Vodafone cancels its Fair Usage Policy from 1 October, so can you cancel your Vodafone contract?

30 August 2010

vodafone_logoGuess 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.

TOPICS:   Mobile   Consumer Advice

54 comments

  • Richard
    I would have thought that a major change in the T&Cs is sufficient grounds to cancel, regardless of your usage. I don't think you have to work out anything.
  • Darren
    Since May I have consistently used in excess of 500MB, last two months in excess of 700MB and this month it looks like I'll be approaching the 1GB mark. Yet strangely I have had no notification of the change from 1st October. Can I still follow the route above? Your article seems to suggest I could! I presume in any such request to terminate the contract I should request my PAC? Also, ironically, chances are I would want to stay with Vodafone - is there any indication that terminating would adversely affect this?
  • jah128
    Its 30th August now - I'm wondering out load if it would be a good idea for Vodafone users who wouldn't normally exceed the limit to hammer the internet this month, making sure they use a little over 500mb before the end of September - then surely they would have a case to argue...
  • Darren
    :) Guess what just popped into my inbox! A little Bank Holiday treat!
  • John I.
    This is why I continue to read Bitterwallet - if I look past all the posts about owl vomit, occasionally a relevant, useful piece of consumer advice pops up. fanks guize.
  • M4RKM
    Darren... do you have an iPhone or similar device. Some Vodafone contract were sold without a FUP, but a solid 1GB limit.
  • id3als
    A template would be great. I have had my iphone 4 on 1gb allowance and gone over it every month & getting a txt from them. Contract is only 2/3 months old, you think I can still cancel? Hope so
  • John I.
    Aye, a template would be brilliant. I sent them the last one you posted and *nearly* managed to cancel. I've had a Nokia N900 since January, and i've gone over their pathetically small 500MB every month so far.
  • qwertyuiop
    Not that I'm defending vodafone, but what the hell are you guys doing to go over? You probably shouldn't be youtubing or BBC-iplaying when away from free wi-fi even on a contract with several times your data allowance! 500mb of data is plenty for internet browsing. If you need your connection for your job then they should be paying for it.
  • dearieme
    major change to terms and conditions surely entitles you to cancel whether you have a usage problem now or in the future? why should you go to the trouble of "proving" this affects you or may affect you?
  • John I.
    500MB is "plenty" for browsing on an old-fashioned phone browser, yes, but not with the full-on desktop browsers that come with phones nowadays. Spotify is an issue, too. And also VOIP, I use my N900 to make international Skype calls all the time, which is something the daft shit who sold me my contract said was absolutely fine. And it isn't. So I was mis-sold. End of.
  • Darren
    M4RKM, I have a N900 which I got Novermber last year with a 500MB FUP, as per above I seemed to trigger my SMS about 10 minutes after posting here. qwertyuiop, I use a podcast client as well as a last.fm client, twitter, email, browsing. The catalogue refresh to check for software updates is also programmed to be a daily check and takes 9MB. I get through the FUP without any problem whatsoever! I have no issue in principal paying extra for my usage and as a Telecoms analyst think it's a requirement of the industry. However we agreed a contract at the start. They could quite easily avoid this whole thing by just applying it to new contracts only! Add my vote for a template also!! Darren
  • qwertyuiop
    Strange, 500mb on my Galaxy S is plenty - when I'm away from my home wi-fi I'll only use my mobile internet for web browsing and the occasional email, spotify, live.fm are both data hogs - not using them sporadically on the go is asking for trouble. Like I say, I'm not defending vodafone and if you were sold unlimited usage without mention of a cap then you should be able to cancel no questions asked
  • John I.
    It takes 9MB just to refresh the repos? Explains why it takes so bloody long, I guess.. And I use the podcast client as well (GPodder?), forgot all about that. I'd say that takes up about 20MB per day alone.
  • qwertyuiop
    There you go then
  • Shitbag
    Why don't you all bombard the CEO with your complaints. Anyone want his email address?
  • Shitbag
    Guy dot Lawrence at vodafone dot com ;o)
  • Darren
    Don't really think that's a productive route but in any case it would work better withhis name spelt right! ;-)
  • Paul S.
    @qwertyuiop - if users have to restrict their behaviour to the point of not downloading certain apps, then Vodafone should be telling users before they buy the apps, or even sign the contract. Users expect smartphones to doing stuff like stream video and audio and view full websites; if they can't without spending more money than they agreed to, I'd argue Vodafone is failing its customers. And average data usage isn't going to go down; it's going to go up. 3% of several million is still hundreds of thousands of customers; Framing it as a percentage makes the issue sound small, but it's not.
  • dave
    bitterwallet - i think a template would be very useful, if one works then we can be sure the rest will work (depending on individuals data info of course). great work on this bitterwallet
  • qwertyuiop
    I see your point Paul, but at the same time recent contractors would be aware that as part of their individual terms, they'd be made aware of their cap and should maybe have checked whether or not a 500mb allowance would suit their needs prior to taking out the contract. For the 3rd time of saying this, I'm not defending vodafone - if you were sold a contract with an unlimited usage policy with no mention of an allowance cap then you have every right to cancel.
  • qwertyuiop
    Afterall, it is common sense that apps which constantly stream data are going to eat through your allowance like a fat kid locked in a candy shop overnight. If you need to download the app to begin with, then do it from a free wifi hotspot or on your home network like I do.
