/ 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?

Comments

I renogitiated a contract in January after 10 years with Vodafone. In May I noticed were still taking the old amount. I phoned, and they apologised and gave a reduction on the new contract going forward. In June, they were still taking the old, much higher amount from my account. I rang and complained and left for another company. They then sent me an early contract exit fee request, I phoned again and received a ‘good will’ partial reduction on the fee, I’d lost the will by then and paid the rest. Felt sorry for the operators as from what I understand it’s new software, but never the less, horrific customer service,

I bought a phone and package in June for my son from Carphone Warehouse on the Vodafone network. I had problems from the start just porting the number. I tried to do it on line as they prefer and it would not work so had to call. Not a problem they said leave your phone off all day Saturday and it will be done, it wasn’t! Called again and was told very sorry it will be Tuesday leave your phone off all day, still not done. On Friday I was told neither dates would happen and it would be another two weeks. Very angry I tried to complain but got nowhere with anyone, despite promises that supervisors would get back to me no one did. The number finally transferred on the very last day so 28 days to transfer. Then we started to see that the data usage was very heavy, despite being with Virgin and Talktalk previously and now having more data it lasts less and less each month. By mid October the data had lasted only two weeks. Tried live chat but truly useless they said we must be doing something different, but we aren’t. Coupled with Europe texts and calls appearing on the app when we are in the UK. So we turned off data as we were off on a weeks holiday. When we arrived back in the UK the evening before the new month began the 5th November, my son turned on the data thinking the month had started. Finding it hadn’t, he immediately turned it off but not before it had used all the data and pushed us slightly over. I have been charged the sum of £6.50 for two minutes of data! I called into the shop but they could do nothing, so I am now preparing to write and complain as I cannot face ringing them as they are so useless. I would never advise anyone to go with Vodafone it has been nothing but trouble so far and I have another eighteen months of this rubbish to put up with.

David says:
22 November 2016

We have two mobile phones and broadband contracts with Vodafone. A month or so ago, we lost PC connection to email through faulty broadband provision, for the better part of a week, which Vodafone denied was anything to do with them. We had to get our ISP provider to reset our PC email connection codes- even though they said that their checks showed that they could not see how it was anyone’s fault but Vodafone’s. Subsequently, Vodafone admitted (verbally) that they had had problems with our broadband service provision.

I have had a terrible time with Vodafone. My complaint stretches back over a year. the situation is far too great to list here but we hVe been failed over and over again. Then their online chat team resolved the problem however as usual they didn’t do what they should have so I then Made another complaint and another and another. In the end I dealt with the “secret” customer service team after sending the ceo a strong email. I have dealt with four members of this team and they just keep me going round and round in circles. I hVe complained to the ombudsman and they were appalled at the way We have been treated. This has affected my husbands credit rating for over a year and now we don’t even use the phone. It has been a nightmare and I can’t see any resolution – all the time I am stressed and my husbands credit rating is being affected again and again. If anyone has any advice on how to get them to listen, please do let me know!!!!

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Sharon says:
22 November 2016

I’ve had a problem with Vodafone since January 2014. It started with them offering me a deal on a new phone and contract free phone free p&p and reduced contract from £22.50 a month to £16.88
Then I got charged for phone p&p and full price of contract they took over £50 I got it back through the bank cancelled the direct debit and payed over the phone every month then they added late payment fees then lost June July and August payments kept Turning my phone off I kept phoning kept complaining and kept paying my £16.88 every month. In October this year I had a call from the account department asking me if I was struggling to pay I explained the whole thing in about 20 mins he cleared my account and texted me proof. It’s ruin my credit rating as it shows non payment and arrears. Now they say my payment for this month hadn’t gone through it has I have the proof from the bank and so here we go again . I’m fed up to the back teeth my contract finishes in January thank god I can’t wait the stress and heartache all this has caused I can’t put it into words if anyone can help please please do .

