/ Technology

Have you been let down by Vodafone?

Vodafone store

Vodafone has been handed a hefty £4,625,000 fine by Ofcom for serious and sustained breaches of consumer protection rules or mis-selling, billing blunders and poor complaints handling. Is this fine enough to earn back your trust for such failings?

Some of you may recall that this news comes only a few months after Vodafone hit the headlines after thousands of customers were hit by billing blunders. Well, today’s announcement from Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, comes following two investigations into Vodafone.

One investigation found that pay as you go customers lost out because Vodafone failed to credit their accounts after they topped up their mobiles.This blunder cost 10,452 customers a total of £150,000 over a 17 month period. The second investigation found that Vodafone had failed to comply with customer complaints handling rules.

Vodafone customer service

Back in June it came to light that thousands of Vodafone customers had been hit by a series of billing errors following changes to Vodafone’s  billing and services systems.

On Which? Conversation, we heard from Vodafone customers such as KDMT, who told us about their frustration:

‘I’ve been overcharged, mischarged and everything in between. The latest was me responding to their offer to increase my data allowance and finding a charged for £688 on my bill that no one could explain or would deal with. They took it from my bank account, forcing me to cancel my direct debit. The hours I’ve spend online, on calls and writing letters for this and other issues is ridiculous (incorrectly being told I had 2 entertainment packages under a different tariff but being charged different amounts every month for 6 months). If any other provider covered my Glen, I’d switch in a heartbeat!!’

Vodafone has responded to Ofcom’s fine. Once again, the blame has been pinned on the migration of customer data to new systems. The company has offered its ‘profound apologies’ and said it’s ‘determined to put everything right’.

The telecoms giant has refunded or re-credited 10,422 of the affected 10,452 – but conceded that it’s unable to track down the remaining 30 customers. To make up for that gap it’s donated £100,000 to various charities in the UK as it has ‘no intention of profiting from this issue in any way’.

Also, Vodafone claims that IT issues are now resolved and that Ofcom has said it’s satisfied that this can’t happen again with the new IT system in place.

Improving service

But, Vodafone doesn’t have a great history of customer service – in the last Which? mobile satisfaction survey Vodafone scored only 49% and was joint second bottom of the table alongside EE.

In fact, Ofcom data also shows that Vodafone attracts huge levels of complaints. According to the latest Ofcom complaints data Vodafone is the most complained about mobile provider with 23 complaints per 100,000, followed by Talk Mobile with 8 complaints per 100,0000.

This isn’t a ringing endorsement for a telecoms company considering the Which? Consumer Insight score for the industry is already pretty low, with only 38% of people saying they trust mobile phone providers.

If you have a problem with your mobile phone provider or feel let down by its service then you should first complain directly to the phone company to try to fix the issue. If that fails then our guide to complaining about your mobile phone provider can take you through the steps needed to escalate your complaint.

Do you think Vodafone customers should expect more? Is a fine enough of a penalty to ensure service is improved?

Dave says:
3 June 2017

Hi I have joined 02 about 1 month ago and I find I have little or no signal in my area, I have told them I want to cancel and they said if I pay £800 is there any thing I can do, thanks in advance


Dave , I have read several websites advice on this including O2,s own website and I dont see any cheap way out of this , some websites make the point of telling you to check the coverage in your area before you take up an offer from a provider . One website- if your struggling from poor coverage- contact your network provider , they will check on any maintenance work or upgrades and may offer a discount if not check on Wi-Fi calling -O2 do this +3+Vodaphone , read up at : https://www.uswitch.com/mobiles/guides/what-is-wi-fi-calling/

M sullivan says:
16 June 2017

I took out Voda Phone contract on the basis that the Roaming would work while on holiday in France fof 4 weeks.The Roaming has not working in France.Phoned Voda Phone customer on three occasions in one day and spoke to 4 seperate Advisors who all failed to resolve problem.They then sent me a customer survey to rate their service.I have done this and as you can imagine did not give them a high rating.Kept loads of notes for discussion with my Voda Phone shop upon return to UK which could end up with Trading Standards or the like being braught in to resolve.

