On Vodafone and how to live off a brand name and nothing else

Calvin Ltd. has had a small business account with Vodafone for a few years now. We tried first with Virgin, then T-Mobile but they proved pretty deficient in terms of service and signal coverage, so in the classical crowd wisdom, we signed up with Vodafone. Surely a mammoth of telecommunications would know how to do business and treat its customers, surely…

Few years have gone by, and the amount of problems we have had to deal with has been so extensive and bizarre (from having to challenge a £17,000 charge that wasn’t ours to four new 8310 BlackBerry Curves in 2 months), that  I finally decided to write another diary, similar to the one I have been keeping on my BB Bold.

So please, enjoy and do not doubt to join in, as no matter how much time, effort and money I waste dealing with them, they never call back, apologise or explain what happened. We are playing the better the devil you know that the devil you don’t, but quite frankly, we are really tired of sending complaints to Vodafone.

Enjoy our misery:

(38) September 1, 2009
It has been a while since I had to spent longer on the phone to Vodafone than with my wife, mother and old friends together. But today I received the bills for July and September. For some unknown reason, they stopped (again) to send the call breakdown. We have been down this road before, so if I can gather enough strength tomorrow morning, I will call them before going to work.

(37) April 16th, 2009 at 9:34am
I finally got the patience to personally deal with Vodafone’s incompetence. I called customer services and it took me 13′ to get to speak to a human being (the usual “lines are busy”, I wonder how bad it is for normal customers, not business customers). I explained to Tracy, from Team 18 the situation with the USB Modem invoice and that I had been told last month that it wouldn’t happen again, but that it HAD happened again. She disappeared again for 3 minutes.

When she came back she said that she didn’t know what had happened, she apologised for the inconvenience and blamed the “brand new system”.

It was then, 18′ down the phone call when I asked her whether sending the invoice had been a mistake and the £14.15 were still outstanding. Silence. She rushed to say that the £14.15 were still outstanding (and due on March 31, by the way) but rushed to say that “as a goodwill gesture” they would credit our account with that amount.

“It won’t happen again”, she said, and I requested written confirmation. She asked for our email (what type of business doesn’t keep the email of their business customers?) and said that she would email it. I hope nothing.

(36) March 25th, 2009
Needless to say, we received two invoices again, one for the mobile phones and another one for the USB Modem under the former employee’s name (35). Again, a Vodafone employee failing to keep a promise?

For the record, the USB Modem had never, ever been under her name, so I guess that it takes someone to manually take the USB account out of our business account and put under someone else’s name. I wonder how many businesses have had the same problems, and how many have noticed it. Check your invoices.

(35) March 2nd, 2009
The infamous bill for the last 2 months finally arrived  and got paid by direct debit… but somehow, they managed to pull out of the invoice the USB Modem that has been within the account for the last three years. To make it more confusing, they sent the invoice to our business address but under an ex-employee’s  number.

I contacted their unable customer services and they apologise for the inconvenience, they didn’t know why or what had happened and blamed the “new system”. They told me that they would add it to the account and wouldn’t happen again. Yeah, sure. As if I can trust them.

(34) February 11th, 2009
Still no bill yet. I call customer services and after 5 minutes on hold, I get to speak to someone. The lady on the phone tells me what they told me at the store, that the last bill that appears on the system is the January 4 one.

Digging a bit, she tells me that, since we changed a contract in January 16, the the billing cycle has changed to the end of the month or the beginning. She couldn’t tell me which one.

I found that quite unusual, as no company, specially as things go in the markets at the moment, would waive a payment for 4 weeks this days. I wonder what’s in store… or I’ll trust the Vodafone high street employees, who told me something that sounds more realistic, that they were having problems with their billing system. I guess the overcharge with the international calls must be part of the problem… but they are too proud to apologise and customer unlead to tell you.

In any case, over the years, we have changed contracts several times within the same account and they never, ever, missed a direct debit on the 3/4 of each months.

In any case, I asked her to tell me roughly how much I could expect at the end/beginning of the month. 15 minutes on hold later, she came up with the amount of £310. Two months, let’s say, £340-350, that is definitely below their now usual monthly £450 bill. But I have to see it with my own eyes, I have already learnt the lesson.

(33) February 9th, 2009
We haven’t received yet January’s bill. Expecting the worst, we asked at a Vodafone store but they told us that they had been problems with their systems.

So far no direct debit has arrived, and it religiously arrives every 4th of the month. Just in case, we left in the business account an amount large enough for another Vodafone cock up.

(32) January 26th, 2009
We received today a refund on our company’s bank account for £714.26, £766.99 – £52.73 we owed them (24).

We still don’t know what exactly the refund refers to, so if they NEVER give compensation (27). So I guess that dealing with a bully company like Vodafone (some bullies may not even understand how wrong their behaviour is and how it makes the person being bullied feel), we should be grateful and move on.