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I renegotiated my contract with Vodaphone in March and have recently noticed that they are still charging the same amount as they did in 2015 – in fact it looks as if even went UP. The previous renegotiation – in March 2015 left me with a SIM only contract I have no recollection of agreeing to…….then when my (non-smart)phone stopped working I was treated to rude behaviour in the shop because I didn’t want to buy an iPhone. I wouldn’t mind all this if I wasn’t shortly moving to an area where there is no mobile signal at all indoors, despite these whole page adverts boasting about their coverage. Grrrr!

I’ve been a PAYG customer with Vodafone for over 10 years. Vodafone is the only reliable service provider I can get in the area where I stay. I have had problems with a Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 phone but not with any of my other handsets. Contacting Vodafone can sometimes be an issue but in general I have had a good experience with online chat.

I wish you would let me send you my records which show a total of 35hr 6min on the telehone to Vodafone over the period May 2015 to March 2016 (42 pages of it!). During that time I was barred 10 times for non-payment, despite having a direct debit in place, etc, etc. It ignored a formal complaint in writing to head office. After involvement of the ombudsman I eventually left for another provider. Since that time (March), every month I receive a text reminder that my monthly bill is ready: £124.16. I can now ignore it as they can’t bar me! I wish someone at Which? would read it – if it hadn’t been so draining and time-consuming (not to say inconvenient when without my phone when they barred me) it would be an entertaining read.

I have been with Vodafone for many years but there customer service has plummeted in the last few years. What is frustrating is the time it has taken to resolve issues. I have often been passed round various departments before eventually getting cut off completely. It usually takes several phone calls to resolve issues and get credits put on my account. When I renew next year I will be shopping around!

I ordered an iPhone 6S from Vodafone in September 2015. I later told Vodafone to cancel the order as I had found a better deal elsewhere. I was promised it would be cancelled. On the day of launch, I received two deliveries – one from O2 and the other was a failed delivery from Vodafone. After talking to Vodafone, I was told to instruct DPD to return to sender which I did. Even though Vodafone confirmed that the handset was back in the warehouse, their billing system continued to generate bills for 6 months. After repeated calls and sending a letter for which I have NEVER received a response, and being told that I owed nothing I received a debt collection threat letter from Vodafone. This was the last straw and I phoned Vodafone and told Vodafone that I will be claiming every penny back through the Communications Ombudsman. The Ombudsman ruled in my favour on every aspect of the case. Vodafone delayed repaying me until the LAST DAY allowed by the Ombudsman and even then said that they would pay me back in 14 days. They paid me on day 14 of the 14 days they promised. I thought then it was all over with – well that’s what I thought until August when I noticed that Vodafone was still on my credit file. I immediately notified the Ombudsman again and they pursued Vodafone to get the mark removed. Vodafone said that the mark would be removed within 30 days – I checked the file at the end of October and it was still there. I emailed Equifax and they have had the same response from Vodafone. I’m not holding my breath. I have NEVER come across customer service as pathetic as that received from Vodafone. My advice to anyone who is thinking of taking out a new contract with Vodafone under their 30 day satisfaction guarantee is BE WARNED – you might have a massive headache trying to cancel the contract.

I was changing from one (expiring) Vodafone sim only contract to another Vodafone sim only contract.
I went through the procedure in great detail with someone on their Webchat service, as this operation is apparently not straightforward if you wish to transfer you number, particularly when buying their sim through a third party, who were much cheaper than buying direct from Vodafone .
I won’t bore you with the detail but suffice to say everything that could go wrong did, plus I was assured there would be no loss of service (as it involved switching to their PAYG system temporarily), but I did lose service.
Ended up with another Webchat then speaking to their helpline (when I eventually got through) and it transpires that virtually everything I was told on the Webchats was incorrect.
Eventually everything got sorted, and I then sent a formal complaint by email, using an address that I had been given by Vodafone, i.e. ‘consumer@help.vodafone.co.uk’. This was also incorrect advice as I then got a reply saying: “Thanks for your email. However, our team only handle requests for insurance documents so we won’t be able to help here.” Priceless! So I then went ‘retro’ and sent a letter of complaint; specifically stating in the letter that I was not to be contacted by phone to discuss this, and I wanted a response either by letter or email. Guess what..they phoned me, so I told them politely to go away and do as I asked.
This was well over a month ago and I have heard nothing, so I have recently written again, but won’t hold my breath.
The time and effort expended on getting this resolved has been significant, plus I have money sitting on a PAYG account which I presumably will never see.
Won’t be getting my next contract with them, even if they do offer best value.

