that password willy-nilly to every employee who cared to search my name.

And given that something like 30% of internet users have the same password for everything, that’s incredibly dangerous, insecure, stupid, and completely at odds with what every other company I’ve ever bought stuff from has asked of me.


George August 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I’m with David on this one.


sarah August 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I’m sticking with myself, personally.


James October 3, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I’ve just signed a 12 month contract and have not set up a ‘security phrase’ or anything similar, so I know who I’m inclined to believe…


Niall March 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Just been having an argy bargy with tesco here in Dublin!
I was hoping to buy the samsung galaxy mini,but noticed that it had increased from 69 euros to 79 euros!!
However, tesco claim it was 89 euros before they reduced it to 79 euros!!!
I know what I saw in the shop,and I know what phone I was looking at when I was in the tesco shop!!
They are misleading and conning the public!!If anyone else saw this please let us know!!!


Andrew May 21, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I too have had a nightmare with Tesco, their customer service is appalling. One agent at earlier today named ‘John’ completely lost it when I requested to speak to his manager. He straight up told me ‘NO’ and when I requested his surname to make a complaint he told me I was being recorded, to which I replied that he didn’t need to make threats. He then accused me of threatening him and that he would write a note on the account for the future. This is completely unbelievable, if you have a problem with Tesco you are in big trouble. Because their management won’t take escalation calls and the support@tescomobile email now produces a bounceback. I even went to twitter to complain and was ignored on my 2nd response. I have since cancelled both phones with Tesco. Anybody reading this should completely avoid them, it’s all fine until you have a problem and then they treat you like complete crap!


sarah May 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

Yeah, they’re just crap at dealing with problems. And what do you know, they’re now starting to lose money. Give it ten years and they’ll either have a lot better customer service or they’ll be back down in Morrison’s territory.


James June 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

As David pointed out above, the password is the answer to your security question. What other password do you think they were asking for? And the whole problem started with you not actually paying attention to what contract you were taking out in the first place. The difference between a SIM ONLY contract and a standard 12 month contract with a phone attached should be quite apparent.


sarah June 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm

If the password I was being asked for was the answer to my security question, I imagine that I would have been a) told my security question, and b) would have been asked for my “security answer”. I wasn’t. I was asked for my password. The feedback I received from Tesco, and related in the article, also makes this clear.

I’m really starting to find it weird that people keep coming to comment on this blogpost about how I evidently misunderstood the multiple calls with multiple employees that I was part of and none of you were. Are you all working for Tesco or something?

And also, I didn’t have a 12 month contract with a phone. My old phone was a fiver from the Carphone Warehouse. The Tesco sim-only deal can be either a one month rolling contract, or a twelve month fixed contract, which are exactly the same deal but the twelve month is something like £2 cheaper a month. Do your research before you snipe.


hghf June 22, 2013 at 8:49 am

Utter nonsense from you Sarah. You signed the contract to begin with, I bet if you checked your contract it says 12 months. You set up your own password, if you don’t want to give it out, change it and call back. Petty attemts to slander companies like this bug me. From what I saw on the news TM have won another award and are the fastest growing network in the UK. Unreasonable consumers!


sarah June 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I shouldn’t have to “change it and call back” to get around Tesco’s terrible security arrangements. If you are referring to the Which? award, Tesco Mobile might well be better than the major mobile networks they were compared to, but that simply means they are all terrible, and I don’t use any of them. I wouldn’t consider 71% satisfaction to be an awesome statistic, personally.

I have noted your IP address, and if any other likely-Tesco-employees write to me using it, I shall make an addendum to this article.


Sean November 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Normally I would agree with some of these comments and agree that you should pay for whatever you signed up to.

I signed up to 2 x 12 month contracts for my kids. When the handset broke (kids fault not faulty phone) my ex took them in store and bought a new handset to replace. Tesco, rather than just selling the handset, set up a new 24 month contract without my knowledge.

Still trying to get the complaint resolved – 8 different complaint handlers so far!


Chris Evans February 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

Oh the stupidity. I am a Tesco Mobile employee. I can confirm to everyone that the password they ask for is the password you set up on your account i.e. your mothers maiden name. The first thing any network provider asks for is your full name and password on your account (both of which are they for the advisor on screen and which the customer should know). Sarah, this article you have written is absolutely stupid and pointless.