  • having t.
    I expect I'll cancel too, I've had a HTC Magic on an "unlimited data" 18 month contract since May 2009, and there was never any mention of a fair use policy in the T&Cs. On the contrary 11.2 states You may end this agreement if... we increase your charges in the UK which have the effect of increasing your total call and usage charges (based upon your usage in the previous month) by more than 10% and you write to us before the increase takes effect. Adding a 500MB limit and then charging for going over is certainly not unlimited and based on this months usage I'd be paying a lot more (I am currently using my phone for home wifi though while I wait for the internet to be installed; but don't tell Vodafone that). usually 500MB is about enough for my tweeting and internet browsing though. I might see if retentions try and keep me on with a good deal but it would have to come with at least one gig of data.
  • qwertyuiop
    Sounds like in your case you should have canceled before now. If you introduce a cap part way into the contract, which isn't the case with this recent announcement then that qualifies a breach.
  • having t.
    I haven't cancelled because it is quite a good deal, Vodafone coverage where I live is good, I like my handset, and it has been unlimited in the sense that despite receiving plenty of texts telling me I may be charged for going over, to this date I have not actually been charged for going over. So it has been unlimited. If that is about the change then maybe now is the best time to jump ship, especially with a slew of new HTC handsets on the horizon.
  • qwertyuiop
    Well what is your own personal usage? You're probably using the data conservatively in which case it would probably seem like it's unlimited - 500mb of data will more than happily satisfy a casual net user if all you're doing is browsing. Or do you enjoy watching youtube videos on the go?
  • having t.
    Youtube doesn't work on my hacked Magic, but I use plenty of Opera and Twitter and stream music, usually I used 450-500mb without worrying about hitting the limit. The last six weeks I've been using wifi tether to provide internet to my computer which has been blasting the data way above the limits but I've not been charged yet. The plan has been fine until now but I'm gonna cancel no questions if a hard cap is coming in.
  • id3als
    Using Last FM & youtube @work for a few hours a day seem to put me over the limit. Sadly no WiFi here to use. I could easily use 2gb in a month, but see their txt's and limit the use :(
  • Shitbag
    Darren, my bad. Guy dot Laurence. I'd have a bash. Get's thing resolved a lot quicker than Vodafone's customer service team. What a bag of shit they are!
  • Alex
    Thanks BitterWallet for following this up. A template letter would be great, especially for poor souls like me who has not received a text, but have downloaded over 2Gb worth of data this month. If you can kindly cover the "cancel without text" issue in the letter that would be greatly appreciated!
  • Darren
    What's the verdict on a template then? :) Any idea on a timescale between submitting the request and getting a termination?
  • The B.
    Do you have any idea how much bandwidth porn takes up? The length of some of the stuff I stream puts iPlayer to shame.
  • The B.
    And yes, a template would be good, the sooner I'm away from this shower, the better.
  • Dan
    A template would be good for me! As mentioned above i 'nearly' managed to cancel because of the useful info posted on this site! Really want to get away from vodafail, what a bunch of ******s!! Keep up the great work guys!
  • Jim
    I walked away from a 24 month contract with vodafone after three months by using clause 11b.3 in the terms and conditions, aka the 10% clause. No early termination fee and got to keep the HTC Desire handset to boot - hope as many people as possible do the same and vodacon gets a severe boot up the arse (of course customer apathy will negate this but it's a nice thought)
  • Simon
    I agree that Vodafone have been utterly ridiculous about all this. I'm one of the supposed 3%. I've had my phone (Xperia X10) just over 3 months now and every month I've received the 'over the limit text'. I've been in touch with Vodafone continually over this, as when I was sold the phone (cold called by a Vodaphone rep), no mention was made of any fair usage policy. Ever since then I've been variously patronised, indirectly called a liar and generally ignored by Vodafone in my communications with them. I really don't understand how Vodafone can say only 3% of their customers exceed the 500MB limit. I don't use my phone for streaming video/radio. I only download apps and updates when I'm at home and connected to my WIFI. I'd say on average I use the phone for maybe 10 minutes a day websurfing, checking my emails and facebook, and that's about it. If that's not 'fair usage' then I dont' know what is. Yet every month I've been close to using 1GB of data. Have now posted my cancellation letter to Vodafone and can't wait to be rid of them. Worst mobile company I've ever dealt with by a huge distance!
  • Claire
    I've got an iPhone on an 'unlimited' 1GB contract, taken out in spring. So far I've been using about 700MB of this so technically I'm fine. But if I go away for a couple of weeks in October then I'll be using 3G loads more rather than home wifi, so my usage will go up loads. Technically, nobody has told me anything about any of this - as far as I know there will be no change to my T&Cs surely unless they tell me there will be? So if and when I do go over 1GB, if they try to charge me, can I do the whole cancellation thing then? I'm happy to pay out my contract but I they're gonna move the goalposts and limit my 'unlimited' use I won't be happy.
  • Paul S.
    Hi folks, cheers for the feedback. We're working on a template today and we'll put it on the site sometime tomorrow. P
  • Allan
