back to article Vodafone rapped with RECORD £4.6m fine for failing customers

Vodafone has been fined £4.6m for failing customers for mis-selling to customers, inaccurate billing and poor complaints handling. The regulator Ofcom imposed the fine today following two investigations into the business which began in June last year. Vodafone said the issues were due to errors "during a complex IT migration …

  1. smudge Silver badge
    Pint

    Whose rules??

    " the regulator found that Vodafone had failed to comply with our rules on handling customer complaints. "

    Good to know that you are expanding your remit into regulatory work. Change your name to El Reg and it'll do just nicely.

    1. CustardGannet
      Thumb Up

      Re: Whose rules??

      I, for one, welcome our new regulatory overlords ! Viva El Reg !

  2. djstardust

    Whatever ....

    That fine is merely a slap on the wrists, probably about 10 minutes revenue. Big companies build liability for fines in to their figures anyway.

    Vodafone CS is still abysmal. Even as a UK customer you are put straight through to India and it takes ages to get nowhere. Same with the live chat, they only respond every couple of minutes and last week it took me over 20 minutes just to get to the point where they had verified my account details.

    Vodafone used to be by far the best UK operator, but offshoring and putting profits before punters will bite them up the arse.

    Mind you, at least they're not subcontracting to Crapita yet .......

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Whatever ....

      "probably about 10 minutes revenue"

      By my mental arithmetic it's about an hour's revenue for Vodafone group.

      Fines are just another cost, yes. But make then big enough and they're a significant enough cost to need management effort reducing or the product is uncompetitive.

      As long as the company doesn't have a monopoly.

      1. keithpeter
        Coat

        Re: Whatever ....

        "By my mental arithmetic it's about an hour's revenue for Vodafone group."

        True but probably a much much larger chunk of some senior manager's personal target. The fall-out will be remembered for some time I think.

        Coat: I'm not a vodafone custard

    2. paulf Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Whatever ....

      I've been with Voda for 10 years since leaving the former Orange. Orange CS truly was (shit)^2 and that's why I left them as a customer of 10 years (since the Hans Snook days).

      I've not had many problems with Voda (but I don't doubt others have). The online chat resolved an overbilling issue - it took a while but I just did it in the background while working on something else (probably like the agent was doing). The Level 2 support in Egypt got Wifi Calling working during the Christmas break last year and even called back as promised while also being friendly and helpful.

      With no disrespect intended to either those Voda staff who are trying their best nor the people who have had shitty service from them and hate them with a passion, I'd put them down as the "best" of a truly bad bunch:

      EE: Terrible before acquisition by the utterly dreadful BT

      Royston Vasey Three: You'll never leave (as we don't give out PACs)

      O2: Crapita (Enough said)

      1. IsJustabloke
        Meh

        Re: Whatever ....

        @Paulf I'm glad your experience has been good...

        I moved to them from Orange but only because Orange were dicking me around over a contract renewal when I'd been with them for over 10 years, I never had any real problem with the CS they offered.

        Vodafone were beyond useless, I went nearly a full month before I got even basic functionality from my 'phone. I once rang Cs to try and get an issue relating to texts (ie not being able to send or receive them) took me 45 minutes to actually get through to someone (a good day!) who said "I'll text you the settings for your phone" . No CS rep ever resolved an issue I reported to them, I always ended up doing it myself through judicious use of Google.

        Their coverage outside of major metropolitan areas was woeful. I work in an office on teh fringe of Hemel Hempstead, I rarely if ever got a data connection, mostly I was lucky if I had any kind of signal, a sudden SMS saying I had a missed call would suddenly pop up even though my phone hadn't actually rung! I had to dial my full mobile number to access voicemail even though I was using my handset, I was asked to set my pin *every single time* I rang voicemail despite several attempts they never fixed it. Their website a mess of broken links even if they sent me a link to some information on their website it invariably went to a "404"

        They are an appallingly bad company in every respect. 4th class service in every respect , first class prices

        while I feel for the people who work for them, if I read that Vodafone had gone bust I'd happily dance on their grave.

  3. Commswonk Silver badge

    Total Bollocks

    We deeply regret these system and process failures. We are completely focused on serving our customers: everyone who works for us is expected to do their utmost to meet our customers' needs, day after day, and act quickly and efficiently if something goes wrong.

    "We deeply regret not getting away with it" would have been shorter, snappier, and a lot more accurate.

    Can I suggest that El Reg runs an annual competition for the least credible management statement following some corporate blunder?

    1. DaLo

      Re: Total Bollocks

      No point though as 90%+ of them will say the following

      "We would like to apologize to the small minority of customers that were affected by the recent [insert cock up here]. We take [insert something they take pretend to take seriously here] extremely seriously. Rest assured that lessons will be learned from this and we will ensure training is provided to ensure this doesn't happen again (until the next time)."

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Total Bollocks

        The brilliant thing about AI will that PR will become completely automated. PR droids will become literal PR droids, and the standard formulaic responses will go out to the usual suspects without human intervention.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vodafone apologises profusely..

    .. for having been caught.

