Are Vodafone backpeddling over automatic data charges? No?

11 May 2010

After days of failing to address the concerns of their customers over their mandatory data charges and scrapping their Fair Usage Policy, Vodafone have contradicted themselves yet again, with a message that seemingly goes back on everything they've said.

The first time we read that statement, we took it to mean Vodafone had a change of heart, that the Fair Use Policy would remain in place - customers who repeatedly go over the 500MB will receive several month's grace before any charges are applied, which is in keeping with the current agreement.

Then again, the wording is very particular in being ambiguous, and it's easy to believe Vodafone are simply trying to dress up the new charges to dampen down the protests of customers. Another point is that the wording is so ambiguous that consumer law would probably cite Vodafone as acting unfairly; as a definition of service it's "open to challenge if it could put you at a disadvantage because you are not clear about its meaning".

There's also the fact that numerous customers are reporting on the Vodafone eForums being told the exact opposite by Customer Services:

"I've spent 45 minutes on the phone to #191 because I had no answers to my questions on here and they are telling me I will be charged if I go over the 500mb. I come here to update and I am reading something completely different." Davie1

"I spent over an hour and a half on the phone with 191 yesterday during two calls. The first was about 30 mins and the person I ended up speaking with (Amy Scott) confirmed that the new pricing structure of £5 per additional 500MB would affect me but that they were unable to process my termination." AndyWicks

Vodafone have now contacted Bitterwallet through Twitter (after ignoring previous emails and phonecalls), so we've sent four very straight forward questions for them to answer:

  • Will affected customers still retain a Fair Use Policy in their agreement after 1 June?
  • Will affected customers be automatically charged if their monthly uses strays over 500MB?
  • Can you please define "excessive use"? This term defines whether a customer is liable for additional charges or not, and despite constant requests from customers, Vodafone are yet to explain it.
  • Can you please provide a real-life example of a customer who reads and replies to 10,000 emails, reads 8,000 BBC news stories and uses no mobile applications whatsoever? You're currently justifying a 500MB data limit with a completely fictional example of usage. Vodafone are suggesting that customers who buy smartphones don't use applications.

We'll let you know what they have to say.

TOPICS:   Complaints   Mobile

16 comments

  • Jase
    Looks like Vodafone's favourite keys are Ctrl, C and V... http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/59979-vodafone-mobile-internet-clarification-on-charges-please/ Once again, stating that "they're doing a favour" on altering people of reaching the upper limit on an unlimited package. WTF is dis real?!
  • Daniel Z.
    Another great article mate
  • Fatal E.
    But do they allow nipples?
  • Jack T.
    If they keep this up for a few years they will be close to being as bad as 3 at customer service.
  • Biffy
    They keep mentioning that only 3% of their users exceed this 500MB cap. The number of UK customers they had by early 09 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodafone) was 18.7 million. This means that at least 561,000 people go over the 500MB limit. Doesn't sound like such a small figure now does it? Also, bear in mind that they're talking about their full customer based, and I'd assume the majority hasn't moved on to smartphones yet. If they based their stats on number of smartphone customers that exceed the 500MB I'm sure the percentage would be a lot higher. Finally, as someone mentioned earlier, if the majority of their customers don't exceed the limit, why bother bringing a change that's just causing a shitstorm of bad PR for them?
  • Biffy
    I asked them about the stats above via Twitter (as MiHTCDesire) and their reply: It is being looked into at the moment. Keep an eye on the forum discussion for more updates ^AW (which basically translates to "CTRL+V")
  • Biffy
    I signed up for the forum anyway. Let's see what they have to say about it: http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/57718-mobile-internet-will-the-500mb-allowance-be-enough-for-internet-usage/page__view__findpost__p__390697 - assuming they don't Nazi-filter the shit out of it.
  • Chunter
    I think you mean 'backpedalling'!
  • the a.
    @Chunter What is the correct spelling of 'pedantic'
  • matts76
    I have my cancelation letter ready and waiting to go, im just waiting on vf's notification text and will check here foer more advice once it come. Thanks for all the great advice and for all the hard work you have obviously put in to this on our behalfs.
  • N20Y1D
    Did you ever hear anything further?
  • Richard
    HANG ON A MINUTE!!!!!!! "we increase your charges in the UK which have the effect of increasing your total call and usage charges (based on your usage in the previous month)" The previous month? May? This month? They are basing the decision of whether you can terminate on the amount of bandwidth used during the month prior to the change, i.e. May. I advise everyone to surf for porn now, for your own good! IANAexpert. Don't blame me if it backfires.
  • N20Y1D
    Tom has replied to some questions: Hello All, As promised, here are some answers! 1) The 3% of customers who use their 500MB, is this 3% of highend smartphone users? or people with old nokia 6600s? It's 3% of people with a Mobile Internet Bundle on their account. Normally the only time we'd sell such a bundle would be with an internet ready device, so it's fair to assume a large percentage of these will be smartphones. 2) What constitutes 'excessive'? It's anything in excess of 500MB on a standard Mobile Internet bundle. 3) How many months constitutes 'a few'? You will receive a text alert informing you that you’re close to exceeding your monthly allowance. If you continue to exceed your allowance the following month, you will be contacted and we will discuss your options (which may include upgrading to a Mobile Broadband bundle for example). If after this you will continue using your data out of bundle you may incur charges (as per our announcement). 4) How long is "a longer period of time"? As per 3) 5) Why does the Nexus tariff include 1GB but the Desire only gets 50% of that Different products come with different packages, we're always reviewing our offers and will let you know if anything changes. 6) Will affected customers still retain a Fair Use Policy in their agreement after 1 June? There will be an allowance (just like there is now) and if you exceed that, you will be contacted, consulted and may incur charges along the timescales as per 3). The Terms and Conditions say that you would be (see under data access). 7) Will affected customers be automatically charged if their monthly uses strays over 500MB? Please see 3). 8) Can you please provide a real-life example of a customer who reads and replies to 10,000 emails, reads 8,000 BBC news stories and uses no mobile applications whatsoever? You’re currently justifying a 500MB data limit with a completely fictional example of usage. Vodafone are suggesting that customers who buy smartphones don’t use applications. The figures given were to illustrate the volumes for the vast majority of customers, but it's almost impossible to give an accurate example as everyone uses their phone differently. I posted here demonstrating my own usage. I've just updated the post to give a more accurate measurement, but it shows that with the two smartphones I've used I havent' excelled 500MB before. Again, everybody's usage is different though, so I'm not saying all of yours will be the same as mine. 9) Have vodafone changed any of the wording in their T&C's? These are our current Terms and Conditions. See under data access, we have always said customers would be charged for excessive use. Thanks, Tom eForum Team
  • 9 B.
    [...] Service team invited Bitterwallet to contact them so they could clarify the situation concerning their changes to data charges. Over a day later we’ve still heard nothing, which pretty much sums up Vodafone’s [...]
  • VODAFONE: C.
    [...] Service team invited Bitterwallet to contact them so they could clarify the situation concerning their changes to data charges. Over a day later we’ve still heard nothing, which pretty much sums up Vodafone’s handling of [...]
  • Vodafone’s B.
    [...] on the fact they were enforcing the Fair Use Policy that is a standard clause in agreements. We took Vodafone to task, because they failed to answer fundamental questions about the changes, and their customers [...]

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