Vodafone cancels its Fair Usage Policy from 1 October, so can you cancel your Vodafone contract?
Guess what? They're at it again. And this time, they really are scrapping it.
In May we kicked up a fuss about Vodafone and their treatment of customers concerning out-of-bundle data (data not explicitly covered in the customer's contract) and their attempted scrapping of the Fair Usage Policy (FUP). the clauses allowed customers flexibility to exceed their contracted data allowance but meant Vodafone could charge customers as and when they deemed it necessary - examples given by Vodafone included customers who used their mobiles for P2P file sharing.
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.
Vodafone eventually defined their Fair Use Policy as three-strikes-and-you're-out; use more than 500 MB of data for more than two consecutive months, and you had the choice of either upgrading your contract or paying up to £5 per additional 500 MB. Their handling of customers and communications was, in a word, dreadful.
In the past couple of weeks, it's all kicked off again. Vodafone are now intending to charge a fixed fee if a customer uses more than their data allowance. The full details are in Vodafone's announcement here:
On 1st October we are introducing out of bundle data charges. These charges will only affect the small proportion of customers who exceed their data allowance. These customers will be subject to the following charges:
• Customers without a data bundle will be charged 50p for every block of 25MB
• Customers with a data bundle (Value pack, flexi pack or as part of their tariff) will be charged £5 for every additional 500MB
There's now no mention of the three-strikes rule, meaning that any and all usage beyond a customer's data allowance will be charged for. If the charge is mandatory, then it's no longer a Fair Use Policy, and that represents a significant change in the terms of contract - instigated by Vodafone.
However, what they're arguing - and only Vodafone have the detail to support this argument - is that only 3% of customers ever use more than their bundled data. Their terms mean they only have to contact customers who may be affected by the changes (a point backed up by clause 9.3 of Ofcom's General Conditions); in other words, a major change to the majority of customer contracts is about to be made by the back door, because they don't currently make full use of their data allowance.
What about those who do? Vodafone are at least admitting this is a change in their terms, even if they never once use that phrase. They're not going to make it easy, though - you have to do all the work yourself. We'll run you through the stages you need to follow (and add our own notes in italics):
1) Vodafone state that in order to qualify for cancellation, you need to receive one of three text messages before 15th September (details here).
This isn't true. Vodafone are attempting to manage their customers so everyone doesn't expect to cancel. However, Ofcom's General Conditions make no reference to requiring permission from a service provider to cancel. That's why it's called your right to cancel. Therefore, if you haven't received a text but think you're still eligible, check your usage for yourself.
2) You need to prove you're likely to exceed your data allowance and incur additional costs after 1 October. These costs must be likely to increase your future bills by 10% or more. What proof do you have to provide?
- That you've received the notification advising you'll be charged from October if you go over the bundled allowance
- How much data you used last month and how much over your allowance that would be
- How much you'd be charged and whether that would be a 10% increase on the overall total of your most recent bill
Vodafone have essentially withdrawn all customer service in dealing with this matter. Presumably they're hoping you won't go to the lengths needed to fight your corner.
First, as discussed, you don't need to have received any text to cancel your contract. Secondly, nothing in Ofcom's General Conditions states the comparison must be made solely against the previous month. Ofcom states only that the change must be of 'material detriment' and we know from talking to Ofcom in the past, they consider it acceptable to review three months of usage, not one. You may have been on holiday last month and so used no data - hardly a fair basis for comparison. So don't just consider your previous bill; review the previous three.
When you work out whether your bill would increase by 10% because of the new charges, don't include VAT (that's not Vodafone's revenue). If your monthly bills are usually lower than £50 per month and you usually exceed your data allowance, you have a case.
3) You need to include your proof along with written notification of cancellation and post it to Vodafone at the address given.
Welcome to 2010, Vodafone.
If you'd like us to, we're happy to work on a letter template you can use; any previous letters er provided are now out-of-date. Let us know in the comments if that'd be useful.