How to cancel your Vodafone contract - details and templates
We're going to go on record and say that Vodafone's current treatment of customers is inconsistent, unfair, insulting and offensive. They've also breached Ofcom's General Conditions, which is about the worst thing it's possible for a mobile service provider to do. Vodafone staff keep contradicting one another and their own policies, they're breaking more rules than we can count and they've now taking to trying to confuse the facts concerning data usage.
If you're a Vodafone customer, then you need to read this; if you're not, forward it to everyone who is.
This post will:
- quickly recap the issues
- update you on what's happened since our post on Saturday
- highlight the levels of douchebaggery going on
- tell you what you can do about it, including a template for cancelling your contract
A quick recap
Last week Vodafone let slip they were ending the 500MB soft cap on data usage for customers; in the past, customers have been free to occasionally stray over the limit without paying additional charges, a point that have been clarifed in writing by Vodafone's own staff on several occasions.
From 1 June, however, Vodafone will introduce "Out of Bundle" charges; customers will be charged for any and all data usage above 500MB - £5 for an additional 500MB or more, depending on the contract - thereby ending any notion of a Fair Use Policy.
This has significant consequences for all customers, especially over time as customers buy more apps and their average data usage rises.
Yesterday, Vodafone posted a new press release concerning the changes; we don't think we've read a statement so full of horseshit in quite some time:
Vodafone UK to give customers total control of their mobile data spend
In June we'll be introducing a free text service to tell our contract customers when they're approaching the upper limit of their data bundle. We'll send them a text before they reach the limit and tell them how much it will cost them to use more data. Customers can then make a decision on whether to continue, or limit their use, giving them total control of their spend.
500MB means you can read and reply to 10,000 emails, download 24 Google maps and read 8,000 BBC News stories. Today, a tiny fraction of our customers use their full allowance.
By removing a core benefit from you, Vodafone want you to think they're doing you a favour. Spintastic. And insulting. As one person eloquently posted on Vodafone's eForums:
It's like evicting someone from their house and calling it 'putting you in control of where you sleep'.
Another key development is Vodafone's acknowledgment that they will have to allow some customers to cancel their contract without penalty (such as paying off the rest of their contract), but not all.
Exactly how much have Vodafone screwed up so far?
A lot. Here's an exhaustive list for you:
1. These changes will be applied to all current customers, not only new ones. Many customers signed contracts with Vodafone on the promise that either data was unlimited, or that the Fair Use Policy only applied to individuals who consistently abused the 500MB limit; see here, here and here for examples of staff reassuring customers of this fact. One of the statements from a member of staff is this:
When a data bundle is listed as having a Fair-Usage Policy, this means the stated policy limit (in this case, 500MB per month) is only a guide used to measure potential abuse, and there is no automatic out-of-bundle charging for exceeding this limit.
If however your data-bundle has a specific limit, such as the 1GB iPhone bundle, or one of the Mobile Broadband plans, then these are a defined limit with no Fair-Usage Policy. That means as soon as you exceed that stated limit, there are automatic out-of-bundle charges placed on your account.
This is a representative of Vodafone, so we have to assume this is an official communication. Two specific points of interest here:
- "there is no automatic out-of-bundle charging for exceeding this limit"
- "If... your data-bundle has a specific limit, then these are a defined limit with no Fair-Usage Policy"
2. Vodafone are in breach of their own terms and of Ofcom's General Conditions. Vodafone have stated they only need to give customers 14 days' noticed of the changes ocurring on 1 June:
Excessive use is listed in the current Terms and Conditions and applies for now, but when Out Of Bundle charging is introduced, the terms will be amended and so this won't apply.
And let's remind ourselves that:
"If... your data-bundle has a specific limit, then these are a defined limit with no Fair-Usage Policy."
Therefore, when the Out of Bundle charges are introduced, there will be a specific limit and no more Fair-Usage Policy, and as such Vodafone will have to amend a specific clause in your agreement. But as we explained previously, that clause is written into your core agreement, and as such Vodafone must inform you of the changes at the appropriate time:
7 Changing charges and terms
a We may change our charges or introduce new charges. If we increase our charges, we will give you at least 14 days' notice and you may have a right to end this agreement under clause 11. If we believe any change in our charges will not disadvantage you, we may include it without telling you.
b We can make changes to or withdraw services at any time and we can make changes to or introduce new terms to this agreement at any time. We will give you at least 30 days' notice of these changes if we do and you may have a right to end this agreement under clause 11.
If Vodafone were only introducing the Out of Bundle charges, they'd be able to give 14 days notice. But they're not - they're changing the terms of their agreement with you, which requires 30 days notice. Vodafone are in breach of their own contract.
The Ofcom General Conditions (that Vodafone must observe at all times while operating as a service provider) state:
9.3 Where the Communications Provider intends to modify a condition in a contract with a Consumer which is likely to be of material detriment to the Consumer, the Communications Provider shall:
(a) provide the Consumer with at least one month's notice of its intention detailing the proposed modification; and
(b) inform the Consumer of the ability to terminate the contract without penalty if the proposed modification is not acceptable to the Consumer.
