I have read a few posts that said Free to Play accounts are limited in chat until/unless they have any of the following:
Purchased something from the store
Have a Zen balance
20+ hours gameplay on any/all characters
I have had the account subscribed enough previously to aquire the "Dauntless, Magnificent, Redoubtable, Relentless, Stalwart, and Valiant titles". I have a Vice Admiral ranked character, and I recently purchased Zen to buy lockbox keys, yet I am still unable to use any chat other then Team chat / tells from friends.
Is this the way F2P remains chatwise or am I bugged somehow?
If you are a returning customer (after a longer break) you may have to play a character for 20+ hours.
In my personal experience PWE sometimes "forget" to give you credit for the things you did before the game went F2P.
I would suggest opening a ticket (link in my sig). But make sure your email address for your account is correct first, so they can contact you for resolution.
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