9 questions answered by Vodafone that still say nothing

12 May 2010

Yesterday dinnertime, Vodafone's Customer 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 their announcement concerning Out of Bundle data charges.

An official post appeared this afternoon on Vodafone's eForums, answering some of the hundreds of questions and complaints that have been posted in the past week (the thread now has over 1,000 posts). It still attempts to employ smoke and mirrors to confuse customers:

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.

My Nokia N73 had an internet bundle on it. It wasn't a smartphone by any stretch, certainly not in comparison to current handsets. It's fair to assume these usage figures would look different if Vodafone cared to quote actual percentages.

2. What constitutes 'excessive'?
It's anything in excess of 500MB on a standard Mobile Internet bundle.

This is, of course, on Vodafone World, where nobody watches video, streams music, or uses any other data-intensive web applications. The sky is yellow, cars are made of marshmallows, and unicorns shit rainbows and gold. And bravo for getting around to defining the term you're using to justify the new charges you announced... er... last week.

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).

So the answer is three months, then? If you exceed your data allowance for three months in a row, you'll be charged for the third month. Is this based on usage in consecutive months only? What happens if you exceed your limit for two months, then don't the following month - can you exceed it the next month and not be charged? It's that sort of detail you need to think about before continuing to fart out these announcements.

4. How long is "a longer period of time"?
As per 3)

ANSWER THE QUESTION.

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.

Here's a better question - why are you even offering a 1GB data allowance on a near-identical phone when you keep claiming next-to-nobody uses that much data?

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).

Was that a yes or a no? You're about to trip yourselves up. I wonder if you've spotted it yet?

7. Will affected customers be automatically charged if their monthly uses strays over 500MB?
Please see 3).

Talk to your staff, Vodafone. Your own forums are riddled with accounts of customers being told they'll be automatically charged following the changes. You're still contradicting yourselves.

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.

Hey, this is our question! So let's have a look at it. Oh. 

"The figures given were to illustrate the volumes for the vast majority of customers..."

Newsflash - they do no such thing. They're don't illustrate anything because customers have no frame of reference. It not how people use smartphones, therefore the example is entirely irrelevant.

"It's almost impossible to give an accurate example as everyone uses their phone differently"

What? And the example you keep giving is accurate? Come on, Vodafone, statements like this are taking the pure piss out of every customer you have. How about an example that recognises users may stream video or audio, or use any sort of data-intensive applications? Your current example doesn't even accept that applications even exist - how accurate is that?

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.

And there you are. The current terms don't say customers would be charged for excessive use. There's lots of stuff about how Vodafone may ask customers to moderate their usage, and reserve the right to charge - nothing whatsoever to say Vodafone would charge. In fact, there are dozens of examples of people using more than 500MB and never being charged - the point being that a Fair Usage Policy allows this degree of flexibility. By stating anything over 500MB is 'excessive usage', that removes any ambiguity and there renders the Fair Use Policy null and void.

Then again, Vodafone have only just got around to defining what 'excessive use' actually means - and according to a senior manager, that only happened today. He also stated it's "highly unlikely" customers won't be charged if they use 600MB a month, so how the hell is anybody meant to have any clue about what they might be paying?

Complicating the issue further is Vodafone's decision to remove the term 'unlimited' from their tariffs, despite plenty of customers believing they signed tariffs that allowed unlimited data, a promise that, according to many customers, was seemingly reiterated by Vodafone staff.

Finally, there's still the point that Vodafone are still talking about making changes to the standard terms and conditions. If they modify the standard terms, they have to give customers 30 days notice, rather than the 14 days they are still yet to give in time for 1 June when the new charges begin; therefore Vodafone are still in breach of their own terms, and those of Ofcom, too.

Sorry Vodafone, but your story still hase more gaping holes than a hen party in Hull.