    I am perplexed how you are justifying your suggestion that we can cancel without the text notification. The contract is explicit in the fact that it says the individual needs to be notified of the charges at least 14 days in advance - as the eForums do not constitute this notification then we are officially blind to these charges until we are personally notified. Your reference to the Ofcom General Conditions therefore is irrelevant as VF are not saying that we need to request a cancellation, they are saying that if we are notified of a charge increase that is detrimental to us by more than 10% then we can end the agreement. I fear all you are doing is encouraging people to send cancellation letters when they are in fact not yet eligible and thus exacerbating their frustration with VF.
  • Imran
    Thanks bitterwallet, as mentioned a template would be a great idea and much appreciated. So on template will you mention the fact that we have the right to cancel if we have been going over the 500mb limit and not yet recieved the £5 warning text?
  • Kevin
    I have now had this text message... any ideas when the template letter will be up ?
  • Paul S.
    Hi Allan, The issue is that the clause concerned, clause 7, is far from explicit. It certainly doesn't say the individual *needs* to be notified. In fact the clause is very ambiguous: 7a 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. Vodafone may notify a customer; and they may allow you to cancel without penalty. They may not. Where's there ambiguity in a contract, it's open to interpretation, and Vodafone's contract doesn't supersede consumer law. In other words, if a customer fulfills all the criteria to cancel without penalty, then I'd say Vodafone aren't really in a position to refuse. I did make it very clear in the post above that if a customer feels they're in a position to cancel but haven't received a text, they must check their usage - it's not a free-for-all and the criteria are quite specific. But if they find they qualify to cancel under the 10 per cent rule, and can prove it, they have a case.
  • Alex
    Thanks Paul, I did send a cancellation letter to them, and I did not receive the text yet. I easily hit the 10% clause, infact, I calculated that my average usage for the last 3 months, is not 10% higher, but 54% higher! I should have an open and shut case, but you know Vodafone haha!
  • Allan
    But if you are not notified then what T&Cs have VF *actually* broken at this point that would allow these customers to cancel?
  • Paul S.
    You don't have to be notified, and Vodafone say that they may change your terms without notifiying you. They're entitled to do this. It's not a question of notification. The question is whether the change in terms will cause material detriment to you.
  • Scott
    I would think they have borken the rule of changing the T&C's in a way that could cost you money. Just because you have not gone over the limit yet, does not mean that you might not in future months?
  • Scott
    Have you done a template letter yet for people to use?
  • Daniel
    would love a template letter although more anoyingly i have used well over a GB this month and have yet to recive a text be it the old one or the new one i have had a couple of texts each month since they started rolling them out yet havent had anything this month so far hope this template comes soon and hope i can get put of this heap of **** they have screwed us over i will never use vodafail again
  • Alex
    I am in the same boat Daniel. I also have not received any texts this month, but I thought... "Fuck it" and I sent in my cancellation letter, as BitterWallet said I dont need to wait for this text. They received it today, so it should be interesting to see what happens. Be patient on the letter guys, im sure BW are working on it.
  • EmmaGx
    ... any news on that template yet? ... have dedicated today to trying to sort this out find my old data usage, and work out what on earth to write ... given that the website I bought my n900 from mentioned nothing whatsoever about a FUP I'm mightily unhappy at being capped at 500mbs, and am definitely going to try to cancel.
  • Vodafone’s B.
    [...] the new Out of Bundle charges to be introduced on 1 October. You can read about the issue in detail here, but essentially Vodafone is looking to impose hard caps on the amount of data some customers can [...]
  • jon
    This sucks!!! Ive just entered into a 24 month contract only yesterday and my shiny new phone arrives tomorrow...Thing is the reason i opted for said deal was that the phone has DEDICATED iplayer, Last FM YouTube, and most social network apps/widgets preinstalled. To boot the guy selling me the contract was totally bigging up the iplayer feature (apparently "He uses it daily"). So in essence some of these features had me exited as i had been previously using just a 2g network phone so most of these features were not accessible anyway. So i am well dissapointed that at around 120-150MB of data is what is required to stream an average iplayer episode...This may be ok for all who have access to wifi at home etc But not everyone has...Myself included. So looks like the features of my new device will be just that...FEATURES! Allbeit relitivly unused features...Grrr
  • Tommy
    I used 10.3Gb of mobile browsing alone last month!!! Its def bye bye Vodafone for me!! Think its high time I got home broadband :)
  • Q A.
    I just got a text from Vodaphone saying I use a lot of mobile broadband and have downloaded too much so my contract is cancelled... No warning, no reminder... Just straight cancel... LOL Vodafone could have kept me as a customer... I was happy to pay more for extra data download... this is the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in my life... The lady at the phone was saying that a business decision has been made and that I have downloaded so much that my contract has been cancelled... I clearly remember that the guy who sold me the mobile broadband said that there were no limits on data download and did not even mention a fair usage policy... Anyone has any ideas which broadband service should I use... mobile broadband?

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