/ Technology

Ever had your phone line cut by mistake?

After a Vodafone mistake, a member had to battle to get their phone and broadband reinstated. We explain how Which? Computing was able to step in and help.

When Which? member Stephanie had their phone and broadband cut by Vodafone by mistake, it was the start of a saga that saw them lose internet access on and off for weeks, and lose the number she’d had for 35 years.

The mistake happened after Stephanie’s neighbour, who lives at the same address with a different number, switched to Vodafone’s broadband.

Which? guide: how to switch broadband provider

But instead of cutting the line of its new customers, it was Stephanie’s that got the chop after the mix-up.

So, how do you resolve a problem caused by an ISP when you’re not even a customer?

While Sky was able to restore Stephanie’s connection, it couldn’t recover the number, and was unable to make successful contact with Vodafone to stop and reverse the takeover.

£94 out of pocket

Two attempts were made to recover the number, but each time this left Stephanie without internet access for 14 days. She had to buy an EE 4G wi-fi dongle to cover the outage, leaving her £94 out of pocket.

With the issue seemingly at a dead end, Stephanie was resigned to having to tell all their friends and family that the number had changed.

She attempted to claim compensation from Vodafone, but were told that the fault was caused by a ‘third party’, so it would not compensate her.

Stephanie complained via Ofcom and the Communication Ombudsman, but both proved to be dead ends.

With nowhere left to turn, Stephanie contacted Which? Member Services, and our Computing team took on the case.

Which? Computing steps in

When we contacted both Sky and Vodafone to find out why her case had been dealt with in this manner, Vodafone apologised and offered Stephanie £150 in compensation, which she accepted. It said:

“We are very sorry that Stephanie had her broadband connection cut in error. It’s clear that the source of the problem was an incorrect address submitted for their neighbour’s broadband order. There are provisions in place to prevent such mistakes from affecting a household’s broadband, and we do apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

We’re pleased that the company finally saw the errors of its ways and provided a compensation payment that works out to £66 for the inconvenience.

What is ‘line slamming’?

Erroneously taking over a phone line is known as ‘line slamming’, a practice that Ofcom is very strongly against.

Indeed, the watchdog states that any attempt to take over a line should be preceded by a letter from your current broadband provider warning you of the change. In this case, Stephanie believes no such letter ever arrived, so her silence was taken as consent and the line was cut.

Unlike normal cases of line slamming, where an internet service provider deliberately takes over a connection, Vodafone’s actions are as a result of an error.

But the end result is the same, compounded by the loss of Stephanie and William’s phone number.

This contribution to Which? Conversation first appeared in the April 2019 edition of Which? Computing (page 63 – Working for you).

Have you ever experienced line slamming? Has a broadband or phone company failed to deal with a similar complaint?

Comments

Being able to keep a mobile number is important because you will lose your landline number if you move out of the area, as well as losing your address. Some have lost their email address too.

It’s good to hear that Which? has taken on this case to help a member. Is this a service provided for subscribers to Which? Computing?

The introduction refers to Stephanie losing the number she’d had for 35 years, which makes it 1984. That seems unlikely.

If Stephanie has lived at the same address for 35 years, I think she could have transferred her phone number from one company to another.

Thanks Michael. Anything that can raise awareness of the fact that consumers don’t have to accept poor service is welcome.

It’s the landline number that was lost, I believe. My family home had the same number since the early 70s until very recently.

Thanks George. I automatically think of Vodafone provider.

Oops. That should read: “I automatically think of Vodafone as a mobile service provider.”

Doxy says:
27 April 2019

Further to Wavechange ‘s comments about how long Stephanie has had her number, we have had the same landline number since 1969 even longer than Stephanie. We would be very upset to lose it so I really sympathize with her and William.

Thanks Doxy. I had wrongly assumed that since Vodafone is a mobile service provider the number in question was a mobile number. As George has confirmed, it’s a landline number and Stephanie must have have switched to Vodafone at some time.

I would not want to lose my number either, having had it since 1980, but those who move round the country are not so lucky. At least you can keep a mobile number.

As someone said, mobile phones were very rare 35 years ago….. 🙁

I did ask why, when a line had been (temporarily) terminated, accidentally or otherwise, whether the number was immediately reallocated and put into use; if not, why could the number not have been restored? Perhaps the whole complaints process just took too long?

Jane Marshall says:
28 April 2019

If you’ve been at the same address for a number of years then having the same landlines number sounds right to me!

I would have claimed against Sky, with whom Stephanie had the contract, rather than against Vodafone. It is Sky who was responsible for providing service, and Sky which was in breach of contract by not doing so. Sky could claim in turn against Vodafone for causing it to breach its contract. I would also not have accepted only £150 for losing my telephone number, fixed or mobile. There are ways that the number could have been recovered, perhaps at great administrative expense if Sky, Vodafone and the provider that originally issued the number (perhaps BT) all worked together.

I have assumed it was the landline number that was lost. Unless that was rapidly reallocated to someone else I see no reason why it could not have been restored. What are the technicalities? Duncan could no doubt have told us.