I was very frustrated with Vodafone Live Chat on the one occasion that I used it.

The numbers are 191 from a mobile on the Vodafone network and 03333 040 191 from other phones.

Seriously bad company. Unfortunately Vodafone network works better in our area. However, when I tried to take up Vodafone renewal contracts from 3rd parties, which were better than those offered by Vodafone, I was rejected by two different companies on spurious grounds of failing credit checks. There was never a straight answer as to why but it appears to me that Vodafone and some credit checkers between them make the more favourable renewal impossible. You will never get a straight answer out of either. The regulator is being taken for a ride by Vodafone and it is a pity members of the management board were not personally fined, the only effective sanction.

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Lynne says:
28 November 2016

I left Vodafone in January 2016, I have received monthly texts demanding up to £228.00 per month,many final demand letters threatening legal action, the latest received November 2016 – 11 months after leaving.
Numerous calls to Vodafone customer service on the expensive landline, live chat calls – all have failed to stop the demands from coming. I have spent many hours trying to resolve this with no success, despite numerous reassurance from Vodafone that the demands would definitely stop.
I referred this to the Ombardsman in August but still have no resolution and the demands keep on coming.
This has to be the worst customer service team in the world, wrong numbers on letters, wrong email addresses given out by customer service, numerous automated text messages or emails that you cannot respond to and if you do get a response you are advised this isn’t our department but no correct department contact details are given.
Looking forward to some resolution and the cost of my calls and time to be reimbursed.

Hi Lynne, what’s the £228 charge for? If we can help you here then please let us know – you can comment here on Which? Convo or email us at conversation.comments@which.co.uk

I signed up to a new contract about one and a half years ago. Part of the reason I stick with Vodafone is I am entitled to a 20% partner discount. I went through the process of claiming the discount but never received it. Despite many promises from Vodafone that they would compensate me and apply the discount they have failed to do so. I have registered several complaints via customer services but none have been followed up. Clearly Vodafone are not following their complaints process. I have been a Vodafone customer for many years. The service is appalling.

I tried to join Vodafone but they couldn’t give me the correct link to add credit, including a data plan to the sim they had sent me. Customer service employees tried to be helpful but they didn’t understand my questions and cut me off after a few minutes. Decided to use Giffgaff instead who were incredibly helpful by comparison.

Stuart Ballard says:
30 November 2016

I welcome the opportunity to express my frustration with Vodafone through the December issues of Which? and this web site. The articles on ‘Poor handling of consumer complaints’ (p 7 December Which?) and ‘The threat of debt collection’ and ‘Vodafone responds’ (page 65 December Computing) has galvanized me to comment. Jane Frapwell’s reply for Vodafone, especially that ‘all … accounts .. have now been migrated successfully’ is certainly not correct in my case.
For the first 8 months of a 24-month contract with Vodafone has been blighted with harassing text messages initially, lack of access to MyVodafone account, lack of bills and invoices, and zero response to my complaints. That is, both technical and accounts problems.
Briefly: I changed my phone monthly-package in May over the telephone. However, thereafter I could not access MyVodafone account on my computer. In July, I started to get harassing text and voice message calls from Vodafone asking me to make automatic/press-key payments to unknown link numbers. Initially I thought it could be a scam!
I have recorded hours and hours of on-line-chats to technical advisers, and telephone calls to Vodafone Account department trying to resolve the issue. (I allocated a half-day to each contact). Finally I wrote my first detailed letter of complaint to the Customer Relation Manager in September. My second letter followed in October, and my third in November. I have received neither acknowledgement nor reply to any of them.
However, some remedial action does appear to have been taken. I can now access MyVodafone and can see bills since September. But the computer platform issues are still not resolved. Although I have only one phone, I have 2 account numbers which, between them, contain the details of my package if I flip between the two. (Before that I had 3 account numbers but could not access any of them)
Vodafone are still not able to give me bills for May to August of my usage, so that I can see for what I am being charged and what I have paid in.
And finally, another issue that irritates me is the ease with which agents on Vodafone chat lines and their Accounts department make promises which they do not keep, such as ‘I’ll ring you back in x hrs’ (made repeatedly) and ‘You’ll get your paper bills within 24 hours’ (in August).

