A short story about how Vodafone treat their customers

2 June 2010

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.

TOPICS:   Complaints   Mobile


  • Nobby
    That's too long.
  • Daniel Z.
    Nice article... If you ask me though, I'd say your cutting them a lot of slack there though! I guess the depth of their lies and cheating can't be fully explained in one article... AVOID VODAFONE AT ALL COSTS
  • BHLC
    Thanks. As a Vodafone customer I was interested but not surprise: My experience of how they treat their customers has not been overwhelmingly joyful. It is however a bitter pill to swallow as the only real mobile network to have half decent service in the backwoods rural location I live in is Vodafone. So no matter how much I bitch and moan, I'm stuck with them for the moment.
  • Smith
    You should start a Facebook hate-group. Am Seriously
  • Klingelton
    That's voda well and truly off my list of acceptable mobile companies.
  • My m.
    How many acceptable mobile companies are on your list?
  • Andy
    Had another response from Vodafone regarding my complaint. They confirmed that there were no out-of-bundle charges prior to 01/06/2010, then confirm that from 01/06/2010 the out-of-bundle charge will be £5 per additional 500MB, before finally stating that NO changes are being made! http://goo.gl/IDUS Keep up the good work!
  • TH1882FC
    Annoying tweets ahoy! ;o)
  • Babar
    Love the idea of tweeting everyone!
  • Carl
    ^so to be clear, ultimately there will be no changes (?) Just to add I'm a Voda customer and got a great handset at a decent price on an 18 month contract. I'm now into my last six months, have had no problems with Voda, my bills have been in order, no problems with signal, and I've not once had to call customer services. Sure their handling of this has been a debacle but I don't get how Voda are any worse than Orange or T-mobile, both of whom have changed their terms in the past 12 months.
  • Morocco
    This is what BW should be doing, rather than spaffing all over the iPad
  • Paul S.
    Hi Carl, We don't know. Vodafone said there would be changes twice. They confirmed there would be changes. No changes have been made so far. It's important because changes to contracts give consumers rights - contracts aren't one-sided affairs. And you're right - Vodafone may be no better (or worse) than other mobile dealers. I'm not sure that means you should have to put up with their constantly changing position, being misdirected over data usage and, as some customers claim, missold the tariff to begin with.
  • John
    I have to admit I'm getting extremely irritating by Vodafone's handling of their change in data policy, no-one at Vodafone seems to have a clue what's going on - the eForum team on their forum are contradicting each other on the policy, some parts of the website still show unlimited data while others 500MB and customer services seem to be telling people all manner of different and contradictory information. Another important point in addition to those mentioned in the article is that Vodafone are refusing to provide any effective way of monitoring data usage, they're only offering a warning text when your data is just about up which is likely to be far too late. Their 44555 doesn't provide data usage for most people instead giving useless MMS usage despite MMS not being inclusive. The only remaining method Vodafone offer and even promote is to log on to the Vodafone site, download your unbilled usage as a csv file, open it with a spreadsheet editor and filter it to only show the 'internet' entries, set the 'kb' suffixes on the data values to be deleted, sum up all the data amounts then divide by 1,000. I guess if people know how much data they're using there's less chance for Vodafone to hammer them for going over 500MB. John
  • Andyrew
    Vodafone are shocking. I've been with them 12 months. No problems up until now (apart from the shockingly bad signal!). When I signed up, I had unlimited internet (with FUP blah blah). Now they's started charging me for my internet, and saying I never had it on my tarrif to begin with. Didn't take too much arguing on my part, and they've added it to my account.... but at an extra cost of £5 per month!! Again, I argued with them and they've applied a recurring £5 credit to my account, BUT, now that my internet allowance is technically an additional service, will they be awkward if I try to end my contract due to the change in T&Cs? I'm thinking they will!
  • Klingelton
    They won't let you out now because you've effectively accepted their "fix"
  • TH1882FC
    http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/62045-vodafone-services-unlimited-texts-with-mobile-internet-whart-do-i-get/page__gopid__403042& Quote AndyWicks is correct too about the mobile internet changing to a cap, rather than the old fair usage policy terms. If there's anything else, just let us know Cheers, LeeH eForum Team Unquote
  • my k.
    [...] A short story about how Vodafone treat their customers | BitterWallet Posted in Kittywalk Pet Containment Systems | Tags: kids, Kittywalk, their [...]
  • Dank
    If there’s anything else, just let us know
    Yeah, how about treating your customers with a bit of respect and refrain from shafting the majority of us, simply because we're using our smartphones as intended? Too difficult a question for you to respond to I guess 'TH1882FC' isn't it? I won't hold my breath...
  • jo
    There was an article about it in the Times last weekend by David Budworth- a very good well researched one with some advice from ofcom. You can read it on the times website by signing up for a free account and searching 'vodafone revolt' ;) Also, someone suggested a hate group...there actually already is one! I've been a member for a few weeks now. Its called 'vodafone screw their customers over with fair use policy'. Quite an apt title methinks!