Tesco mobile actually have some good deals for low end phones and Sim only deals. However to be honest, for high end iphone 5s or similar, TM do not offer attractive deals.

In terms of customer service, you are correct. We are trained to the highest standards and from what I have seen from working in sales and upgrade, we do not offer them the most expensive handset or sim only to make our figures look good. Instead we do a needs analysis for each customer and offer them the best value deal for them.

I await your reply Sarah.


sarah February 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm


* My password wasn’t my mother’s maiden name, due to the fact that I change my passwords from time to time.

* I should not have been asked for my account password over the phone. Company employees should not have access to my account password. This is not the way to do account security, as a matter of principle. If Tesco does this, as you have just confirmed, then Tesco do not deserve my custom and indeed, have permanently lost it for all of their online services. If you cannot accept this, there’s a generous guy in Nigeria who needs to unfreeze a billion dollars who’d like to talk to you.

* Tesco’s rolling contract was a perfect deal for what I wanted when I signed up for it, until I changed my phone and my needs changed. I don’t have a problem with having to change network because Tesco didn’t do what I needed. What I do have a problem with is when someone, having been explicitly informed that I had already changed network and spoken to the Upgrades department in a previous phone call, proceeded to obviously read off a script to me. He clearly didn’t analyse my needs, because my needs were a PAC, not a lecture. That’s not good customer service, whatever your training.


mark July 3, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Dear brainwashed Tesco employee,

I have to differ with you. No organisation should ask for the full password. My bank, for example, asks for a couple of characters from my password, not the whole thing.


alsmith August 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

[My insecurities lead me to project onto Sarah and call her an idiot in a variety of not particularly intelligent ways.

Except for the Amish reference. That was pretty impressive.]


Lee May 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm

I know this article is old but felt the need to clarify things.

You are asked for a password on the phone. This is the answer to the security question (ie mothers maiden name) they do not ask you the question, they just request the password.

This is separate to the password you might have used for online billing, that password you shouldn’t give to anybody over the phone.

It was miscommunication and poor use of terminology, if they asked for security answer and not password then it probably would have been fine, but they ask for password and expect you to give your security answer. I believe it’s incase, for example, your security question is your favourite colour, you could easily guess somebodys favourite colour, so they do not prompt you with the question.


sarah May 14, 2015 at 6:22 pm

I refer you to the above discussion from 2013 that addressed this point directly.

I would also like to say that I have been with GiffGaff now for over three years and I have never, ever had any kind of problem with them. Their packages include data and unlimited texts in addition to minutes. They provide me with a rolling contract I can cancel at any time and have never failed to respond to the rare query I have had in more than 24 hours. I cannot recommend them enough.

Here is my affiliate link if anyone else would like to check them out: https://giffgaff.com/orders/affiliate/sarahcavie


Alan August 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Sarah, it would seem nothing much has changed with Tesco Mobile. I have found,particularly, when dealing with mobile phone companies always do it in writing and get written confirmation. In saying that I have been writing,recorded delivery since July with little reaction from them. Tesco Mobile makes it very difficult for you to contact them in writting prefering you deal with them by Phone. You seem to have taken a bit of stick from some re the security answer, which is how it is worded in the enquiry questionnaire on their website and there they ask for the last two digits of the security answer, which I imagine is a way of putting it which could lead to it being asked the wrong way over the phone. I have now got my whole family on giffgaff and the goody bag system means no contract and no cancellation problems.


Mark J October 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm

I have found Tesco customer support to be pretty good. You better pray you never have a problem with giff gaff (whom I use, I should add) as they don’t have anyone to talk to. I know you think the article makes them sound stupid, but in fact it make you seem stupid. It sounds like the kind of conversation my aged (80) mother has with companies over the phone. If you have a password or security phrase set up with a company, it is not much use if you won’t divulge it, surely? It is not the same as a web password, mum. Sorry, I mean Sarah. Are you sure you were doing a degree?
My only problem with tesco is the call to customer support is 20p. And I have just made 3 calls. But they unlock my phones with no fuss if I want to use them (say, with giff gaff) so I have no beef with them.
If this is the quality of your writing, you have a future, perhaps, with the gutter press?


sarah October 6, 2015 at 6:41 am

I find myself genuinely baffled that I am still having to deal with this redundant counterargument four years on. As I have said to the numerous Tesco employees who have commented here in the last four years since I wrote this article, they were asking for my actual password. The one I logged into their website with. Not a pass phrase. I specified this to the Tesco customer email address that I complained to and they confirmed this was the case. Yeah, it was insane – apparently so insane that some people just can’t believe it happened.