On the basis that mobile phones did not exist in the UK 35 years ago, I assume that this Convo refers to a landline number that would have been retained when Stephanie moved to Vodafone, after which she lost the number thanks to the company’s error.

When I read “With the issue seemingly at a dead end, Stephanie was resigned to having to tell all their friends and family that the number had changed“, I understood that the phone number was never recovered.

I would have claimed an additional cost for friends to phone my mobile number until the landline number (known by friends) was reconnected, and put Sky on notice that the longer they took to reinstate my number, the more I would be claiming.

rusty says:
27 April 2019

I have had the same telephone number since the 1960’s, well at least the last seven digits. It started with letters for the first three digits e.g. WAT for Waterloo = 928 on a modern phone dial followed by four numerical digits. Since then different digits have been added before the 928 such as 01,02, and most recently 0207. So, my number hasn’t changed basically from the original one issued by the GPO (now BT) almost 60 years ago.

I miss the old alphabetical London dialling codes. Some were geographical like TOTtenham, HOLborn, BATtersea etc, but others were rather ingenious ways of turning numbers into word forms, like BYRon, DICkens, ELGar, KEAts, WORdsworth, et al. Nautical names figured prominently [e.g. CUNningham, DUNcan, FRObisher, RODney, TRAfalgar], but not generals or land battles and no female names so far as I recollect.

Easier to recall I think. I liked WHItehall 1212 but never used it. Probably banned under the race relations act now. I looked twice at a recent post that included “black male” wondering if it broke community guidelines. I realised it meant “blackmail” and presume it was not removed.

Nobody remembers telephone numbers these days as they are all listed on the device, but I can still recall my parents’ number from nearly forty years ago and all the numbers of the houses I have lived in and places where I have worked. I keep in my wallet a hard copy of my mobile contact list in case I don’t have any other access to the numbers. When I am asked for someone’s number it is just as quick to get my list out as to look it up on the phone.

One number I remember is our phone number when I was young. It was 163. When we moved to England it became 855565 and then 2855565 when more numbers were needed.

My mobile contacts list also appears on my computer.

We’ve had our ‘phone line cut several times. Reasons ranged from an accident with a tractor to a farmer with an axe, and from a deteriorated line owing to 20 years of exposure to the elements to a flooded junction box on the pole. On one occasion we were without BB for six weeks. Real fun living in the sticks…

We used to periodically lose our phone when there was a shortage of lines in our road. BT/Openreach/whatever would fix it by cutting someone else off. 😨 All sorted now, but they could take several weeks to reconnect you.

I will resist posting a picture of a farmer with an axe in case it increases Ian’s anxiety.

Many years ago my phone started to crackle and then failed, as a result of water entering a junction box. When the problem happened again I connected the cables properly and removed the junction box. Evidence of my unauthorised interference was removed when the cable was replaced to provide an extra line for a fax machine.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks Duncan. I’m not sure whether I offended a farmer or because I interfered with the telephone system to rectify a problem that had not been properly fixed. The green colour is due to copper salts, produced by reaction of the copper wire with water containing impurities.

I often correct a negative thumb, unless it is there because someone has made an unpleasant remark to another contributor.

We had virgin media disconnect our broadband line and connect it to someone else’s property. A decidedly pithy landline call to 152 got it swapped back.

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I live in a rural area but have good access to a nearby mast. My 4G SIM provider said that the speeds I was getting (a quarter of their advertised national average) were “completely acceptable for a rural area”. Can’t help feeling I’m paying more than my fair share compared to people in urban areas.

Blake, I expect you are right. Here in Gloucester, the Which? speed test rates my giffgaff 4G at 5.9Mbps down and 6.5Mps up. That is roughly have the speed I get on my Plusnet landline broadband.

Sorry I meant half not have…

john hare says:
27 September 2020

hi I am with vodaphone broadband superfast 2 but my service is no better than the superfast service 1i am getting 38.9mbs and my service should be giving me 64mbs any advice please

The actual download speed you can get over VDSL2 (FTTC) is primarily determined by the copper (or worse, aluminium) wire distance you are from the fibre cabinet (the green roadside cabinet you are connected to before switching to fibre). Broadband speeds fall off rapidly with distance. If you are over 500m from the cabinet it’s a physical impossibility (in both senses) to get 64 Mbps. Even if you are closer, it will depend to some extent on the quality of the BT Openreach wires and your broadband router.

There is no difference between the connections used for Superfast 1 and Superfast 2. Vodafone just deliver the data more slowly for Superfast 1 customers.

Put your postcode and house address into the Vodafone broadband deals webpage to see what services you could get. It should say something like: “Great news – you can get speeds of up to nn.nnMbps at [your address here]”. Make sure you click on the ( i ) icon at the end of the line. This gives the projected range of speeds, but also a minimum projected speed by BT Openreach.

Us the minimum projected speed as your contractual service speed. If it is around 32 Mbps or less, there is no point in paying for a faster service. If it says you should be nearer to 64 Mbps, complain to Vodafone’s technical help desk.