  • MyHTCDesire
    I just heard from someone on Twitter that they rang Vodafone and were given a free upgrade to 1GB data from 500MB on their Desire contract. After retweeting that message I received a reply from our friend Jakub (TH1882FC) saying: "You will now be charged instantly for going over 1gb, where as on 'unlimited' you wouldn't due to t&c's" Apparently, if you ring Vodafone to ask how much data you've used, and their response is over 500MB then it counts as a verbal warning and a second one means you'll be charged extra it seems to be a more sensible option to go for the 1GB. The fact that Vodafone are hiding all these changes, contradicting themselves and generally imposing unfair charges and limitations instead of improving their network infrastructure I still think people should stand their ground, join the Facebook hategroup and battle for their right to keep the contract they signed up for - not changing to a hard-cap even if it's significantly greater than the one Vodafone were offering in the first place. PS: Source for the verbal warning's is here: http://www.hotukdeals.com/item/688697/my-current-trouble-with-vodafone
  • MyHTCDesire
    Sorry, should have wrote: ....you’ll be charged extra. Based on that, It seems to be a more sensible option to go for the 1GB because I can easily see people going over the 500MB limit on a Desire and having to pay extra...
  • Dank
    Received an Email from Martin on the 'eForum Team' today after I requested that my data allowance be increased from 500MB to 1GB.
    The 1GB is only part of the "Premium" prices and you are currently on one of the essential price plans. Alternatively, you can stay on the same package that you are on, as it is still a fair usage policy and that hasn't changed
    Currently on a £25, 18 month contract and have an HTC Magic. So it all comes down to money. If I was on a two-year contract, or spent a bit more, then they'd duly up the data barrier. But because I don't, they're hoping they can fleece me by imposing an additional £5.00 fee for going over 500MB. Unbelievably rubbish. Certainly know what I'll be doing when my contract is up.
  • Q
    I gotta admit i followed this story but didn't get too involved as I thought I wouldn't really be affected; I had checked my account and web usage never exceeded 80mb in a month. However, after downloading a programme off iplayer yesterday I immediately received 3 texts from '40506 'you have exceeded your daily 25MB data allowance. You may find a priceplan with a higher data allowance more suitable. Please call customer services for more information... You have not been charged...'' So there's now a 25mb daily cap? so does that mean it's a 750mb monthly limit?? 'WTF IS DIS REAL?!'
  • Dank
    So there’s now a 25mb daily cap? so does that mean it’s a 750mb monthly limit??
    Eh, hold on? Is your data plan part of your contract bundle, or is it something you've paid for in addition? Dread to think if Vodafone have started sending texts to all users for exceeding 25MB per day!
  • Q
    "Eh, hold on? Is your data plan part of your contract bundle, or is it something you’ve paid for in addition? Dread to think if Vodafone have started sending texts to all users for exceeding 25MB per day!" I originally signed up for a contract which included 'Unlimited Web'
  • bob
    They still seem to be offering an unlimited internet plan - http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/shop/price-plans/30-days-1200-mins-unlimited-texts-30
  • Nick
    Well guys …. I got my new HTC desire on 600 min and unlimited texts last month. That includes the infamous 500 MB “unlimited” internet. After all the fuss I called Vodafone today and they upgraded my FUP from 500MB to 1GB per month for no extra charge.
  • Talk B.
    [...] A short story about how Vodafone treat their customers | BitterWallet [...]
  • wood
    @Nick - watch out though - the 500-mb was fair use, the 1gb bundle is a hard cap so you will get charged as soon as you go over.
  • Chris
    Today Vodafone have updated the statement here; http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/forum-53/announcement-137-updated-10062010-mobile-internet-charging/ and have now closed the thread here; http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/57718-mobile-internet-will-the-500mb-allowance-be-enough-for-internet-usage/ I've now contacted Watchdog and hopefully other will too - this effectively demonstrates that Vodafone have no intention of clearing this matter up in discussion with customers publicly.
  • TH1882FC
    Vodafone are now refusing to let customers discuss this on there eforum. Cunts.
  • Chris
    Can anybody explain to me how this works? According to the T&Cs i have to write to Vodafone before any increase applies, but any out of bundle use in charged in arrears. To my understanding an increase in the charge on my June use applies in June, but will be billed in July. So if i am billed for it then the charge already applies and i am too late to cancel as per the terms and conditions, but if i treat the eForum announcements as informing me as a customer of the charges then Vodafone say that i cannot cancel.
  • Jon
    I got one of these warning texts last night and phoned up to complain. Turns out I was charged an extra £5 on a previous bill but didn't spot it (as it was before they started warning users). I've used nearly 1Gb in 10 days since the start of the billing period so seem set to face 3 or 4 of these £5 charges this month at that rate :-( However the Vodafone girl said I only use about 1.5Gb most months so maybe it's not too bad and she credited me with £10 when I started blustering about leaving Vodafone. An empty threat really, as it's the only network that has sensible coverage in West London. I was on O2 for a while and could hardly ever get a signal!