To the best of our knowledge, Vodafone did not provide one month's notice to any customers that they were "modifying a condition in a contract." Therefore, Vodafone are also in breach of Ofcom's General Conditions.
It's important to note that Ofcom specifies only those customers likely to suffer "material detriment" should have been notified, though Vodafone's terms don't make the distinction, meaning all customers should have been informed.
3. As late as yesterday, Vodafone were still selling the same contracts offering "unlimited Mobile Internet". Vodafone have been able to use the word 'unlimited' in promoting their tariffs only because of their Fair Use Policy (as outlined in this ASA rulling). So even though Vodafone had announced last week there'd be no Fair Use Policy as of 1 June, this is how they were advertising the affected tariffs yesterday:
Want cracking value? That's exactly what you get with our 24 month price plans. For just £30 you get a whopping 600 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited Mobile Internet and webmail. You also get to pick from our great range of phones.
No stars or asterisks or caveats whatsoever. Shocking. Today the text has now changed to remove any mention of the word 'unlimited'. We've heard from several Bitterwallet readers who are now returning their handsets within their seven day cooling-off period.
4. Vodafone is confusing consumers as to how much data they're likely to use. In fact, we're being told 500MB is perfectly adequate for everyday use:
"500MB means you can read and reply to 10,000 emails, download 24 Google maps and read 8,000 BBC News stories."
You'll notice there isn't a single mention of mobile applications - a key reason as to why many consumers are buying data-enabled smartphones in the first place.
Nobody is going to read and reply to 10,000 emails, or read 8,000 news stories. What they might do, is listening to an hour of streaming music via Spotify on the commute. They might listen to and upload audio to AudioBoo, watch streaming TV or YouTube. They'll open documents, upload photos, run Twitter and Facebook in the background.
Vodafone want customers to believe that 500MB is a perfectly adequate limit, by providing a nonsensical and completely fictitious example of data usage. "Woah, look at the size of those numbers! 10,000 emails! 500MB must be a lot!" Um, no, no it isn't. Applications are far, far more data-intensive, so anyone who uses them for an hour or two a day can bust that limit wide open.
Can you cancel your Vodafone contract?
If you used over 500MB of data last month, then even Vodafone admits you may have the right to cancel:
"You'll be entitled to end your contract if you can show that the introduction of the new charges has increased your total call and usage charges by more than 10%".
Vodafone give two different types of charges, depending on your contract, but it appears that any use over 500MB will incur charges.
Regardless, there's a case to be made for cancellation because Vodafone are messing with the core terms of your agreement, and effectively they're changing your tariff:
- Your current tariff has a data bundle with a Fair-Usage Policy, which (although Vodafone reserve the right to charge for) has no automatic out-of-bundle charging for exceeding this limit
- Your new tariff has a data-bundle of a specified limit, with no Fair-Usage Policy
Clause 11b of Vodafone's terms and conditions state:
You may end this agreement by writing to us if: we change this agreement to your significant disadvantage including changing or withdrawing services (we will tell you if this is the case) and you write to us within one month of us telling you about the change. This does not apply if the change relates to services which you can cancel without us ending this agreement.
The changes are of a significant advantage, because when you signed up you had the option of using more than 500MB in one month (or more) at no extra charge; from 1 June you will not.
Furthermore, Vodafone are in breach of contract, for announcing changes to the terms of your agreement and not allowing 30 days notice. If you're likely to be affected financially by the changes, then Vodafone are also in breach of Ofcom's General Conditions too.
I'm mad as hell and I want to cancel, dammit!
A note from us, then - we're not solicitors, in fact we can barely dress ourselves. 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. Got it? Good.
- you don't need Vodafone's consent to terminate a contract. You can always terminate a contract and stop your direct debit by informing your bank. The issue is whether or not you'll be liable for damages for breach of contract or other charges.
- the law and not the contract governs, so consumer law beats a contract every time. The supplier's opinion is not determinative and nor is that of the regulators. Only the Courts can say whether a term is fair or not. What does 'Significant Disadvantage' mean? You may have to go to court to find out.
- ultimately, if you refuse to pay termination charges on the basis they're unfair, will Vodafone be prepared to sue you for a Court Order? If they do –you have a defence. No summary enforcement is allowed where there is a genuine dispute so they cannot collect disputed sums as debts.
- If you do nothing you will be treated as accepting the changes and will not be able to change your mind later
- Once Vodafone get around to informing you of the changes, if you do want to terminate you must do so within 30 days of the notice given to you of the changes
- We've prepared a letter to cancel your contract with Vodafone (Word document) - just add your details, select from the options and post. Keep a copy and send it by registered post.
- 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 cancel your direct debit and 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.