(31) January 18th, 2009
I am flying to Spain today. I haven’t dared ringing Europe from the UK yet, but I will keep a close eye on the cost of phone calls received and made from there.

However, I still don’t feel like I can trust Vodafone, let along if we bring into play a foreign operator.

(30) January 16th, 2009 at 7h43pm
And my reply:

Since you didn’t reply, on Thursday I spoke to one of your colleagues at Business Customer Services and she told me that they would action the refund (after I had to contact Vodafone again to do so).

You, her, I don’t mind, refund the moneys to our business current account (I guess your payments department keeps at least those records, as they have been charging us your bills for years now). I am also waiting explanation of the refund, the breakdown of overcharges (what does “back to the latest date possible by Vodafone” mean anyway?) and the compensation you propose.

According to your workmate Vodafone NEVER pays compensation. Never. Not even when you have been overcharging has for at least 4 months? Never? When you even after keeping our money for months you decide to credit our account for a value equivalent to 3 months bills (effectively making us pay in advance for 3/4 months). Never? After Vodafone has made us lose money, time, and face to get things done?

I told her I would complain and she asked if I wanted her to email me the T&Cs, which she did.

Just to let you know, today we went to one of the branches and got a new contract, including an international tariff at 12p/min to Europe, not the International Call Saver we spoke about, more expensive per call. In any case, if you can take my contract back to the one I had last July, I’d appreciate it, but it seems it doesn’t exist any more.

I look forward to your reply.

(29) January 16th, 2009 at 12h37pm
S.N. just replied:

Sorry for my delay in contacting you, as I am sure you are aware I do my upmost to stay in contact and resolve the issues that I am presented with, and have a lot of queries going through as I write this.

In relation to your own individual case, there are options available and I wish to speak with you on this.

Please supply the original account number and a contact number and I will do my best to give the service required.

Kind Regards

S.N.
Business Customer Service Advisor

Duplications, triplications, you name it. I never knew and still don’t know who I have to speak to at Vodafone, who is trustworthy, who says the truth.

First, they don’t refund the Money automatically unless we ask for it. Then, S. (25) tells me that they are going to refund our bank account (I think she said 15-20 days, but I couldn’t cope anymore with their impossible solutions and user unfriendly policies, so I didn’t pay attention).

Now, S.N. finally replies (he has been the first person at business customer services who seemed to care about my case, so I guess he must be very in demand) and asks for “the original account number and a contact number”. Don’t they have it?

Never ending story.

(28) January 16th, 2009 at 10h00am
We just went into a Vodastore and changed the infamous contract for a small business tariff (£30), Blackberry+internet 500mb (£10) and unlimited text (£5), plus VAT of course.

So what? You will say. Well, all along, the problem seemed to lay on the ICS bundle(International Call Saver) not being in the new contract signed last August 8th.

S.N. (12) told me that a contract where I could include ICS would be “much more expensive” than the current one I had (much more expensive meaning £42.55+VAT) and 38p/min on calls to Europe. So the 20p/min M. (8) told me I was on until August had suddenly vanished.

Guess what, all along, only K. from the Belfast call centre (7) commented on a plan too good to be true that apparently I was on (and I wasn’t), use my time allowance for calls to UK/Europe numbers and after I use it up, they would charge my calls to Europe at 38p/min including VAT. Eventually I wasn’t on that tariff, but we learnt something new again.

But today at the Vodastore, with the new small business plan, calls to Europe cost 12p/min plus VAT and calls from abroad our priced at a fix 75p and minutes come from the allowance! It goes live tonight at midnight, we shall see if it lives to our expectations.

Why wasn’t I ever told of this plan? No one at customer services told me or mentioned it. Even S.N., when I asked him if what was the cheapest way of calling Europe would only revert to the ICS plan. Do this people know what they are selling?

I have already said in a number of occasions that customer service and technical knowledge is appalling, but how can they make the business work if they product knowledge is minimal and every different person you speak with has a fractional knowledge of the options?

(27) January 15th, 2009 at 12h40pm 5min
Since S.N. didn’t replied my emails, I called again yesterday to Business Customer Services.

I had to ask them to refund the moneys into our bank account, otherwise they don’t do it.

I asked S. on the phone, that I was still waiting for an explanation of the moneys refunded as August charges where not in the breakdown they sent me and I didn’t know if they included compensation and/or interest. Even before trying to explain herself she cut me with her answer:

We NEVER give compensation.

Here we go again. A new person I get to deal with, and again a Vodafone customer service staff member with attitude and a knack for customer dissatisfaction.

We NEVER give compensation. It is on the terms and conditions.

I fell in a “computer says no” trap again. I tried to explain someone who was not listening or even willing to do so that how would they dare to not pay compensation if they have been overcharging us £766.99 for the last 4 (5?) months? And then, unless I contact them time and again, they issue a credit not effectively keeping the money in their books.

