Here’s How To Beat Vodafone And Its Ilk Into Submission
By All Means Use The Media To Bring Shame, Pressure
But What If, Like Vodafone, They Ain’t Got No Shame Genes?
Threat Of The Small Claims Court Will Do The Trick
You may have heard me pressing my case on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours”, or read about how Vodafone ripped me off with their data roaming charges in the U.S. in The Sunday Times. You might have thought that because I had managed to persuade some of the most hard-hitting elements of the British media on to my side that I would have won hands down.
You would have been wrong.
Even though Vodafone’s Directors Office phone me minutes before “You and Yours” went on air to raise its offer of a 25 per cent discount to 50 per cent, (which I declined; why pay 50 per cent for something you didn’t want in the first place) when the furor died down, nothing happened. Presumably, the likes of Vodafone reckon that the impact of a moment or two of shame on the radio, or my five minutes of fame in the Sunday Times will soon go away, and they can simply ignore a just claim. That’s what happened to me. But there is a powerful course of action you can take; the Small Claims Courts.
I set out in a letter (see below) exactly what I was complaining about, and saying that unless I received full compensation, I would see them in court. About a week before my deadline expired, I received another call from the Vodafone Director’s Office.
“We don’t want to get involved with the courts, do we,” said the spokesman. “Yes we will refund everything that you claim”. I have now received a final balance of £349.45. The rest of the £627.45 was paid by offsets on my monthly bill.
Feel free to use the following as a kind of form letter to force any greedy mobile phone company to compensate you for their unprincipled rip-offs.
Neil Winton May 20, 2011
CEO, Vodafone UK
Dear Mr Laurence,
Overcharge of £627.45
Vodafone has chosen to ignore my email of March 25 to the Vodafone Director’s Office. This is my final attempt to try and make you see reason, before I submit my case to the courts.
I was shocked to receive a bill for January of £550.55, and another for February of £238.39. My normal monthly bill is closer to £70. The fact that this relates to only two weeks of actual phone use, makes this even more outrageous.
Vodafone had plenty of opportunity to warn me that I was incurring big charges for services I didn’t want and hadn’t sought. Vodafone’s failure to do this in clear and unequivocal terms is either a blatant attempt to gouge me, and thousands of others who I know have suffered the same fate, or simply a case of incompetence where you have failed in your duty of care towards me.
According to my calculations, the unwanted cost for data-roaming in the U.S. where I was for the first two weeks of the year was £488.95 in January and £138.50 for February, for a total of £627.45. I claim that you owe me the latter amount of £627.45. That still leaves £788.94 as the total bill for two months, leaving a net cost to me of £161.49. That is still a very expensive phone bill more than £80 a month for someone who doesn’t actually use the phone very much.
I realise that because I was in America, my bill would be a bit more than usual, but not by almost £500. I’m told by your operatives in Worthing that this was almost entirely due to the fact that my HTC Legend, unbeknownst to me, was regularly surfing the internet and doing stuff I didn’t want it to do. Incidentally, I travelled to the U.S. last year for a couple of weeks with another hi-tech phone provided by you, the Nokia 99. A bill followed that was slightly bigger than usual, perfectly fair I should say. Your staff didn’t warn me that the HTC phone might incur huge charges in the U.S.
My regular monthly bills are on the high side, almost double what I gather to be a “normal” bill. I accepted this because I’d assumed that this premium charging would mean that I would be protected by Vodafone from any untoward shocks whilst abroad. I have been a regular visitor to your store in Worthing for advice on getting the most out of my HTC. Your colleagues there were aware I often travel to America. I received no warnings that because of the hi-tech nature of the HTC, my liability for charges might soar through the roof. While I was in America, as when I’m travelling in Europe, I received many texts talking about Megabytes in terms which meant nothing to me. If those text messages had pointed out that huge costs would be incurred, I would have taken action then to stop this data feed. I certainly do now.
After I first complained to Vodafone, one of your staffers offered to cut the data content of the £550.55 bill by 25 per cent and of the current bill also by 25 per cent. As that still left me with a bill for 75 per cent of something I didn’t want, I declined. Later, Karen Johnson from the Vodafone Directors Office offered to cut this by 50 per cent, about half an hour before BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme went on the air about my case. I declined for the same reason.
The most surprising aspect of this massive overcharging is the fact this happened while I was in America. U.S. mobile phone and data charges are much cheaper than here in Britain. So given that Americans pay much less than us, how come riding on the lower cost U.S. system generated such huge extra charges? Any reasonable person travelling to the U.S. would assume that mobile phone charges would be roughly similar to U.K. ones. Sure, if you were travelling to Angola or Honduras, you might think it sensible to check about charges before leaving, but not in a sophisticated modern and cheaper market like the U.S.
I expect to receive full compensation for the data roaming charges. That amounts to £627.45. Please send me a cheque for this amount as soon as convenient. If this doesn’t happen by May 1, I shall take my case to the courts.