    Personally I don't see this being solved at all, because the key factor to addressing this would be competition and consumer choice. Unfortunately, phone companies have literally decades of experience of avoiding direct comparisons by explicitly shaping packages so they're not only never the same, but also structured in a way that defeats attempts at normalising any offers.

    If Ofcom wants to get companies to clean up (well, those that are left, because that's another problem in itself) it should impose a norm on them so packages can be compared. I'm no fan of government interference, but clearly they're really not going to do this themselves.

    Once you can compare them you can also take sane decisions about the amount of customer abuse you're willing to suffer to save two pennies every month..

    1. Fihart

      Re: Vodafone apologises profusely..

      ......."it should impose a norm on them so packages can be compared."

      Absolutely right. Supermarket items like bread, jam and detergents generally come in standardized weights so comparison is simplified.

      If this is important for a trivially priced grocery purchase, how much more important for a 2 year contract for (say) £40 a month ?

      But the telcos and broadband firms (these days mostly the same bunch) rely on confusion marketing to differentiate essentially identical offerings.

      Glad to see that more customers are purchasing phones unlocked, unsubsidised, from the likes of Argos and Sainsbury's so, at least, the telcos' obfuscation over "free" (locked) devices isn't a further complication when comparing.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Computer blame and management credit

    Why is it that when things go wrong, management blame the computers, but when things go right (or at least make a profit) management take the credit.

    Management are entirely to blame for these events.

  6. Chris Evans

    £4.6m still only a rounding error!

    With an annual turnover last year of £41billion £4.6 is not even a gnat bite!

  7. Disgruntled of TW
    Megaphone

    Grow a pair Ofcom ... look at the GDPR weaponry

    Gnat bite Customer Service failure penalties aside, with the GDPR coming if Voda are compromised and give out customer data they have 72 hours to fess up and a maximum of 4% of GLOBAL revenues to pay. Now that's a sabre toothed tiger chunk of flesh even for Voda. I hope they are preparing sensibly. Denial won't work for this one.

  8. wolfetone

    So OfCom fine Vodafone for misselling products to customers, failure to deal with their complaints, but it's OfCom who get the money and the customers have to be content with the bullshit "Won't happen again" and walk away with the moral victory?

    Is it April 1st already?

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Aparently

      All the customers got their money back. Though I've yet to see if interest was paid on the balance.

  9. mark 120

    As of two weeks ago

    nothing has changed.

    Failed to collect direct debit

    threatened to cut off service as a result of not collecting payment

    agreed not to cut off service

    sent text saying service would be cut off unless payment recieved

    confirmed service wouldnt be cut off

    cut off service

    reinstated service

    sent text saying service would be cut off unless payment recieved

    confirmed service wouldnt be cut off and DD was now set up correctly

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As of two weeks ago

      confirmed service wouldnt be cut off and DD was now set up correctly

      Given what a &^%$# curse it is for a consumer to control a DD I personally think that method of payment should not only be avoided, it ought to be banned until customers get a bit more control.

      Ever tried to cancel a DD? It's your money, but if you thought it was under your control I'd suggest you look at just how much work it is to cancel a DD, yet how easy standard DDs can be abused to take more money when they're running a tad short for a month.

      I have started to read DD based agreements and have changed quite a few DD forms so they impose constraints. In one case, I even managed to get a government-issued one accepted where it concerned a repayment schedule - the new DD agreement (which is, as you know, the "contract" that your bank has to follow) stipulated the exact value of each payment, the time it was permitted to be drawn and - VERY IMPORTANT - it had an expiry date. In other words, it didn't hold the door open for any future takes. OK, we're assuming here that the bank actually reads such a document, but by having it accepted by all parties you end up with a fairly strong legal position to force correction and even compensation. Given that it exactly stipulated the payments as demanded there wasn't much of an argument to reject it so it was accepted. Any automated process could spit out the same restricted style DD but no, let's expose the customer to some extra risk from screwing up your payment processes.

      I can see why companies and agencies want a DDs, but given the vast amount of failure and creativity in almost all repeat business industries and the weak position you find yourself in when they screw up I no longer see this as an acceptable payment permission. It requires a level of trust I find myself no longer capable of extending to companies and government agencies.

      1. Blotto Bronze badge

        Re: As of two weeks ago

        Ummm

        I just login to my Barclays online banking, view the DD's and then cancel the ones I no longer want, takes just a few mins.

        Not sure why your having so much of an issue.

        1. VBF

          Re: As of two weeks ago

          And in fact the standard DD agreement in the UK https://gocardless.com/guides/posts/dd-guarantee-in-plain-english/ puts the consumer in complete control UNLIKE a continuing charge (or whatever it's called) on a Credit Card! Now that is a pain to cancel!! With a DD as Blotto says, you either call your bank or use the online service if you have one. Done it several times over the years.

  10. andy 103
    Meh

    They're all as bad as each other.

    I remember in the late 90s when Vodafone were seen as the best - almost the de facto choice for any business users.

    Fast forward 15 years and we're at a point where every provider is as bad as each other.

