A short story about how Vodafone treat their customers
Hello there. You might be reading this because we caught your attention on Twitter, or because you've stumbled upon it by another means. We wanted to let you know what Vodafone have been up to over the past month; we don't think the company has behaved in a consistent or fair way towards their existing customers, and we wanted to explain why.
Last month Vodafone announced they would begin charging existing customers for any additional data usage. If you're a customer with 500MB of data to use every month (on a Fair Use Policy), you would be liable to a minimum £5 charge for exceeding it on more than two occasions.
At first, Vodafone stated they would change the contracts of their customers, but refused to inform customers of these changes. So far, this hasn't happened. While the right to charge for "excessive usage" is in customer contracts, Vodafone admitted there were no previously published rates for excessive data usage, and that they hadn't even defined "excessive usage" until pressed to by customers. That's right - the customers had to ask Vodafone to define their own charges, so they could begin charging them. Brilliant. Vodafone eventually decided it meant all usage over 500MB, even though customers had repeatedly been told by staff that only file-sharing or using their handset as a modem was considered excessive, and that regular customers would not be charged.
But how do Vodafone define regular usage? Vodafone claimed that 97% of customers on a 500MB monthly allowance never exceeded it. Vodafone later admitted that the 97% figure included all customers on the much higher data bundle of 1GB - obviously such customers are far less likely to exceed their allowance, since it's twice the size. Vodafone repeatedly insisted “500MB means you can read and reply to 10,000 emails, download 24 Google maps and read 8,000 BBC News stories.” This wasn't true either - if you followed their usage example, your bill would skyrocket - and that example doesn't even mention the use of apps, which is the key reason many people have smartphones.
The bottom line is existing customers will be liable to pay more if they exceed their 500MB allowance for more than two months in a row; some customers who took out a contract just a month ago may be liable for the next two years - exceed the data allowance just twice, and their Fair Use Policy will mean nothing. Now Vodafone have announced they will upgrade customers of particular handsets - not all - to 1GB, but only if they're on the appropriate price-plan, and only if the customer requests it.
We haven't even mentioned the occasions when Vodafone dodged or ignored questions, or that many customers claim they were sold "unlimited" data tariffs - coincidentally, Vodafone last month removed the word "unlimited" from all their tariffs. If you'd like to read more, there's a timeline here, and Vodafone's own forum with over 2,000 posts and complaints. After a senior Vodafone manager accused Bitterwallet (that's us) of being unfair in our coverage of the story, we sent an open letter detailing the issues. He never replied, except to mention it on his personal Twitter account.
So there you have it. Sure, Vodafone may not be any better or worse than the rest - we just wanted to let you know what type of company you're dealing with. Thanks for reading.