Vodafone has been in the news this week after Ofcom, the industry regulator for mobile networks, fined the company £4.6m for what Ofcom said was “serious and sustained breaches of consumer protection rules”.
An Ofcom investigation found thousands of Pay-As-You-Go customers had lost out when Vodafone failed to credit their accounts after they had paid to top them up.
Ofcom also found Vodafone had failed to adhere to the regulator’s rules on handling customer complaints including not giving customer service agents sufficient information on what constituted a complaint.
So what does this mean for you as a mobile phone user?
MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis has already called for Vodafone customers to check their bills carefully in case they were affected but have not realised it.
For Resolver users though, this will come as no surprise.
Vodafone is currently the mobile operator our users are most dissatisfied with, giving the company a score of just 4/10. This is the score showing how satisfied they are with the outcome once the case they originally raised through our free and independent platform was resolved by Vodafone.
However, for me what’s important now is Vodafone and any other brand or organisations learns the lessons of this. This was the biggest fine to date for a telecoms operator but after paying it, work must be done to prevent anything like this ever happening again.
It’s important to note Vodafone has apologised and spoke of its determination to ‘put things right’ and that is to be applauded.
But I hope it will lead to improvements in service not just at Vodafone but also throughout all industries, which still have much to do to ensure consumers are dealt with quickly, simply and effectively – and are informed of their consumer rights laid down in law or by regulators and Ombudsman.
So far in 2016, our users have raised more than 10,000 cases relating to mobile operators. It’s not surprising that billing issues are the most common problem but we also see a secondary issue with customer services.
So what can you do as a mobile phone user if you find you have something to complain about?
Check Bills Carefully
Always look at your bill each month. If you spot an error, a top-up that doesn’t appear or a call charge you don’t recognise, don’t leave it or ignore it. Get in touch with the customer services department for your mobile provider as soon as possible. You can do this in a few minutes using the Resolver website or apps. You risk further errors and potentially costing yourself money by leaving it and perhaps thinking to yourself “well it’s only a few pence” or “maybe I did make that call and just can’t remember”. This is even more crucial if you suddenly see you’re not on the tariff you signed up for.
Understand Your Tarriff
It’s crucial you know how much you are paying and what for. Often people are spending out on costly add-ons or extras they don’t really need or use. For example, international call packages or extra data subscriptions that you don’t get through on most months. It is your money you are wasting and unless you’ve been mis-sold the extra, you won’t be able to get any redress financially. So be sure you always know what you are buying and whether it’s just for one single month or a recurring subscription.
Complain if Things Aren’t Right
Another common case issue raised by Resolver users with their mobile phone provider is for network problems. Now nothing works 100% of the time and things do break and need to be fixed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for some money back or a bill credit if you’re left without service for a long period of time. Make sure to document all the issues including how long the service was down for, when and how it came back and perhaps even went off again and again and what impact this has had on your personal and professional life. If it has cost you money, time or work, make sure to say so.
Escalate it to The Ombudsman
You can only ask the Ombudsman for an independent assessment of the situation eight weeks after first raising your case with your provider and if it is still unresolved or you are unhappy with the verdict or solution offered. It can though be escalated in less time if you are given a ‘deadlock’ letter from the company to show you’re both at an impasse.
Written by James Walker Fighting For Your Rights! Consumer Champion – the man who helps you resolve your consumer complaints! James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution tool Resolver.co.uk Follow James via @resolvercouk,[email protected]