    My "solution" - which is definitely a step backwards but works for me - was to take out a cheap EE contract a few years ago. It's now expired which means I could terminate it without being locked into months and months of payments. But it (just about) meets my needs and is cheap (about 12 quid a month). For me, the "winning" company is the one who I never have to speak to. With EE I've been lucky in that I haven't had to call their customer services at all this year, and that to me is really the selling point - that I don't have to interact with them. As I said, feels very backwards, but that's what I want.

    I use WiFi wherever possible to conserve a relatively small data allowance and make full use of the call limit. I buy a new handset SIM-free whenever I want. Currently got a Lumia, which isn't great, but again does the job.

    To me, a mobile service I'd consider worthwhile would be one which:

    1. Doesn't lock you in to ridiculous length contracts (anything over 12 months = piss off).

    2. I never have to speak to your customer service team (because there should never be any problems which warrants this).

    3. Costs a sensible price, e.g. 20 - 30 quid a month, with a relatively decent handset.

    That's it. Is it really that hard???

    The bottom line is that there is no real alternative or competition since all of the major players are as bad as each other.

    Being a mobile user in the UK, is pretty depressing at the moment! No innovation, no competition, crap service.

    Rant over.

    PS - This fine Vodafone have recieved is about the equivalent of 10 pence for you or I. Absolute joke.

  11. Clive Galway
    FAIL

    The Regsitter proofreader strikes again

    What is it with El Reg these days and mangled opening sentences in articles?

    For a rag whose stock in trade is poking fun at companies who fail at the most basic of tasks, you sure do seem to have a serious problem with this most basic of tasks.

    "Vodafone has been fined £4.6m for failing customers for mis-selling to customers"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Regsitter proofreader strikes again

      Come on, how are they going to test the "Corrections" link next to articles otherwise?

      :)

  12. SVV Silver badge

    It hasn't all been fixed

    Their top up site for PAYG for mobile wifi has not been working for over 6 months, and was subject to failing often before that. As it broke at different points in the process, and one time I even got a Java error stack returned, I presume they are continually changing it and releasing new versions. Maybe they've got the "continuous delivery" bug.

    I have had to resort to the indian call centre for months now, and have several times received a free top up as a result, so they must have bewn aware of the problem. I suspect a limited amount of testing on only the very latest and greatest versions of browsers may be to blame. The phone top up site does work now however.

    Not very good at all for a major ISP.

  13. jasper pepper

    Please explain

    Why do people use vodafone (and the others) when competitively priced alternatives exist (eg giff-gaff)?

  14. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    "We are completely focused on serving our customers..."

    Get some stock phrases off the shelf, Tracy, and email them to Ofcom.

  15. planetzog

    I found Vodafone had the worst coverage. I took Orange to court, and won, because they took money from my account after I left and wouldn't pay it back. I suddenly lost reception with EE. They blamed foliage (it was winter) and a railway line (which had been there since 1897.) A manager eventually called to say they don't have to provide a service. I said I don't have to pay. Now with Three. Good mobile data and good coverage. Hope it stays that way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sorry....

      They are blindly tramping down the same track. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Management failure

    This is without doubt a management failure. ALL large companies are the same, the lower to middle management are too scared to tell senior managers the issues of their staff, so every issue is ignored and seen as a problem of the staff.

    Managers just do not listen.

    Every other company WAKE UP and start listening to your employees. Just because your are a manager, doesn't and hardly ever mean you know best.

  17. Haku
    Flame

    #DeathTo Vodafone

    For killing Demon and other atrocities.

    /Black Mirror

  18. Wiltshire

    Management success!

    Costs have been cut, and almost everything (like menial work and running the business) and other boring operational chaff has been outsourced, except

    a) the Human Remains Department

    b) the Bonus Scheme.

    Both are still required to keep the Senior UK Management in the style to which they have become accustomed.

    A friend of mine works at Vodafone HQ and has acquired a permanently stunned-looking expression. He confessed that (in his area of the business at least) so much has been outsourced that the UK folk have lost touch and actually can't run the business, because the third-parties outsource firms have the control.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah well.....

      Most of the other telcos are heading the same way, so in time they will all be equally as shit. I know, because I have worked for a few of them!

      All senior managers now-a-days are busy wringing their hands with glee at the prospect of a huge bonus for outsourcing everything for short-term gain, and fuck the customers.

  19. analyzer

    Oh yes, that billing system

    Ex voda here

    April came along and they decided that 25th of the month was no longer good enough to be paid on so they changed it, without notice to the 15th. I only noticed this because coming back from holiday the bank had kindly charged me 25 bloody quid for bouncing their DD and on the 18th texting to say they were restricting my service for non-payment and stiffing me for £4.48.

    Talk to CS, very nice people to be honest, 'yes we have changed it back to the 25th and deleted the late payment.

    May, same thing but I had not re-enabled the DD, 3 phone calls to CS

    June ditto May

    July ditto June and changed e-mail

    August ditto July with I'll have my PAC if it's the same next month

    September PAC code please

    October you owe us £150 because you cancelled early

    Tell you what you send me your bill and I'll send you mine .

    Heard nothing yet.

    I'd been with them for a decade without any issues, doubt I'll ever be going back.

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