Dear Vodafone, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

My eldest son has a mobile phone, which he uses only for contacting us in emergencies. Happily, he hasn’t needed to use it for for more than six months. Then yesterday he was delayed getting home from school and tried to call us. His phone didn’t work.

At the same time, we were trying to call him. The call didn’t go through, and we were told that the number was invalid.

(He got home safely not long after this, so that’s all right. That’s not the point of the story.)

My wife called Vodafone, the service provider, to ask what had happened. The rep explained that when a Vodafone mobile phone is unused for six months they shut down the account, effectively bricking it, and reassign the number to someone else. (That last bit is evidently untrue, since the number is now invalid rather than going to a different phone.) Shortly before the six months expired, they apparently warned us that this was going to happen: by a text sent to the very phone that wasn’t being used, rather then for example an email or a call to our land line or a letter or frankly any method of communication that didn’t involve the very phone whose lack of use was the reason for the message.

This was a pay-as-you-go phone. I am sure no-one will be too surprised when I tell you that when they closed down the phone they kept the balance in the account.

So what can we do from here? Apparently if our son wants to start using the phone again, he has to get a new SIM card, which of course means that he loses his address book (and anyone who had his number will no longer be able to use it).

So my feeling is that Vodafone should have (A) not bricked the phone at all; or failing that, (B) informed us by some sane method that they were going to do that; or both (C1) not stolen our money, and (C2) not junked the old SIM. In short, is it really too much to ask that they not behave like turds?

You know, the market for service companies that simply aren’t horrible is wide open. It’s not going to hard to win customers’ loyalty when this sort of craptacular behaviour is routine among their competitors.

 

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9 responses to “Dear Vodafone, are you lying thieving cheats, or just incompetent?

  1. This seems to be a common problem with pay as you go mobiles. On the bright side I know somebody who actually managed to get their old SIM re-enabled with their old number and credit, wasn’t easy though and it wasn’t Vodafone.

  2. It disturbs me on quite a deep level that so many service companies behave like exploitative scumbags every time and opportunity presents itself. It’s not the loss of the calling credit that irks me, it’s being treated with such casual contempt.

  3. It’s actually part of the prepaid contract, at least in NZ, that people don’t like to read. It’s still a sneaky & shitty deal, but that’s the risk you take.

  4. It just boggles the mind .. can they not just _honour the contract_?

    If you’ve paid up for X time… they shoudl honour it; not using it is no excuse. It makes no sense; I mean, waht does it gain them? They piss off a customer, and its not like you were costing them anything. They must assume that you’ll come back and give them free $ (double paying a time slot) once you realize its occurred? Fantasy land?

    The entitlement of these companies is unbelievable; when they have fast numbers of customres, they just lose sight, and only spy the money in their pockets..

  5. This happened to my grandmother the other week. She had a long journey to undertake, so she found her phone which usually lives in a drawer, tried to make a call, and lo-behold, Vodafone had cancelled it, taking any remaining credit she had with it.

    Terrible behaviour, what if she’d needed the phone in a genuine emergency?

  6. I don’t see any problem with this actually. They need regular income to provide the service, or you could just effectively pay them a one-time fee, never make a call, and they would still have to make room for your number in their network and allow people to reach you for as long as they exist. It would be nice, but it can’t really work like that, and in fact I think it’s a good deal; you pay a recurring fee for being on the network and also get to make outgoing calls for the whole sum.

    If the number is about to expire, they can’t call you at home for practical reasons, as big carriers may have thousands of these numbers that expire each day, and in any case did you really give them your home number or your e-mail? When I’ve bought numbers and phones like these it’s no more complicated than buying groceries, you just pay and take the goods, there are no forms to fill in.

    The obvious way to get in touch with someone who has bought a phone is to contact them on said phone of course. They can’t realistically go to greater lengths than expecting that people who’ve bought a phone actually use it, or in the least turn it on once a week to make sure it works properly, which is a good idea if the phone is for emergencies, don’t you agree?

  7. Robert — I think the implication is .. a deposit of X is made, and the company deducts from it monthly; even when some is left, if the device has not been used.. they just take the money and close the account.

    So ..
    i) The ‘on the face’ contract is being ignored (you come in for service, and pay, and they do some dumb shit no one expects, buried in the fine print I’m sure.)
    ii) They’re taking your money without providing the service its for

    This reminds me of the money card scam .. you know how you can buy gift cards for people, and put $x into them? they act as a short duration credit card for the reciver, but only good at some series of stores. (honeslty, I think that since the money has less value in the card (not as flexible), they should give you a tip for using them.. put in $100, it should be worth $105, say.)

    Anyway, in many countries, these cards can _expire_; in Canada, they relatively recently made it so they cannot expire.. you put cash in, it can’t just evaporate. Typical corporate BS when it did :P

  8. Vodafone probably has good tech reasons for managing phone number data, i.e. keeping their MSC’s running efficiently without crufty old data

  9. Vodafone might be bad, but I would still shy away from T-Mobile (or EE as they are now) – I’ve just left them and they signed me up for a 12 month contract after I’d told them that I wanted to leave and without my permission, charged me £4.33 “retention charge” because I refused the deal that they offered me to stay, £14 cancellation charge of a contract that had already reached its 12 month limit and £12.10 for less than 2MB of data. No, that wasn’t a typo and shouldn’t be 2GB, they honestly charged me more than £6 per megabyte for data on the last day of my contract because they turned off my internet allowance before they turned off the SIM and then charged me at their “outside your allowance” rate of nearly £6500 per GB. No way I will ever use them again.

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