I told her that I would complain and she told me that she would email me the T&C’s. Which she did ipso facto.

Seriously, what’s with this people?

(26) January 14th, 2009 at 6h57pm
I just emailed S.N.:

I am still waiting for your reply.

On a different matter, we have received a letter from your company
informing us of a credit of  £766.99.
We want any money to be refunded into our bank account immediately, not
credit or account with you for an amount equal to three months
charges, effectively advancing our payments to you until April.

You owe us money, so please pay it back to us including compensation
and interest. That is what we want. It is ludicrous that after our
advancing money when being overcharged, you not only don’t refund us
the money, but credit the account (effectively keeping £766.99 in
Vodafone).

I look forward to your prompt reply on the matter.

(25) January 14th, 2009
We received today a letter from Vodafone. They have credited our account with £766.99.

Perfect. First, they recognise that they overcharged us £59.40 in September, £233.31 in October, £188.19 in November, £121.21 in December, and no idea how much they overcharged us in August as according to them that summary refers to “the two billing recalculations back to the latest date possible by Vodafone”.

Still the numbers don’t match, but we have been paying for a mistake for months, and now, instead of crediting our bank account with £766.99. Taking into account that our normal monthly expenditure is  £190-250, one can say that we are also paying in advance for February, March and April!!

No comments on compensation from Vodafone. No interest payments. No explanations.

(24) January 15th, 2009
And we continue with their grace and lack of internal communication. The same they we receive the letter informing us of the £766.99 “Complimentary Credit”, we also receive this one, in reference to a change of number we have made:

OVERDUE BALANCE: £52.73

We do not appear to have received payment for the above balance.

To avoid any interruption to your service please contact our helpline on 08700 778 668 to make payment by Credit / Debit card.

Alternatively send a cheque, quoting your account number o the reverse, to:

Vodafone Ltd.
PO Box 932
Doncaster
DN4 5XW

For your convenience we recommend that you set up a Direct Debit Instruction for future payments. […]

If you have made payment in the last few days, please accept our apologies and disregard this letter.

Yours faithfully,

Collections Department

Simply, I have not words.

(23) January 15th, 2009
We received letter from Vodafone  were it said of a “Complimentary Credit” for £766.99 (what an euphemism, they don’t even dare to say sorry. They are still unable to send an apology.

(22) January 14th, 2009 at 10:35pm
I have not received any reply from Vodafone yet. Still unaware of how, when or why they are going to refund the £766.99.

(21) January 9th, 2009 at 8:24pm
I just replied S.N. his email:

Dear S.N.,

R. told me about the £766.99 credit. Thank you for your email but there are still many things I don’t understand.

First, I do not know yet what the problem has been and I don’t understand the credit you are offering without further explanation.

In the file you have sent me I don’t see the breakdown of August’s calls and I cannot account for £140.32+Vat you are including in your refund. What does it refer to?

I expect an explanation of why I wasn’t told about the ICS bundle not being included in the new contract and why every single person until I was lucky enough to find you failed to notice it to the point that even after noticing and contacting you. We were told that phone calls to Europe were chargeable at 32p/min, 35p/min, 80p/min and many other variations and still landed a £309.26 bill for the month of December not knowing why. The problem should have been identified months ago and it wasn’t even after repeated calls to your customer service.

All in all, I am grateful that I have finally found someone professional or knowledgeable enough to care, and for that I thank you even though I know that I am not asking for anything out of this world.

We expect compensation for our time and money wasted in dealing with your customer services in this particular regard.

We also expect instructions as to what to do next to avoid further overcharging, as I don’t want to start again arguing with someone on the phone or in a branch because s/he doesn’t know what we have been through. So the question remains, how much does it cost me to ring Europe from my mobile? How can I get back to the, according to M., 20p/min you were charging me until the August fiasco? I look forward to your reply.

(20) January 9th, 2009 at 3:46pm

I received email from S.N.:

Please see the attached as your two billing recalculations back to the latest date possible by Vodafone.

I don’t really understand what he means by “the latest date possible”, and whether August was also overcharged. The email also included an Excel file with phone call and bill details and the following calculation:

Invoiced Cost

Repriced Cost

CREDIT

09

87,674

37,118

50,556

10

385,982

187,417

198,565

11

236,096

75,936

160,16

12

158,667

55,508

103,159

And a calculated “monthly average” amount of 128,11.

All Greek to me.

Another sheet shows “Line Rental Should have been charged £128.11” and right below, “Credit Due -£652,76” (plus VAT, you guessed it, £766.99)

They have repriced all calls in their so-called Band1, crediting £512.44, I guess those are the phonecalls to Europe. However, there are are £140.32+VAT I cannot identify.

I look forward to their explanation.