I have had reason to contact GiffGaff in the last four years once, and they sorted out my problem within 24 hours. I remain a very happy satisfied customer and oh, here’s a affiliate link: https://www.giffgaff.com/orders/affiliate/sarahcavie


Mark J October 7, 2015 at 9:50 am

I would appreciate any advice on how to contact giff gaff. I just post my problems to the help board, and someone usually makes a useful suggestion, but I have not been able to communicate with a human from the company.

As for a redundant counter argument, all arguments are redundant to a fool. I am not saying you are a fool, unless you believe yourself to be above censure. (In which case, politics, as I suggested). whilst I would be very careful about revealing my password from a banking site, or to anyone who called me, when you actually call a company yourself the security threat is much reduced. What do you believe this Tesco employee could do with your precious password, had you revealed it to him? It would take five minutes to reset and hack your account form his end, anytime, password or no.


SB January 13, 2016 at 2:54 am

I’m with you Sarah, I’ll be leaving Tesco mobile too. Ive had 2 phones and both have ‘self destructed’ and become useless just outside their warranty (coinsidence?!) . ive lost loads of priceless photos of my toddler, not to mention the use of my phone. Tesco’s answer: sorry there is nothing we can do!! (Frustrating isn’t the word)


Daniel March 1, 2016 at 3:35 pm

I’m sorry to comment on a three year old comment thread, but your results are near the top of a google search relating to my search.

What they are unequivocally, undeniably, and definitely NOT asking you for is your account password. They certainly do not now, I very highly doubt they ever did, and despite your protestations, they did not ask you for it.

What they ask you for, as virtually every poster since the beginning has said, is the security question answer, in my case this was my place of birth.

What they do, do, however, is very confusingly refer to this as a ‘password’ -god only knows why- but after about two seconds of confusion, the operator clarified what ‘password’ meant for me, even telling me the security question I was supposed to be answering, and we proceeded on our merry way.

And yes, SB, thats obviously a coincidence. Besides, if it isn’t I’m not sure why you wouldn’t complain to the manufacturer rather than the network operator.


Mark J March 3, 2016 at 8:11 am

I think everyone thought the same thing. But I am less enamoured by Tesco Mobile than I once was. The main problem with them charging 20p per customer service call is that you may end up making many calls which end up at the wrong destination, I spent over 2 quid just finding the unlocking option (hint: there isn’t one). I put 30 pounds on credit for a gift phone, and they helped themselves to 5 pound per month for “data”, and “text us to stop”. This for a phone that was not even turned on for 3 months, now there is no credit left, and the only calls were to Tesco. Really guys? I can’t face calling them again, I am sure they will sort it out, at 20p a go. But no password problems. I don’t have one.


Laura W June 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Apologies for commenting on an old thread, but I just wanted to thank you for the Tesco email address. I couldn’t find it anywhere (I want to complain). Incidentally, I’m quite appalled at the rude and patronising replies that you received.


Joanna September 29, 2016 at 3:20 am

Sarah the funniest thing ever is that I just came along this thread by accident. Four years later babe they r still talking bout u, so feel priveledged. They r sad old moaning arses with loads to say cos they ain’t face to face with u. I have had incidents with a phone company an another co an have been also asked for my password. I agree this is totally wrong an is an invasion of privacy. As for the people who don’t believe this, shut up til it happens to u an don’t call people liars. Have u such sad lives that four years after the first post u have nothing else better to do !


Em October 18, 2016 at 10:18 am

Did your rant have to be racist too with an image of black people. Perhaps you should have looked for a white people image as they have a history of bringing the hell on earth every where they go.


Ted January 29, 2018 at 4:41 pm

How on earth have you made this about race. There is nothing in any of the texts about race, religion or sexual orientation. What is the matter with people that they cannot just have a conversation without bringing some form of discrimination into it. Do get a life


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