An elderly, active colleague who works in the Leisure Industry, who is hard of hearing, had been a customer of Vodaphone for 10 years plus, to say the least.
He had his own account and until January last year, had absolutely no problems with the company.
In January 2013, he found that he had been charged for an expensive phone, which he had not ordered.
He duly drove the eight miles to the Vodaphone shop and the nightmare started, it appears that his eldest stepson, who is lawyer, does not live at the same address, does not have the same surname, had bought a new phone and he had been charged for it, in addition somehow or other his account had been merged with his stepsons.
Not a problem, you would have thought, separate the accounts, seven visits later and many phone calls, the manager finally, supposedly separates the accounts, he makes out a new DD, end of story you would have thought.
Vodaphone gave him a complimentary phone, which he can’t hear and several months free calls after putting his old phone in, which he owned in part exchange.
Fine until January this year (2014) and a formal letter from Vodaphone saying that he is arrears, his phone has been stopped from making out going calls, he immediately rushed into the Vodaphone shop again, asked why the account had stopped and was told the DD had been cancelled and was told the Bank had done it.
The bank knew absolutely nothing about it, it had been cancelled by Vodaphone.
Like the veritable Lamb to the Slaughter he paid the arrears, made out another DD on the same account, a week or so later receives a text (He doesn’t do Texts) saying that he is in arrears again.
He immediately rushed back into the Vodaphone Shop again and was told in no uncertain terms that a fraud had been committed and he was responsible, his stepsons name was on his account and he had access to it.
Had he given him permission to access the account?
He said that he hadn’t.
After a discussion with his stepson, he remembered that Vodaphone the previous January 2013 had asked for access by his stepson to separate the account, unfortunately they had not removed his name, after supposedly separating the accounts, immediately blaming him for all the ills to the account.
Who cancelled the DD, what happened to the original DD, Vodaphone had no idea, his stepson had no knowledge of the password, since Vodaphone were supposed to separate the accounts again and he had no reason to access the account.
He sent a formal letter of complaint to Vodaphone, to find a confirmation letter of the DD set up from Vodaphone, addressed to another of his sons, who has not lived in the UK for thirteen years at another address at least a mile away from his home with all his Bank Details on it, fortunately the letter was pushed through his door, which could have been a serious problem in the wrong hands.
He then sent a letter to the Chairman of Vodaphone with all the details and a copy to the Ombudsman and received absolutely no response whatsoever.
Not only has he a DD made out to someone else at another address, who doesn’t live there and emigrated 13 years ago and is very unlikely to return to the UK, but he could be paying for someone else’s phone again.
Umpteen phone calls to Vodaphone who deny everything, they do not send bank details to other people at other addresses, they will call back when they have checked, nothing happens.
Another phone call, out of many and Vodaphone finally offer compensation after it is pointed out that they have seriously breached the Data Protection Act, a refund of all the previous years payments and release from the contract, sanity at last, they will call back and confirm the arrangements, no phone call.
Another call and the whole attitude has changed, as soon as the compensation is mentioned, the conversation gets strained, he asks to speak to a manager and is told they will ring back within twenty-four hours, he insists that he speaks to one now, the woman puts the phone down on him.
All he now wants to do, is to close the Vodaphone account and find a mobile phone that works, it appears that the free phone that he was given has insufficient memory and constantly cuts out in the middle of the very occasional calls that he makes, a minor problem, Vodaphone insist that he has to pay £154 to be released from the contract, they claim they have done nothing wrong, this is in January.
He has all the documentation and lodges a complaint with the Ombudsman, immediately two letters arrive from Vodaphone, one apologising for the inconvenience of the DD problem, the other saying that the payments had been sorted out and it would cost over a £160 to be released from his contract, also this figure reduces on a daily basis, it is now two months later from the first quote.
However if he hands his handset back they will immediately release him from his contract, the fact that his old Iphone, which he owned had been handed in, in part exchange for the apparently cheapest phone that Vodaphone do, from the subsequent staff comments and a free call period has no bearing on the issue.
Further phone calls and a very aggressive Scottish woman, denies that they have done anything wrong in breaching the Data Protection Act, there would be no compensation, he had not been accused of fraud and he would have to pay to get out of their contract.
The Ombudsman cannot act for another ten days, Vodaphone are allowed eight weeks to resolve a complaint, he takes the only option pass the handset back to Vodaphone, which he does, he loses all his records etc. and buys a new phone through another company.
This is a true story and well documented having seen the correspondence from Vodaphone, if any of us treated valued customers like this we would be out of business in a shot.
There is a very slim chance that someone in Vodaphone may read this and change their customer services approach.
Ironically, when he handed the phone back to Vodaphone, they insisted that he would have to speak to their Head Office, he pointed out that with this hand set he couldn’t hear what they are saying anyway.
The Manager made a call on the handset and it cut out shortly afterwards, it did this every time that she used it, she said the battery was flat, it had been fully charged and turned off, before returning it.
Changing accounts is a nightmare as with the Energy Companies, they set up a contract that you cannot get out of without paying them an extortionate fee, regardless of their actions or incompetence, this is very wrong and should be changed if the company breaches its agreement.
The Ombudsman is a very slow option and extremely inconvenient for a busy person to change their mobile phone, Vodaphone will walk away from it, they have lost another customer, who is unimportant in the cycle of things.
It is not easy to change your phone, unless you know how to protect your information and transfer it and be assured they will make it as difficult as possible unless it is at the end of a contract.
Our only comment to Vodaphone, customer service is vital to success, if you are so big that customer service is unimportant, you don’t deserve the business.
The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and www.buyingapub.com accepts no responsibility for them, we do try to avoid offensive or litigious statements being made. They are written by concerned professionals in the industry who feel that these issues should be raised to ensure that all licensees are made fully aware of many hidden pitfalls.