(19) January 9th, 2009 at 13:12pm, 13:28pm and 13:44pm
They just called me from a number I didn’t recognise, 01442821308. I went to WhoCallsMe? and according to the notes on the post, apparently:

The number is from Vodafone. It is an automated call after you have spoken with them to complete a customer service survey. Oh the joy, more time wasting calls!
X-Ray Cat

If that is the case, how do they even dare? One would hope that now they should already know our answer to any customer service related survey.

They called again while I was writing this update. Didn’t bother to pick up.

And again.

(18) January 9th, 2009 at 11:59am
I just called customer services and tried to speak to S.N., after 5 minutes on hold and being asked twice for my name and mobile phone/account number and three occasions for my account PIN I finally got to speak to R., apparently from the same Business Customer Service team as S.N.

She had a quick look to the notes on our file and promptly told me that our account was being credited with £766.99. I asked her what did that amount referred to, what months? She didn’t know and requested my email address so that S.N. could send me a statement.

So many questions still on the air, amongst them:
– What months do they refund?
– What phone calls are they refunding?
– Why did they say they will refund the money? Goodwill gesture? we are on our own right? Am I making too much noise on the web?
– Are they planning to compensate for our time and effort wasted at trying to sort everything out?
– Who did wrong?
– What’s the current rate for International calls from my number? Have they included ICS in my tariff plan or they rely on my common sense and hope I will contact them or stop by a shop and will change my contract?
– Am I breaching any small print in the contract renewed last August and I’ll have another reason to keep updating this post after I get arguing with the unlucky store member of the day?

But at least R. finish the conversation literally with “I hope you have a fantastic weekend and thank you for your call”. I don’t really want to sound cynical, but how unusual.

(17) January 9th, 2009 at 11:25am
I received a phone call phone an Unknown Number. It was S.N. getting back to me. He said that he had what he called “news for you” but couldn’t tell me due to data protection and requested me to email him a more suitable time to contact him.

(16) January 7th, 2009
We went into a Vodastore and we found a staff member sympathetic enough to resend our complain filed in a branch back on December 18, 2008. I just copy here the text written by him:

Date Submitted: 18/12/2008 [and then again today]
Subject: Customer Service – CONTRACT – Escalation Issues

Sub has come into store because he’s disputing his latest bill. He called customer services on 6/12/08 and was told that a recalculation would be done and a reprint of the bill would be sent out to the customer. It’s coming up to 2 weeks and no one from customer services has got back to him. When he called he was told it would cost him 38p min to call Spain from the UK. I [the Vodafone employee] have tried to call customer services today and spoke to 5 different people get past from pillar to post.  No one could give me the correct costing on calling Spain. No one in customer services could explain as to why a reprint bill hasn’t bee sent out. This is very frustrating for the customer as well as me in store. I don’t blame the customer for being annoyed as the service he has received from over the phone has been appalling. Can someone recalculate the bill and adjust accordingly. Also sub is expecting a call back today from customer services.

I sincerely thank the people at Vodafone branches who tried to help us (to send and resend the complaint and get a printout) sort this mess out. As with S.N., it seems that there is still hope within the company if this type of helpful staff members are more common. But, as said before and you can read above, get “past from pillar to post”.

(15) January 7th, 2009
I finally got today the missing breakdown of phone calls for my x56 number. I have been charged 92p/minute including VAT in calls to Europe in October (₤330.087) and November (₤277.284). Interestingly enough, calls made from my UK mobile to a Spanish Mobile while in Spain have been charged at 32.2p/min (almost 1/3 of the cost for a UK->Spain call!!). If that is not playing the European Telecom’ Commissioner, what is?

And by the way, now that I know, they are spot on, no ICS appears on the bills, only “CTR3promo600mUnltext&MI@?30”.

(14) January 7th, 2009 at 4:54 pm
Mathew Clarke from Vodafone eForum just left another message (have a look at the bottom of the page). My reply follows:

If the message I left for you sounds like an empty promise or is a little vague then please forgive me, it certainly wasn’t intended as such.

You call your message an “empty promise” or “a little vague”. Well, if you had read the post, you would have seen that I was already in the slow process of trying to get something done. I write the post out of frustration dealing with your customer services and billing department.

Without seeing your account details all that I can do from here is to offer our help, with the intention of absolutely seeing this through to a resolution.

As you can see from the post, I am already dealing with (overcharging international calls) or have sorted myself (Content Control) the latest issues. Please, don’t tell me that you think they are not able to sort it out. I asked you in (13), if you think I (or any other customer for that matter) shouldn’t rely on your customer services, please let me know why.

Having said that, if they fail to refund the overcharge in international phone calls, do not doubt that I will contact you, Andrew (from your team I presume, he left a message before you did), the Office of Communications and of course also to your Chief Executive, Vittorio Colao, so that he can personally learn a bit more of how badly he needs to address the basics of your business.