I had a modest contract with Vodafone costing £10 a month. I started getting texts from them saying I had used most of my data allowance and suggesting I Spend an extra £6 a month for a greater allowance.
Being new to smart phones, I stopped using data for the rest of the month. I kept getting this message, and eventually gave in to their request.

At one point my phone stopped working and I had to visit their shop to sort things out. Then I discovered that my data allowance wasn’t used if I was on wi-fi, which I normally was . The shop put my contract back to £10 and I thought that was the end of the matter.
Oh no. I started getting the same message as before so I replied “Please stop sending me these stupid messages” To my surprise it worked!

Norman says:
2 December 2016

I am a Vodafone customer and regretting every minute.
I became one because my daughter wanted a phone but as she was unemployed had a low credit rating. Within a couple of months – that’s about a year ago now – her bills began to spiral. She had difficulty getting answers because I was the bill payer but I was getting the bills ‘after the event’ so we had to go to a Vodafone shop together, though we eventually got it arranged that she could contact them herself. In any event the problem was put down to her usage, or her children’s usage or anything else but not Vodafone. We asked for ways to reduce the bill but got no real progress. It was suggested she got a dongle as at that time where she lived did not have broadband coverage. There was a dramatic fall in costs Feb £121.58; Mar £81.92; Apr £9.68. But then May £329.35. I was told by the shop my daughter was using massive amounts of data to the extent that the assistant suggested she must have the phone ‘on’ and downloading virtually 24 hours a day. The problem we were told was the dongle. By this stage the children had been banned from their X-box type devices and their phones and when broadband was extended to her part of town the dongle was disconnected.
We were given a new chip for the device to restrict usage and were told we were subscribing to a site neither of us were aware of but told we must have connected to it. They disconnected the service. The bills since then have averaged £150 per month and despite further visits nothing was happening. We phoned customer services in September and were told it would be looked into and that it would also be sent to their fraud unit. We have yet to have any response. Last month at another shop visit we had all the ‘extras’ we were supposed to have signed up for removed but were told we would still in effect be paying for them. When we asked about cancellation we were told that some of the solutions we had been given to reduce the bills were new contracts, something we were certainly not made aware of and that the earliest we could cancel would be August for one part of the service and September/October for the full. So, my daughter now has a phone that if she threw it away now is still going to cost something in the order of £90 per month.
So, opaque billing, services we did not need or ask for added, solutions costing as much as the problem, a constant theme of the customer is to blame and therefore no real investigation and when contacted directly an investigation promised but not delivered.

Lynsey addison says:
7 December 2016

My partner has 4 contracts with vodafone . He received an email in October saying he could upgrade early so he rang them and got a good deal for £32 a month . We waited in for the delivery but it didn’t arrive so he rang them and they said the computers went down so the order didn’t go through . My partner was assured that it would arrive in 3 days time so we waited in and again no phone . He rang them back and he was told that they would put the order through manually so it would definitely be sent out . Three days later no phone , my partner put in a complaint and asked to speak to a manager who then informed him that the email should never have been sent out and he wasn’t entitled to an upgrade . Couldn’t they have told him that in the first place ?
Secondly . My partner rang them to set up a direct debit for his monthly payments . He got an email to say it had all gone through. The payment date came and went and he then got an email to say his payment was late and he got a £12 late payment fee . He rang them and explained that he had a direct debit set up and they wiped the £12 fee off . This has now happened every month for the last 8 months which off course now shows on his credit file as having 8 late payments . Why can’t they just set up a direct debit , it can’t be that hard can it ?