TOPICS:   Mobile

19 comments

  • andy y.
    I think I speak on behalf of many long tern Vodafone customers when I enunciate wtf is dis real?
  • andy y.
    It appears that I have also ,in fact, been unwittingly also been a member of the gull family.
  • Murtin M.
    WTF is dis real?
  • Robert
    Remember Orange last Summer, when they tried to introduce a min. call charge and how us, their customers ,stopped them from doing so. It's time to use that power on Vodafone!
  • dunfyboy
    Yeah, except T-Mongo changed their T&Cs and got away with it so VF will try the same. They're all as bad as each other. Oftel are less than useless when it comes to policing the mobile phone companies.
  • Jim
    Thanks to bitterwallet for keeping on the ball with this matter, I can honestly say I've never been so appalled by any company I have dealt with as I have been with vodafone now. If this affects you please consider joining any facebook (or any other networking site) group to add your voice and get support from others, such as "Vodafone UK screws it's customers on Data Charges" or any other - the more the merrier and it pays to keep all customers up to date on vodafone's latest attempts to fundamentally change our contracts to our detriment. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=121369471223650 (bitterwallet, I hope it's ok to post this link, I'm doing it in good faith but if it contravenes the T&C's (such irony eh?) please remove it). Cheers Jim
  • vodabod
    Great post and brilliantly picked apart the answers from Vodafone. Unfortunately, I don't think I use even half the amount of data I get on my contract, so although I'd quite like to cancel my contract and get a new phone, I don't think there is any way I'd be able to swing it. Just one thing, I think it's a poor use of language to use profanity. In this is post, it really isnt needed and I think weakens the whole text. In some instances, swearing can and is funny and/or suitable. This isn't one of them.
  • VODAFONE: C.
    [...] an excellent article from Bitterwallet (it’s well worth reading despite the profanities).  It highlights the latest development in [...]
  • andy y.
    I do agree vodabod only a real cunty twat would use profanity.
  • N20Y1D
    A couple of posts made by vodafone employess on there official eforum: Hi Simon, The information you’ve been given here is spot on! You will not be charged for going over the 500MB fair usage. Should you continue to exceed 500MB on a regular basis then we will contact you and ask you to moderate your usage, however there is no automatic charging in place. All the best Jenny eForum Team ----------- Hi Delveh, It was removed from the texts only for customers who were on a Fair Usage or "Unlimited" plan, as there isn't a set amount of data available, so the amount wouldn't really mean anything. Although we state a Fair Usage Policy amount of 500MB, this is just our guideline for how much the average user is likely to need. If you exceed that, we do not impose any extra charges - only users who are consistantly exceeding this amount on a monthly basis are likely to be contacted and asked to either reduce their usage, or negotiate a plan more suitable to their requirements. Were everyone to suddenly start exceeding 500MB a month, then we'd simply raise the limit, as it would no longer be a working guideline for abuse of the service. This is reviewed constantly. To date, we have not had a single report of anyone on the eForum exceeding their Fair Usage Limit, so it really is nothing at all to worry about Jon eForum Team
  • N20Y1D
    Those posts above are obviously from before the shit storm. But as vodafone claim they havent changed the terms and conditions they should still be valid.
  • Paul S.
    "To date, we have not had a single report of anyone on the eForum exceeding their Fair Usage Limit." They can probably read several dozen on there now. It's quite evident that anything stated by a member of staff on the forums can't be taken for granted, because there's always another member of staff happy to contradict them.
  • raptorcigs b.
    i like vooodaphooone but then WHO AM I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Dank
    "Were everyone to suddenly start exceeding 500MB a month, then we’d simply raise the limit, as it would no longer be a working guideline for abuse of the service. " Time to get to work everyone!
  • Sam
    You first....
  • jimbo
    its interesting that they are STILL advertising and selling phones as unlimited internet. im with tesco's on the iphone, who use the o2 network. their fair use policy limits to 1 terrabyte of data. its interesting that they can get away with defining there own fair use. i would have thought the ombidsman would be the ones who would clarify what is fair use and what isnt....... its also false advertising as they are saying its unlimited and then charging people for going over a limit.
  • John
    I don't see what the problem is, Vodafone are being entirely explicit in detailing the new charges - if you you go over 500MB by an unspecific amount for an unspecified number of months, you may be charged an unspecified amount of money. About as clear as mud really. Extremely poorly thought and implemented, if they follow this through I hope they lose a lot of customeras as I'm looking to go elsewhere now. John
  • N20Y1D
    More pearls of vague wisdom Hi All, Here are the questions you've asked and their respective answers: 1) Can you send me a link to your fair usage policy which is referred to in the link you provided? It's right down at the bottom, under "General". It says "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." 2) Could you also confirm at what rate we will be charged? Is it still £5 per 500mb, and if so, where is this rate written into the contract we agreed? Yes, it's £5 per 500MB. In the General section of our Terms and Conditions, it's stated that you will be charged if you go over. The rates at which this will be charged are covered here. 3) What is your definition of a month? Depending on which billing system you're on, it'll be either the first day of the calendar month to the last day, or it'll be a date specified on your bills right the way through to the same date of the next month. My bill for example shows usage charges up to 15th of each month, so my month runs 15th-15th. 4) Are vodafone going to say that the 500mb is a cap and not FUP or unlimited? Can you confirm that this is still a soft-limit, and that the Fair Use Policy will have a limit above 500Mb which use over will be considered abuse? It's not a cap, as our announcement explains you won't be charged immediately. Instead, we'll notify you of your usage as per the fair usage policy in your Terms and Conditions. 5) Why was I told that going over my 500MB FUP exactly seven times would trigger charging? Is this correct? This isn't correct. There isn't a predefined number of occasions. If you continuously exceed your data allowance, you will be notified and contacted first and if you choose to continue using data out of bundle you might incur charges. 6) Where are these charges coming from?? Why can't I find my standard rate of charge, is it because you never had one? And now you are deciding to impose it and you are changing my terms and understanding of our agreement? Can you please provide a link to where I can view the "published rates for my price plan"? I do remember a time a while ago where we had a standard rate of charge for data of £2 per MB, but this hasn't been listed in our Terms and Conditions for a good while. There isn't currently a standard rate published from what I understand, so the situation is as per 2). KevinM2K, no changes have been made and nobody has been charged yet, so it's not currently possible to request cancellation of your account. With this in mind, we won't be emailing anybody regarding this topic. Just one last thing, whilst I appreciate your reasons for not being too happy with the change in charge, TheLibertine does make a really good point here about the value provided by our services. I know a lot of you aren't happy and want to leave, but there are many great reasons to stay with Vodafone. Thanks, Tom eForum Team
  • Ten B.
    [...] …and nine questions answered by Vodafone that didn’t really help us understand anything… [...]

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