The way in which we are set up here allows us to really take the time to look into issues like yours, as well as staying in contact to provide you with updates and further support where needed

I don’t think I am going to get a reply from you but, what makes “the way in which [you] are set up” so special that allows you to “really take the time to look into issues like [mine]” so different from the procedures at work in Vodafone’s call centre or your branches? Don’t they also “really take time”? So what do they do? Waste customers precious time?

which is why I feel that giving us the opportunity to look into this would be of benefit to you.

I am still waiting for S.N.’s email with the details fro the new tariff including ICS. He also has to get back to me after discussing my bill issues with his manager. As he didn’t tell me when he will contact me, I guess you are more right than wrong, but how sad is that coming within the same Vodafone.

Finally, please allow me to offer my full apologies for the service you’ve received from us in this matter.

For all that matters, I could just be making everything up. I am not, and you apologise, so I guess you have already identified my complaints. I am pretty sure you just don’t go online and apologise to everyone who complains about Vodafone. I guess.

In exchange of customer loyalty, I don’t expect apologies, I expect a reasonable level of service and problem solving. So far, with the billing problems still in the open and seriously doubting that I will see our money back (plus interest and compensation for time and money wasted from our side thanks to your team so called “ready, able and willing to help out as much as possible”), an apology doesn’t apply. The problem is still there, I haven’t received an answer or solution and many, many excuses that so far leave us at least £600 in the red.

(13) 7/1/2009 11.33am
While writing the last update, Mathew Clarke from Vodafone eForum left a comment for me. You can find it at the bottom of the page and my comments just below:

I realise that your words above are perhaps intended for other customers rather than a request for help as such”

Mathew, you realise wrong. I have chosen to waste my time writing this post because your company already makes me waste time and money when you refuse to solve problems or be accountable of your own mistakes and misinforming the customers.

This post is just the last resort for “other customers” as you call them, to know exactly that it is not one single issue, it’s many different issues that you do not address. At Vodafone you have a systemic problem with your customer service and problem solving aptitude (and perhaps attitude?.)

however I feel that if you were to allow us to help, we’d be able to resolve everything satisfactorily and you’d feel much happier with your Vodafone account as a result.

Over the years I have “allow[ed you] to help”. And over the years you have been absolutely helpless and hopeless. But every single time, I have contacted you, spoken several times to different members of your customer service team who promise things (getting back to me, solving a particular problem [5, 9], sending me 5 replacement 8310i in 2 months or 3 Bolds in 4 weeks, changing the SIM card 4 times in 20 days, posting bill breakdowns that ever arrive, etc.) and do not follow up or live up to expectations, no matter how low they already are.

Are you telling me that you, at Vodafone eForum, can actually help me and make me feel “much happier with your Vodafone account as a result”? Are you telling me that next time I have a problem, I try to avoid dealing with your in-store staff or call centers and go straight to you? Do you know anything your colleagues or customers don’t? Is it that the way of getting things sorted?

We are ready, able and willing to help out as much as possible

As an organisation and in my experience (and given the traffic that this post is attracting it seems that in other people’s experiences as well), every single word you say in that statement is a misconception or a plain lie.

I advise you to look their meaning up in the dictionary because you seem to have a twisted understanding:

Ready:  you are anything but ready. No matter how many times I call with the same problem, I have to explain it again. You are anything but ready.

Able: you are anything but able to help, your store and call center staff (including engineers), don’t seem qualified to help or understand the matters at hand. They just seem to randomly say things that make no sense, they contradict each other, or just send you a new handset or request you to stop by a store and change your SIM card as the solution to all evils.

Willing to help: You are joking, right? Even your store staff says that it is pointless contacting your help centers.

please give us the chance!

I do Matthew, knowing that the grass is not greener on the other side, I stick to Vodafone. We are talking of a self-motivated customer here, and you blow it like that?

Ask your Marketing and executive team whether they know what a self-motivated customer is, and the revenue that brings to a company related to the cost of keeping and advertising to him. I guess they don’t know, so I will tell you, near pure profit. Take it like the profit you get from your text messages, but without the profiteering.

You are dealing with adults here.

(12) 7/1/2009 9h43am 47min
I just called customer services and after 10min on hold, I requested to speak to M. and S.N., the man on the line, tells me that she is not from that call center and he cannot put me through, I have to call her. I replied that she told me to call and tell her name and they will locate her through my file. He finds her details, she’s in the same call center but he cannot put me through, she’s busy on a call or “not working today”.

I tell hem the reason I was calling (what bills had been charged correctly? 10) and he asks me to explain the situation to she if he could be of help.

As usual, tired of explaining myself time and again for the sixth time, I refuse to, but he insists. Here we go again. I explain him the massive discrepancies in our last two invoices and he tells me that the prices for international calls did go up. Without communicating the customers? He tells me that they don’t communicate customers individually.

Did they go up 3-fold? And you still don’t let your customers know? I wonder what the European Telcom Commissioner would have to say about that.

That seems a bit too much. Just a moment, I have two things to check.