I’m assuming here you are checking you speed using a wired Ethernet connection, not WiFi.

Hi John – I suggest you go through the help provided on the Vodafone website and give them a ring if you cannot resolve the problem: https://www.vodafone.co.uk/help-and-information/broadband-support/slow-broadband

We live in a rural village in Buckinghamshire. Internet/WiFi has got progressively intermittent since 2008. We can’t use village net (no clear line of sight to mast). Junction box is 4 miles away (no fibre here) many housing developments going up plus HS2 depot all demanding internet push us down the priority list. We are both disabled & rely on internet and WiFi for contact with GP’s Hospitals shopping and medication. Some days we get no internet no mobile and no tv. I have written to our MP & the Technology Minister without receiving a response. Our broadband provider is not the problem BT Open Reach/government lack of interest in rural connectivity is.

Hi, I continue to have a nightmare with my broadband and phone provider, Plusnet. After moving home on 7th Dec 2020, for the first 2 weeks service was okay but slow. On 23rd Dec 2020 the internet service and phone line was disconnected.
When I phoned Plusnet I was told that my account was ‘broken’. There is a known bug in their system that closes your account after a house move. The only solution was for them to set up a new account. I am treated as a new customer with anew username and had to wait for the phone and internet to be resupplied.
Their only suggestion to gain internet access was to purchase a mobile wifi device. I did so, from Vodafone at a cost of £35 start up cost and £37 per month.
The phone line was reinstated on 30th December. I am still waiting for the internet to be reinstated.
As I write this I still can’t quite believe that this whole sorry state of affairs has happened. I have been a customer of Plusnet since the days of Force9 and modem dial up. They have been my only supplier.
Once I have internet reinstated I will go into battle to gain full compensation. I will then seriously consider changing provider, even though up until now the service had been very good.
Anyone else had or heard of such an appalling service?

I hope that, if Plusnet had to start you off as a new customer, they discounted your bill accordingly.

I’ve been with Plusnet for over 10 years now.

I’ve always had good service, but it is now time for me to either haggle with them or change supplier.

Not sure if this is 100% related but I need help. I have moved into the Flat above my partner (we both have the same internet cable feeding our building) She has 45mb download speed on average. I’m trying to sign up for a deal but most companies say they can’t supply me and I don’t understand why as we share the same cable for all flats? I can only sign up for deal with 3.5mb at the same price as all the fibre packages. I really don’t know who to complain to or who to ask as each company won’t help as I don’t have an account with them 🙁 this is so stressful. I have tried contacting openreach and they said they can only help if a supplier contacts them. I would be so grateful if someone can point me in the right direction.

Will the company that provides your partner not offer you a similar tariff, Melvyn?

I live on a rural road 1 mile from the exchange. I’ve been with BT 7 years and things gradually increased from 4mb to 6mb over the years. Not great but useable I guess. My guaranteed speed when I first joined was 3mb minimum. I always got that… Now for some months things have been getting worse and worse. I’m now getting speeds of 0.2mb and absolutely no upload speed. They have changed my guaranteed speed to a measly 1mb which NOBODY will admit and they are now telling me that it’s all the line is capable of. The line is dropping 20+ times a day when apparently 4 times is the max accepted. Meanwhile BT do nothing but offer me false promises about repairing a fault they don’t even bother to look for. I have no other options for broadband and can’t get any type of mobile 4g hub because of my area. I have contacted offcom and am in the process of uploading my evidence. Thanks to this site for the help.

I live in Musselburgh, East Lothian. Im with Virgin Media and the service has been consistently poor. Since before Xmas, we experience several hours per day without Broadband and Landline services. Very polite on the phone when you finally get thro (30 min wait) on the mobile. But I just want reliable service. Anyone else in a similar position?

Patrycja says:
4 February 2021

Hi,
I would like to leaving Virgin media. I tried to call but to no avail. I spent 9 hours on the phone trying to get in touch with customer services, when I went true to the conversation with one of the team person and I said I want leave the virgin media they are just ignore my request and they are put me on hold. After long time waiting I did not get any answer back from them.
It is just one option to leave virgin media by call but they are ignored my request.
Can you help me, please?

Hi Patrycja

See:-https://www.broadbandgenie.co.uk/providers/virgin-media/broadband/how-to-cancel-virgin-media-broadband for an article which covers leaving Virgin.

It includes a postal address that you can write to if you are unable to get through by phone.

See also:-https://www.lovemoney.com/news/89250/virgin-media-broadband-services-switching-cancellation-rights

I have been having issues with Three mobile home broadband since last year before lockdown. They always promised to fix the issue but never really resolved it. I have raised many complaints and lastly raised a ticked with the Ombudsman in July, after 5 months going back and forth with Three. I have been waiting since July for the Ombudsman to resolve the dispute, they haven’t even assigned someone to the case in 6 months due to lengthy backlogs! Apparently, if you are stuck in a contract with a service provider there is no help available as the usual services we need to trust and rely on cannot be relied upon.