  • TH1882FC
    I have this morning received my PAC from Vodafone!
  • Will B.
    [...] meaning to re-open a particularly fresh wound, but avid readers of Bitterwallet will be aware that those claims are a complete lie; just last month, Vodafone was still advertising mobile tariffs with ‘unlimited’ data, [...]
  • iChimp
    Ummm I dont really see the problem or how this is different from other networks? You have an allowance of 500mb - go over it your charged £5 ... and? The O2 tariffs do the same for iPhone4 ... am I missing something?
  • Data B.
    [...] and here they are again. This time, we’re asking for your help if you were caught in up the debacle regarding their “unlimited” data tariffs and subsequent capping, following an email from avid Bitterwallet reader Jo whose plight was highlighted in The [...]
  • Vodafone B.
    [...] According to customers in the forums, the faulty update was pulled by Vodafone this morning, but none of the staff have yet explained to these customers how to correct the issues or rollback to a previous version of the OS. Brilliant. Still, it’s only their first screw-up of the week; this morning Vodafone also released an update for HTC Desire owners – but not the Froyo update everyone was expecting. Instead it updated Vodafone’s own branding added Vodafone apps and bookmarks. Vodafone – putting Vodafone first. Again. [...]
  • deepgoat5
    voda sent me that infamous text stateing i was nearly over my 500mb limit.but went on to say that there not begining to charge until 1st oct.does that mean if i go over now (august) they will bill me in oct,or should i just hit the web like a steam train till 1st oct.
  • Vodafone B.
    [...] But mandatory charges for exceeding a data allowance would have meant Vodafone making a significant change to their own terms and allowing customers to cancel their contract, so when Bitterwallet and customers called shenanigans on the whole affair, Vodafone repeatedly changed their story until everyone went away. [...]
  • Jonathan F.
    Got mine and my fiancees contracts cancelled after a lot of hassle with Vodafone. We NEVER received any warning texts, despite being over the 'limit' and charges even appeared on my bill which I disputed and was credited them back. I see they've now deleted the thread on the e-forums.
  • John
    I've been with Vodafone for 2 years and have just took out another 2 year contract. I had never used mobile internet until I got this new handset ( window 7 LG optimus ) my first bill was supposed to be a month and a half which should only be £30 and I did call 118 118 once and was charged £8.50 but when my bill came through they were asking for almost £110. They said I have went over my 500mb data allowance by around 10 times yet I have not had any texts or anything saying so. They also said I'm over on my next month already to and my bill is around £55 when its supposed to be £20. I absolutely hate Vodafone now.
  • broric
    i just received a text from40506 stating that ive nearly used all of my data allowance, and that if i need to use more data theres a charge of £5 inc vat per 500MB... my question is, is this £5 per 500MB will be just a one off for each month you exceed your allowance, or do i need to pay £5 everytime i use data after i exceeded my allowance???
  • BadBoi
    yea ive just become the victim of vodafone. i was sold an unlimited data plan on a prepay mobile phone that i got from pricedroptv.but i have had this for a long time and was expecting this.i woke up this morning and put 5squid on my prepay mobi and vodadone totally stole the money and gave me nothing at all in the way of mb i had to go buy more credit lol.also i dont like the way they recreate every http request through there proxy server vodafone you have gone to far now.youve just lost a customer inabit yes p.s i do get like 500gb a month lol
  • kevingordon
    i have been voda phone for so many years i think they are very good and helpfull, if i have been over charged in the past they have always refunded me and shown me how not to go over my limit i love voda phone best mobile company
  • David l.
    I have had a 7.50 a month mobile wifi contract。i just found out that it has been suspended as the usage (not mine i hasten to add) has resulted in 30 gig of download in 2 days which execeeds the 500 mb allowance。the charge on this account is now 393 gbp plus some spurious charges of 87 gbp which no one can explain to me. All inhale got to date from vodafone is stropy customer service. Any views on how can move this forward in a constructive way appreciated. If I have incurred these charges then imwil, pay for them. However, it seems to me to be totally irresponsible that a firm like vodafone can effectively allow a retail customer to run up a bill that is nearly 70 times the monthly payment without first contacting the user to make sure that they are aware. I was then threatened with menaces if I refuse to pay
  • damia
    I am frustrated with vodafone. at first it seemed just fine until ONE EFFING DAY, they sent me an iPad2 which i cancelled the order earlier on. And returning it back to them was HELL. then they charged me on top of my price plan for i don't know what! This is crazy! I'm a student, i'm not supposed to worry too much about the $$$ they are supposed to cut from my bank account. I'm on a 24-mth contract and vodafone is eating my $$$! Ever since the last bill, I didn't sound as polite as I was before when I called them. They deserve it. VERY MUCH.
  • Patio S.
    It's actually a nice and useful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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