4 minutes on hold after, S.N. tells me that the cost of my calls to Europe are 4.2p for the connection plus 80p+VAT/min. And the reason why I have ended up with massive bills is because I have been calling more expensive numbers in Spain, since “they vary from 20 to 80p per minute”.

I replied that that is a lie, since he can check the phone numbers I call to and they have been the same Spanish mobile and landlines for the last 3 years.

calvin: Check any old invoice and you will see that the calls are to the same numbers.
S.N.: Can you give me an example?
c: You should be able to see it on your system, but any invoice prior to October 2008.
S: Just a moment, it won’t be long.

4 minutes later:

S.N.: Yes, I have checked the second bill of 2008 and you were charged a lot less.
calvin: So, so what do I have to do now? Contact your billing department again? I’ve spoken to 6 people at customer services so far with no solution. I have been to your branches and you treat them the same way, they even have to call the same number.
S: It is not your job, we have to do that from customer services.
c: So, what is the situation then?
S: There is no need to call anymore, you can contact me by email [he gives me his email @vodafone.com]. I have to find out if we overcharged you and a refund is due. Just a moment.

It seems that after so many bad experiences, I have found the only accountable member of staff at Vodafone customer services. Although my own experience dealing with the company tells me that the fire dies down really fast, so I recommend you to keep your hopes low.

4 minutes on hold again and he tells me that in August 8 this year, I changed my contract and the new one didn’t include ICS. “What is ICS?” I ask.

S.N.: ICS is the International Call Saver, you had it on your last contract, but not on the new one
calvin: Why not?
S: You may have asked to cancel it. In any case, you cannot have it on your current tariff (£33+vat), but you could on the £42.55+vat tariff.
c: Why would I cancel it if a 40 minute call to Spain would be more expensive than the monthly tariff and I speak to Europe at least 3h per month?
S: That, I don’t know.
c: Why wasn’t I told at the branch?
S: You should have seen that no ICS appeared on your invoice. There are business managers for large companies, but for small ones, we try to give you the best rates possible but you have to look at your own invoices and work out if it is the best deal for you.
c: Are you serious? Do you really think I know what “CTR3promo600m…” means? I am pretty sure that, at a personal level, you know that what you are saying makes no sense, I should have been told in the branch, and given my call history, not having ICS made absolutely no sense.
S: I need to comment it with my manager before I can get back to you.
c: How am I supposed to look into the invoice if you quit sending me the calls breakdown in October? Was that me as well?
S: THAT is strange.
c: So, if the account was changed and ICS taken off, why did it take my hours talking to 6 different people on the phone to get to you, someone who actually tells me what is going on? Why wasn’t I told in Novemember, when I received the first massive bill [note that huge bills didn’t come in August, September or October] so that I didn’t incurr again in huge costs in December?
S: You are right, they should have told you back then. I need to discuss the matter with my manager.
c: I haven’t rang Europe since your last bill because I have absolutely no clue of how much you will charge me. I have been told: 20p/min, 32p/min, 35p/min, 80p/min, 80p/min after using up the minutes on my plan that I can use for calls abroad [I made K. from the Belfast call center repeat that 3 times to make sure I was hearing well] and your website is not clear of call prices.
S: Let me see… you are currently being charged 92p/min including VAT.
c: Can you change the contract to one including ICS?
S: Yes I can, but it is more expensive.
c: How much more?
S: £42.55 excluding VAT per month
c: Comparing to £600 in overcharges, that doesn’t seem expensive at all. What does that include?
S: 3,000 minutes to UK landlines, but only the first hour comes from your allowance… [keeps telling me pieces of information I cannot understand]
c: Sorry, I don’t understand a thing, can you please send me an email with the details?

It seems that I found someone who might help. It seems.

But S.N. hasn’t been able to answer questions like:

– If the ICS wasn’t included in the current 05/08/08 contract , why  didn’t they start charging  92p/min for calls abroad until November?
– Why did they stop sending  the call breakdown from November?
– Why did M. (8) tell me that in my August08 bill they were charging me 20p/min if I changed the contract at the beginning of the month?

(11) 5/1/2009 3h12pm

It seems that it takes a post in a blog for Vodafone to look interested in our problems:

From: A. L. (email @vodafone.com)
Hi – do you have a contact email – couldn’t find one on the site

You can see my reply below, but depending on how kafkian customer services turns, I might have to give in and reply to him.

(10) 2/1/2009 5h09pm

Great, after all the overcharging, Vodafone (and M.) considered it fair to just reply me via text message:

From: Vodafone
Subject: hi, have billing recalc results and you have been charged correctly for the time periods requested, thanks

Needless to say, I don’t really know what they mean by “charged correctly” and “time periods requested”. Was I correctly charged for the last 3 years and wrongly overcharged in the last two bills? Was I wrongly undercharged for 3 years and correctly charged in the last two bills? If so, why didn’t they let me know of the change from 20p/min to 80p/min (300% rise)?