Mala says:
17 June 2017

Its a kind of stupid question – why would vodafone getting a fine win back consumers trust? They are fined less than they make from these deals so a clear no.

Mala says:
17 June 2017

I had a vodafone account for 20 years. Start of 2015 I got a new phone and I think screen wasn’t locked and when I came into work it had some large ad flashing on the screen. I closed down thinking it was harmless but a few days later got an an email saying “thanks for subscribing to mobidol”. I didn’t pick anything on this screen so it seems odd that I could magically have picked all the buttons in sequence to subscribe to this when their contract says you have to opt in. I contacted vodafone on chat who after an hr told me there was nothing on my account and I wouldn’t be charged.
Didn’t think anything of it but checked account 6 weeks later and I had been charged 4.50 per week by Mobidol. I chatted to Vod again (an hr to get through the one reply every 5 mins including pointless ‘how are you’ type chat) and they said they’d look into it and get back to me and not to worry and I wouldn’t be charged again.
A week later no reply and another charge – I chatted again and finally after 1hr41mins on chat they agreed that they would refund the charges (now 40quid) but that that I would have to cancel with mobidol direct. (I didn’t have any contact details for them at this point).
I cancelled and checked account a month later and I had been refunded 4.50. I eventually rang UK – not the muppets in India. I was told that they shouldn’t have told me I’d get a refund and this wouldn’t be possible and that there was nothing they could do. After a long heated debate where Idol them I had no contract with mobidol so they had no right charging me through my vodafone account they eventually said they would refund it (so amazingly begrudgingly). 2 months later I still hadn’t received it.
At the same time they had moved me onto a different data contract with my phone – the rubbish “use your uk data for 3 quid a day” which was crp compared to the 25Mb in eu per day. I received a text from a friend and the roaming cost message saying I would be charged x in Ireland and was charged 6quid for these 2 texts! So when Vodafone (after being forced to reduce roaming charges in EU) simultaneously put up ALL other charges to compensate their revenue and broke my contract by putting them up by more than RPI I took the opportunity to get out.
After having a phone since 1995 and being classified by them as a ‘heavy use customer’ having spent 200 per month on phone roaming while working in US) they send me a 2 line letter saying thanks and bye. Nothing else. Thats what 20 years of loyalty gets you with them and they were happy to lose me for 40 quid (which is a stupid decision from their financial pov).
I went to GiffGaff and never looked back. minimal charges even when roaming, better reception. Costs me 7quid a month for what was min 37 per month (and always more) with vodafone.
It irks me to see them advertising reducing roaming charges now as a feature when it was mandated by EU. Don’t waste their time with these morons. They don’t respect you – dont respect them back.


Disgraceful Mala but what do you expect from a massive company which is owned by VOD ( Vodaphone shares ) – Microsoft – Google- JP Morgan-Chase -Berkshire Hathaway – Coca-Cola-Walmart-Johnston+Johnston-AT+T-Intel-Chevron Corporation etc etc etc , all global companies too big to fail and can break the law at will when it comes to non-US citizens. Globalization– allowed to break other countries laws . What keeps them in business ??- what do you think Mala- $Millions spent on intense advertising.


It’s really a failure of regulation and consumer protection in the UK, rather than ownership. Vodafone is a UK company subject to regulation by Ofcom and as a licensed operator within the UK should comply with UK and – where relevant – EU regulations in terms of its contractual obligations. These are enforceable through Trading Standards but we all know that is a mere shell. The attitude here seems to be: if you are dissatisfied, don’t complain or take legal action, just transfer your business to another provider. But that ignores the long tie-ins that most customers have. Yes, too big to fail, and too big to be taken to court, and too big to provide a proper service. Plus a culture in customer services that is disobliging based on total denial of liability.

