Vodafone's data charges - some answers, but more questions

We've now been in contact with Vodafone over the past day, trying to determine the facts about their new data charges, but we're struggling to get a completely straight answer. There is, however, very worrying news if you are a Vodafone customer.

Last week Vodafone suggested that new charges for excess data would be automatic; there was no mention of a new service to warn users about excessive usage: "We are planning to introduce Out Of Bundle charging for Pay Monthly customers from 1st June 2010... no Out Of Bundle charges will happen this month but they will take effect from 1st June."

As a result of this, Vodafone offered to cancel contracts-without-penalty if customers would see an increase in their bill - that post has now been deleted, but you can read the text here - it clearly stated that Vodafone intended to modify the terms of customer contracts; if they do, Vodafone will be in breach of their own contract and Ofcom's General Conditions for not providing adequate notice.

Then Vodafone appeared to backtrack - the detail about modifying the terms was dropped, and instead Vodafone focussed 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 seemingly agreed; the topic on their forum has now received 1,300 posts in ten days.

Vodafone's Head of Web Relations, Jakub Hrabovsky has been in touch with Bitterwallet, so here is a selection of the dialogue from our emails:

BW: Vodafone is still talking about making some sort of change to the standard terms and conditions, and by doing so there's a question over how much notice should have been given to customers. Will there be a change come 1 June?

JH: There will be no pricing changes; we’ve always reserved the right to charge for out of bundle usage since the launch of mobile internet.

BW: The question was about the standard terms, not pricing; will there be a change to standard terms from 1 June?

We posed that final question at 5 o'clock yesterday and are still waiting to hear from Jakob. Next:

BW: 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?

JH: I can’t point out individual users unfortunately but at the same time don’t want to be evasive. The reason why we quantify the data allowance in this way is that we know that 500Mb or 1GB of data used on mobiles mean very little to our customers. More importantly they want to understand how much they can use their mobile, what it’ll cost them and that the network provides superior experience.

BW: I understand the need to quantify data usage for the sake of the customer, but you haven't explained why this example fails to recognise the use of applications? Quoting data usages in terms of emails and BBC news stories is utterly meaningless in 2010. Why not an example that states 500MB allows you to watch a certain number of 3 minute YouTube videos, stream X hours of music on Spotify per month and use Facebook for X hours per week?

JH: Not sure why apps aren’t mentioned and you’re right we should look into this.

And finally, Vodafone's official clarification on what you'll be charged for 'excessive use' from 1 June, and for the rest of your contract:

JH: Nobody will incur any out of bundle charges before being sent an Text alert and contacted by Vodafone first which effectively means that you would have received two months notice before being charged.

BW: If a customer is charged for excessive use in the third consecutive month, how does play out in later months? For example, if a customer doesn't exceed 500MB in the fourth month, but then exceeds it in month five, will they be charged immediately (since they have exceeded it in the past), or will they be given another month's grace? There's no clarification on this.

JH: Once you have been contacted and consulted you may incur charges for out of bundle use at any point.

For customers with the best part of 18 or 24 months left on their contracts, that can hardly be described as a Fair Use Policy; you can can exceed 500MB in two consecutive months just once - after that, if you exceed the threshold at any time, Vodafone are happy to charge you. Can that even be considered a Fair Use Policy?

Vodafone only declared that usage above 500MB would be considered 'excessive' two days ago - before that the figure was a guide, nothing more, and 'excessive use' had no definition - Bitterwallet reader Matt was sent contract details after renewing just last month, and the figure of 500MB wasn't mentioned. On previous occasions Vodafone staff have suggested the term applies to customers using far greater amounts of data.

Vodafone still hasn't officially notified customers of the changes yet, except through their forums. When they do, we'll have more information for you.