I am writing this note on a Saturday for you to know, but as mad as I am with them at the moment, I am not going to waste my weekend on it. I’ll chase them up on Monday.

(9) 31/12/08
Needless to say, the Content Control is still on. I tried again the SIM card in a mobile phone, gone online on it, that works.

I put the SIM card back in the express card and switch the wireless router on. The Vodafone Content Control is still but the page that pops open is new. It tells me to go into VodafoneLive/My accounts and switch it off. Oh! That’s new.

I take the SIM card off the wireless card, back to my BlackBerry, go into VodafoneLife, go into My accounts… and it is not there. After a while, I found it, it is just that they changed the menu and didn’t bother to modify the web page giving you the instructions (who cares, it is only Vodafone’s customers who will need to access).

Funny enough, I can change the Content Control settings from my mobile phone, after proving I am over 18 (business account doesn’t seem to be enough proof of age, fair enough. How do you prove you are over 18? Well, for Vodafone you can prove this by providing the details of a credit card, and by them charging you a non-refundable £1.

Why do I have to pay £1 just because they are incompetent (5)? Went ahead anyway. They charged me £1 on my MasterCard.

(8) 29/12/08 12h25pm 35min
I rang customer services and requested to speak to a supervisor due to incongruences in their last bills. The person on the phone told me I should speak to the Finance team, after a while, he put me through with the collections team. R. told me that she couldn’t help me because she only dealt with customer payments, but she would try to put me through with someone who might be able to help me.

Finally M. came up on the line and started again. She told me that I had no international plan on my account and phone calls to Europe cost 80p per minute. I told her that that was not possible, as a) that would be new for me since they never, ever charged me 80p per minute in the last 3 years I had been with Vodafone and b) even at that price, I hadn’t spoken to Spain for so many hours (even worse in November’s invoice, equivalent to 8h on the phone to Spain at 80p/min). She confirmed that I had a charge of £236.09 on top of the basic price.

I challenge what she was saying and she checked older invoices. She looked into August’s bill to see how much x56 was being charged per minute for phone calls to Spain. After some number crunching, she told me that she had to send the invoices to be “recalculated”.

After some more discussion involving the sudden stop of itemised billing for x56, she told me that she could see that in August I was being charged 20p/min instead of 80p. She said, and I quote, that “for some reason I had been charged 20p instead of 80p all along”.

She told me that the recalculation would take several days and she didn’t expect to have the new invoice back for some days, so she told me she would ring me to let me know if there was any credit to be paid back.

I asked her if I should make the payment bounce, as this was the second time they overcharged us (at least, to the best of our knowledge), and December’s payment was a whooping £630.30 when we expected around £240. She told me to pay the

I told her that I wanted to only speak to her as she seemed to know what she was talking about, and she told me to call 191 and ask for M. (they could check on the system).

(7) 29/12/08 11.59am 11min
Rang customer services. Spoke to K. from Belfast call centre to confirm amount.

He said that he could see on the screen that the total for the x56 number was £153.13. I told him that the invoice was for £424, £300 of which for the x56 number. He replied that that was wrong, that what he had on screen was the correct amount (£153.13)

I enquired how much they charged for international calls to Europe with my price plan, en he replied that with my plan, any phone calls to Europe where taken from my 600min allowance. Once the 600 were gone, they charged every extra minute on the phone to Europe at 38p.

I told him that I hadn’t received itemised November and December bills for x56 and he said that we should have because it was set up for the account, and he sent another copy of the itemised invoices.

To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t used up my minutes and the price plan is around £40, so what he said made no sense.

(6) 29/12/08
Today we received the invoice for January, total £424.86 (£309.26 including VAT for x56). We are still waiting the itemised bill for x56 (December)

(5) 28/12/08 12.08pm 38min
Over two weeks now and the Content Control is still on. Obviously they “forgot” switching it on. I know of their poor service and product knowledge, so having gone through their desperate service time and again, I tried to do my best were they usual recommendations: Try SIM card in a mobile phone so that it “registers with the network” (apparently we have to do this every now and then, since the SIM card can de-register itself even when being used everyday for a minimum of 4h. Why does it happen? Don’t know, but 99% of their staff will not move a finger unless you do that to the SIM card.)

Unsurprisingly, the Content Control is still on (as per browser default screen when trying to visit banned pages).

I ring customer services and after repeating my mobile number and password three times, I get to speak to a Eastern European lady from the technical support team.

The next 20min are a desperate effort to make this lady understand that “the Control Content is on, can you please turn it off” means exactly that. She didn’t understand what I meant and starting asking for all the phone numbers of our account over and over again even though I told her I didn’t have them with me.

Me: “My 3G card, the one I use for the wireless internet has the Content Control on, can you please switch it off?
Vodagirl: “How many mobiles do you have in your account?”

Seeing that we were going nowhere, I turned into semi-rude mode and ask her to talk to a supervisor or someone who could be fitted to help me. Her answer came “I am the only person who can help me”. Oh dear.