Tony Perry says:
22 June 2017

I can attest that, 12 months after this discussion page was created, Vodafone is STILL having problems with its accounts. It seems they’ve done little since the Ofcom fine–at least for Pay as you Go customers.

I have been a customer of Vodafone since around October 2000, and a pay-as-you-go customer since late 2001. Unfortunately, in the last 3 months Vodafone seem unable to manage their own account balances, which turned into a nightmare for me. Imagine topping up one day and it not getting into the phone account. I’ve spent nearly 3 months not knowing if I’d be able to make a call or check my voicemail (let alone send a text or send an e-mail). I have been at the mercy of technical support advisers who seem more interested in assuring me will be well without making it well.

I topped up £15 to my account on 11 April and discovered the next day that I had a balance of £0. I rang technical support and was told they would resolve it as soon as possible. They tried to top up my account but it wouldn’t get reflected into the balance–so I still had £0. They offered me data and voice packs as their technical support team looked into the issue. I had to ring weekly (if not more regularly) for updates (and additional data/voice/etc so I could use my phone), and was given assurances that it would be looked into by their “highest level of technical support”.

The packs meant I could keep using my phone (but not make international calls to ring my family in the USA; Vodafone claimed they couldn’t help me with those)–but the uncertainty continued. At first, I was able to make international calls, but I had no idea how much long that would work–and, eventually, it ran out. I thought I would try again with a top-up in May and made a £5 and a £15 topup on 3 May, so I could buy a £10 big value bundle and have a £5 credit to make international calls. Unfortunately, that also failed to register in the account, but I was given–again–weekly top-ups as the technical support team looked into the issue. Each time, I had to retell the whole story to people who had my details in the call notes and I found it incredibly frustrating.

The problem worsened June when a representative of Vodafone customer support very rudely handled my call. He proceeded to recount international calls I made earlier (where I couldn’t see the balance) and “assured” me that the problem was resolved. Hoping he was right, I topped up again shortly afterwards with £5 (on 12 June) and, to my dismay, that too disappeared. It seemed that the account was debiting my calls, but I couldn’t see the balance–hoping that was the case, I made a couple of calls to the US (according to Vodafone price list those cost 1p/minute) that took, at most, 45 minutes in total and sent one text to the US (35p), which should have left me with a balance of between £3 and £4. To my surprise, I got a message saying I had used all my calling credit.

I called Vodafone Customer Support again on 16th June and someone helpfully noted that I had an issue with my “account profile”–in essence, there were 5 copies of my account in the system, which they believed was the cause of the problems. I was assured that the “highest levels” of the technical support team was looking into it, and given shorter period data packs (I still had voice and texts so could function).

Things got worse on Sunday 18 June, and I had no credit altogether–and no data, no texts, and no minutes. I couldn’t even check my voicemail. As promised, a Vodafone agent rang me that day and assured me (again) that the technical support team was looking to resolve the issue but they didn’t know when it would be resolved. The problem worsened when staff were unwilling to give me the usual packs I needed to use my phone. One claimed that packs couldn’t be added because of the account problem. I rang again Vodafone Customer Support and spoke to a second person who said packs were only given out once (I’ve received several over the past 2 months for an issue that is clearly Vodafone’s fault–not mine). When she refused, I asked to speak with her manager, I found myself having a row with him. He was clearly unwilling to help and he dared ask me for a top-up voucher–his strong implication was that it was my fault for being unable to use my phone. He missed the point of all the story I had to recount to him again and did not appreciate that my account has a fault, which meant adding money wouldn’t make a difference. He very reluctantly gave me 200 minutes for 7 days (good) and 20 texts (a bit stingy) but refused to give me data (which I need in order to make international calls via WhatsApp because of the account problems). After that call, someone finally chose to give me access to data, which was very helpful.

However, these are only short term solutions, designed to give the technical support team tim