This weekend my Twitter and Facebook feeds were awash with people complaining to one of the UK’s biggest networks, EE, over the supposed “hidden” charge and contract that users were getting into when they acquired their “free” portable battery charger.

You see, it seems some do-gooder has decided to look a little closer into this free offer, which technically isn’t free as you’re charged £0.35 a text message in order to receive your code. What they’ve discovered (the reason for the italics will become clearer later) is that customers don’t technically own the Power Bar, it’s just a “free-to-hire” scheme, which is totally acceptable, considering.

The EE Power Bar is considered a “free-to-hire” scheme because although the devices is yours to use as you wish, EE still technically own the device. The reason for this is because of one of the scheme’s best features, no matter where you are, you can pop into any EE store and replace your flat Power Bar with a brand new fully charged one, at no extra cost. Your flat Power Bar will then be charged up, and handed out to someone else who has a flat battery.

So, in order to make sure each user is getting the best experience, if you turn up in-store with a damaged device, you’ll be charged to replace it. This could cost you £20. Which seems a little shocking, but at the end of the day, EE hasn’t pulled the wool over your eyes, it states clearly on their website that you’re getting the device on a free-to-hire basis.

What most people seem to be getting in a tizz over however is a small section in the terms and conditions which states that if you don’t return the device after 18 months you’ll be charged “(currently £5)” the reason for those quotes is because the viral Facebook post which is circling the web, links to a fairly odd and unofficial-looking terms and conditions PDF. Apparently the user also spoke to a customer service rep which stated that they’ll receive a mark on their credit file, which is odd as even Pay As You Go customers can grab a Power Bar..

In the new, official T&Cs from EE’s own website, which is fully branded and has much better phrasing actually states:

The Power Bar replacement charge will be set at EE’s sole discretion and will be between £0.01 and £5.00 based on the depreciating value of the Power Bar.

Though to give credit to the original post which was created on June 17, EE have since updated these T&Cs to further clarify this charge on June 24.

Now, the problem I have here is the mob mentality surrounding this Facebook post. Though EE has claimed that the device is free and not free to hire, many have taken that as the big bad network trying to trick users into a trap of paying £5 for keeping something they believed was theirs to keep.

But in actual fact, if the users checked the website they’d see that EE clearly state that the device is free-to-hire and that any damages to the device will be charged accordingly, and that in order to make sure the users is getting the best possible experience they must return the device to EE after 18 months.

That’s a year and a half. You could potentially have this device for a year and a half, which if charged and used often enough, will mean that eventually your Power Bar won’t perform as well as it should. So if you think about it, EE is making sure that you’re getting the best experience as possible with your Power Bar.

When those 18 months are up, you’ll likely be alerted by EE (as you were asked for your mobile number before acquiring your Power Bar) to return the device to the store, from here you have another 60 days to do so, otherwise you’ll get that charge which is currently between £0.01 and £5.00.

Other complaints are about the “hidden contract” which, come on now, is just stupid. You’re free to return and opt out of the Power Bar scheme at any time with no fee to pay, which is unlike any contract I’ve ever heard of.

If you’re unhappy with what is essentially a really useful and free-to-use bit of kit, take it back. Don’t sit on social networks moaning about how EE are fooling its users into paying them (what could be) £5.

As for me, I may have been slightly surprised that the Power Bar wasn’t mine to keep, but I don’t feel tricked or made a fool out of. I’ll be keeping my Power Bar, and I’ll be returning it when they ask.

What’s the big deal?

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