  • Tony
    nice one BW - keep it going!
  • N20Y1D
    Interesting to see them deleting their own posts.......
  • Daniel Z.
    Thanks again guys! My opinion is that just because they warn you twice before charging you, they absolutely can't call it unlimited usage. All they have done is delayed the original charges they wanted to introduce by two months and two warnings... Funny they deleted that original post. Any way, my DD is cancelled and a final settlement is on it's way now!
  • James
    Nice one - keep at them!
  • The B.
    When this all kicked off I decided to install a data tracker on my Desire to see exactly how much I'm using daily, it would appear that I use 30MB per day over the cellular network and about 100MB per day over WIFI, in real terms that's about 1GB per month which I think is pretty reasonable, I'm not even using anything streaming except for the odd Youtube vid every few days. Vodafone are shafting themselves royally as I intend to try and get out of my month old contract with a free phone to boot.
  • Spark
    I fucking knew that this would all happen once they started marketing the iPhone. I have been using mine on their 3G without any difficulty and just the £5 bolt on for over a year, sometimes downloading gigs in one month but now they're marketing that thing themselves the network is going exactly the same as O2. Absolute bastards.
  • Seajays
    My usage is similar - I link to my works exchange email, I link to my home pop3 mail, I surf the web on the bus to and from work. I've listened to the occasional BBC radio stream. My average is 20MB a day according to my data tracker, meaning I will be consistently 600MB a month, for using the phone for what I bought it for. How can this be considered excessive!?
  • kev
    this is the perfect example of why Ionly use my phone for making calls, and my laptop for tinternet
  • jackpepsi
    I've been with Vodafone for some years and whilst for me (at least) they have been excellent I was annoyed when I discovered my clearly labelled "unlimited internet" was actally only 500mb - I still feel like I was completly mis-sold the contract on this point alone and felt it was there to delibertly deceive customers - I really dislike diry sales tactics (no matter if its legal or not, I now distrust Vodafone), when I went to the web site forums to ask about it I found several posts already there and the assurance to others that if they did go over, it would be okay - this passified me enough to not scream blue murder to Vodafone. However since I have made sure I only use youtube/bbc news etc when I switch over to wifi - but to be honest that in itself isnt great to have to do on the samsung Jet - but only because I am slighlty paranoid anyway when it comes to 'unlimited' data limits (ex BT broadband customer you see) - the new information really does bring me (and I am sure many others) back to the orginal point about being sold a service clearly, a big label saying unlimited internet with small print that quantifies that to 500mb (which is not a lot when compared to unlimited) is as far as I am concerned deliberately misleading, Vodafone need to understand this isnt about the money, or being 10% worse of or anything of the nature, its about being mis-led in the first place to make sales. I know next time I am moving my contract for the first time in years to a company that can be upfront and honest about what it is they are providing me (currently 02 have been upfront with me with my broadband and the other family members phones data useages etc).
  • Dank
    Cancellation letter over at MSE: http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showpost.php?p=32798431&postcount=18 Mine's going in the post today. Absolutely fed up of this now!
  • Paul S.
    Dank - could somebody point out that's the cancellation letter BW put together earlier in the week? We haven't put together an updated one because Vodafone are yet to officially inform customers of the new charges; I'm not sure anybody will get anywhere with these until that happens.
  • Murty M.
    WTF is dis real?
  • N20Y1D
    They have now taken to moderating posts on the eforum... "your post will be previewed by a moderator before it is added to this topic" What are they worried about??
  • matts76
    in my opinion their backtracking is just so that by the time any os us get charges it will be too late to cancel, for me its not about weather i do get charged but that they can charge me for something i purchaced in good faith as unlimited.
  • N20Y1D
    BW: The question was about the standard terms, not pricing; will there be a change to standard terms from 1 June? We posed that final question at 5 o’clock yesterday and are still waiting to hear from Jakob. Any sign of an answer yet??
  • Vodafone’s B.
    [...] the meantime, you’ll remember that we accused Vodafone of misleading customers by giving irrelevent examples of data usage for smartphones. Senior management conceded that they’d “would look into it” but the truth is [...]
  • Roger A.
    I have just received my second bill for 69 pounds, not the expected 45 as stated in my contract. This has been due to excess usage. I work night shifts and have been using a radio app and was blissfully unaware of the fact that I was running up a considerable bill for listening to music at work. I have spoken to vodafone and they asked me if I was tethering, I told them this was not the case and their representative kept me on hold for a considerable time before informing me that the radio app may be the cause. Unlimited does not mean up to 500Mb. I am appalled and will be visiting the vodafone shop this weekend.

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