Vodafone's new Out of Bundle charges: how to cancel your contract
As promised, we've more advice for those looking to cancel their Vodafone contract over the new Out of Bundle charges to be introduced on 1 October. You can read about the issue in detail here, but essentially Vodafone is looking to impose hard caps on the amount of data some customers can use, instead of usage being subject to a Fair Usage Policy (FUP).
Vodafone has provided a route to cancellation without charge, so today we're going to walk through that route and provide a letter template for those looking to cancel. We're going to be direct about the matter; our letter template backs up your right to cancel with consumer law, and we're going for the assumptive close.
What's the issue?
Many of Vodafone's contracts include a FUP in the general Price Plan Terms. A FUP means that charges for excessive data usage are discretionary, not mandatory:
27. All Vodafone services offered free or under unlimited subscription are subject to our Fair Use Policy. If, in the reasonable opinion of Vodafone, your use is excessive, we may ask you to moderate your usage. If, after we have asked you to moderate your usage, you fail to do so, we reserve the right to:
(a) charge you for the excessive element of your usage at your price plan's standard rate;
(b) throttle your usage; or
(c) suspend or terminate your service in accordance with your airtime terms and conditions.
In their latest announcement, however, Vodafone has stated that from 1 October these charges will become mandatory for any and all usage above the contracted limit. This mandatory out-of-bundle charging means there can't be a subjective element of "fair usage" if charges are imposed regardless:
On 1st October we are introducing out of bundle data charges. These charges will only affect the small proportion of customers who exceed their data allowance. These customers will be subject to the following charges:
– Customers without a data bundle will be charged 50p for every block of 25MB
– Customers with a data bundle (Value pack, flexi pack or as part of their tariff) will be charged £5 for every additional 500MB
Vodafone appear to recognise this is change to the Price Plan Terms that are part of many customer contracts, because they have outlined a route to cancellation without charge.
Are you eligible to cancel?
First, you need to check whether you're eligible. As we understand it, some smartphone contracts already have a hard cap on data usage, in which case there is no change and you won't be eligible. There may also an issue as to whether newer contracts are affected; check the Price Plan Terms that are relevant to your contract; if you contracted recently (from 7th June until now), you may have agreed to different terms.
If you're unsure how to calculate the figures specified by Vodafone to see if you're eligible, take a look at the letter template below - all the help for working out the numbers is in there.
Do you want to cancel?
It's apparent that all mobile service providers have their faults and make changes to contracts that customers are unhappy with. You need to ask yourself whether Vodafone provides a service that suits you. Is the coverage right for you? Is the tariff? If these changes don't affect you, please don't try cancelling for the sake of it; it takes the focus away from customers with a valid concern.
An important word or two from us
• First, our usual caveat. We're not solicitors and we're not telling you to terminate your contract. We're happy to offer advice and tools to take your fight further, but ultimately you are responsible for your actions. Please don't take any of this as legal advice or a substitute for legal advice; we assume no duty or liability to you.
• Contracts work two ways: just because Vodafone is bigger than you, it doesn't automatically mean they're always right. If the detail of a contract is ambiguous, then there's room for interpretation. The supplier’s opinion is not determinative and nor is that of the regulators (although Vodafone must operate within Ofcom's General Conditions) - only the Courts can say whether a term is 'fair' or not.
• The law governs, not the contract. In other words, consumer law beats any contract you signed with Vodafone.
• In our letter template, we've followed Vodafone's announcement about using your previous month's bill to work out whether you're eligible to cancel your contract. However, customers have also received written confirmation that they may use the previous three bills to calculate this figure. Internal communication at Vodafone appears to be dreadful, so you may want to try calculating the values in both instances.
• It has been pointed out that Vodafone states only those who have received a particular text message can cancel. Our take on this is that Vodafone's terms mean they don't have to announce the changes to all customers. Therefore, instead of trusting Vodafone to get in touch, we'd suggest checking your usage anyway, particularly if you think these changes will affect you. We think the announcement in the Vodafone forums can be considered due notice of the charges, as outlined under clause 15 of the pay monthly airtime conditions.
• We've prepared a letter template for you to cancel your Vodafone contract (Word document). Everything highlighted in italics and bold must be either replaced or deleted. We've held your hand through this to make sure the numbers are right. Read it all carefully. Again, you're sending this of your own choice, so know what it is you're putting your name to.
• You need to pay for any items/use for the last 30 days that isn't included in your advance monthly payment. If you've incurred such charges, call and find out what they are.
• You can send any final payment for any extra charges for the last 30 days by a cheque marked “in full and final settlement of all obligations.” They may try to charge you a Payment Handling Charge for this.
• If you are still within the minimum term, you might like to take individual legal advice and/or at least find out what Vodafone would claim from you in charges, so you know your potential exposure if the court found the term was fair in your case.