She kept asking for the number on the SIM card and I kept telling her that no, I did not know, No, I didn’t have it with me and no, it was not written on the card. Eventually she told me that without the number, she could not help me.

I told her that I was pretty sure that all the 3G or phone numbers in our account should be in, well, our account.

She finally came to terms, but still needed the number. After a 5min pause, she was back and asked me to put the SIM card on a mobile phone and dial *#100# on the phone. After a short while, the SIM’s number came up.

After over 35’ on the phone she summarised everything. She goes “so you want to turn off the Content Control from all the phones in your account?”. I started to reply to her again with “Do you listen to what I am saying?” but envisaging an extra 30min per number (2x mobiles, 2x 3G cards), I just told her “yep, whatever”.

Here was when I went ballistic, she started patronising me, she replied “I have turned off the Content Control in all of the numbers in your account. See, Mr Calvin, it has not been that difficult…” I stopped her on her tracks and told her that I did not need her lessons, just to do what she was being told efficiently and accurately. And hung up.

Deep inside me I knew that I had been rude to her, but also I knew that the Content Control would still be on in 5min, 5h, and 5 days.

(4) 19/12/08
We went into a Vodafone store and explained the situation. They rang customer services for us [NOTE: Store staff have no priority when dealing with back office, so they have to wait on the line to be helped by back office, talk about inefficiencies, Vodafone shareholder] and they left note on the system that we required an itemised bill for phone number x56 so that we could check what they had charged us.

We were also told that our account was charged 80p/min for any call to Europe, but without the itemised bill, we couldn’t verify the charges.

(3) 13/12/08
Over the years we have had countless problems with Vodafone’s 3G broadband and their appalling technical service it is only surpassed by the ignorance and incompetence of their branch staff. Since we kept having problems with the 3G signal, a couple of weeks ago we got a new SIM card for our 3G broadband Wireless Router. The old one died completely and we changed it back to the new SIM card.

To our surprise, Content Control is locked and we cannot access several websites (National Lottery, film sites and other “controlled” sites). Since ours is a business account with no Content Control, we guessed (wrong) that they would revert the new SIM card to the old status.

(2) 30/11/08
Unable to find the cost of calls abroad on their website, I rang customer services and asked them how much they charged on my contract to call Europe. The answer, 35p per minute.

I told the guy on the phone that, according to his details, I should have been on the phone to Europe at least 22h in November, what was definitely not truth.

(1) 29/11/08
We receive December’s invoice, total £630.30, £492.58 from phone x56.

It was waaay above our average bill, waaay above x56 normal cost, and to make things better, the invoice didn’t include itemised calls to be able to verify the bill.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi – do you have a contact email – couldn’t find one on the site

    • Dear Andrew (emailing from vodafone.com),

      I appreciate your interest but unfortunately this is a disgruntled business and also private customer. Your customer, technical and billing services are appalling and I am not writing this post to get my individual problems sorted, but for all potential and current Vodafone customers to know.

      If you think you can help, tell your CEO to get his act together before it is too late. From the perspective of the customer, there are so many things that falling apart that a little work will bring marvels to your bottom line.

      Visit this post every now and then for updates on “how not to treat customers”, “how to be unhelpful” and “how not solve problems”.

      I hope you will see my writing as what it is, a free audit of what is wrong with your procedures. A consulting firm would charge you a fortune for my words.

      .calvin

  2. Good morning Calvin,

    I’m writing from Vodafone’s eForum team. Our job is to look after our own Forum (forum.vodafone.co.uk)and branch out where we can into the World Wide Web to help as many customers as possible.

    I realise that your words above are perhaps intended for other customers rather than a request for help as such, however I feel that if you were to allow us to help, we’d be able to resolve everything satisfactorily and you’d feel much happier with your Vodafone account as a result.

    We are ready, able and willing to help out as much as possible – please give us the chance!

    To do so, I’d recommend to email us directly at ccare.webmails@vf.vodafone.co.uk including the code XXXXXX in the body of the text, which makes sure your email will come directly through to us.

    Thanks for reading and best wishes for 2009.

    Mathew Clarke
    Vodafone eForum

  3. Hi Calvin,

    If the message I left for you sounds like an empty promise or is a little vague then please forgive me, it certainly wasn’t intended as such.

    Without seeing your account details all that I can do from here is to offer our help, with the intention of absolutely seeing this through to a resolution.

    The way in which we are set up here allows us to really take the time to look into issues like yours, as well as staying in contact to provide you with updates and further support where needed – which is why I feel that giving us the opportunity to look into this would be of benefit to you.

    Please see my original message for details on how to best contact us.

    Finally, please allow me to offer my full apologies for the service you’ve received from us in this matter.

    Thanks again for your time.

    Best wishes,

    Mathew Clarke
    Vodafone eForum

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