Sent: 30 August 2007 22:17
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Desperate customer - PLEASE HELP
Dear Sir / Madam
Firstly, please forgive this blanket e-mail. I hope that once you’ve read this, you’ll understand why I had to send this to everyone.
My name is John, I am the owner of a small business based in Berkshire and I have two staff mobile phones and one data card registered with Vodafone. I’m about to detail what can only be described as one of the worst examples of contempt for your customers, in the hope that someone with some authority can step in and prevent this becoming a legal action and/or having an impact on your business.
In October 2006, I ported my mobile phone over from O2 as their customer service had become so poor it was difficult to get any help when I needed it, and as my mobile is essential for my business, it is important to me that I can get help when a problem arises. Having worked with a large multi-national customer who used Vodafone, I was impressed with the level of service they received, so I decided to switch when my contract came up for renewal.
I signed up for a 12 month contract, with a new Palm Treo 750 smartphone as I need access to e-mail throughout the day (I had a Treo 650 with O2). I initially signed up for the Businesstime 200 contract, and at the time I explained to the customer service rep in the store that as I check e-mails regularly, and occasionally browse the web, I required one of the ‘pre-paid’ deals where a data allowance would be included. At that point, the rep signed me up for an ‘Extras’ pack, costing I think about £14 a month on top of my call time, and of course needing the assurity of availability to keep my business running, I also signed up for the insurance service. I ran with this for about three months, and each month my bill got gradually bigger and bigger, to the tune of several hundred pounds, all as data charges, which seemed confusing given that a similar month with O2 was coming in at about £60 including all the data I was using.
After about three months, I called 191 and spoke to a rep who advised that I should move to a larger ‘Extras’ pack to provide more inclusive data, which I did – a fee of £25/month would be charged. Again, I rolled with this for the next 6 months, and my bills continued to grow and grow, with each month costing more on data charges. I tried browsing less, reducing the e-mail checking to hourly rather than every 15 mins, and switching off any applications I could find that might be accessing the web, all to no avail. After this effort, my bills were still in the hundreds of pounds for data charges, so about 2 months ago I spoke to customer services, and got through to Carla (sorry, I’m not sure where she is based). Carla went through the account, and to my horror told me that the ‘Extras’ pack I had been advised to go for was for text messages only, and not data at all, so I had been paying a fee each month for text messages which I wasn’t using, and each and every megabyte of data was being charged at the full rate, and this is why my bills were so huge. Carla was so helpful, and I felt so relieved that she had finally identified and (so I thought) corrected the problem, that on the same call I signed up for a new contract for a new member of staff.
Somewhat shocked, I asked Carla what I should do to correct the situation, and she advised that a visit to the store to request a ‘bill recalculation’ would probably be more fruitful than chasing it through customer services, so the following day I returned to the store. I spoke to the manager of the store (in Bracknell) called Spenser, who in front of me called customer services and requested this bill recalculation, assuring me that the recalculation team would call me within a week and explain how the fees would be returned and the problem corrected. I waited just over a week, and having not heard anything, I again called customer services, and this time I spoke to Carl in the Hartlepool call centre. Carl appeared really helpful, and assured me that from now on, he would ‘own’ the problem. He told me that there was no record of a request being made to the recalculation team, and that he would request it again, and call me back the following Monday or Tuesday. At the same time, he also assured me that he would place a note on my account, as every time I went through to customer services, they would put me through to the business support team, and when the IVR system asked for my mobile number, I’d enter it and it would inform me that ‘my number wasn’t recognised, please contact customer services’ which was also frustrating every time I needed help. Carl also assured me that he’d corrected the package I was on - extras pack was removed and I was put on the Internet pack at £7.50 a month for 120Mb, which would be more than enough to accommodate my e-mail and browsing needs (although he didn’t do this at all, as will become clear later on).
Again, I waited over a week, and on the Thursday I called and tried to get through to Carl. He wasn’t working at that time, but another customer service rep told me that he had left a note on my account stating that he had tried to call me twice on the days he suggested he’d get back to me, and that my phone was switched off. Now I provide IT support services to some pretty large clients, and one or two of them require me to be available 24/7/365, so in general, my phone is never switched off, and certainly never during the business day. Additionally, I have voicemail, yet no message was left, and I didn’t see any missed calls, so I could only assume that he had not actually tried to call me at all.
I was getting more and more frustrated now, so I asked to be put through to a manager. I finally spoke to Darren, a customer services team leader in Hartlepool, who is on extension 2765. He acknowledged the problems I’d been having, and after going through the account he suggested he could there and then offer me an £800 refund.
Since this saga began, and as you can imagine with bills of hundreds of pounds for data charges, my monthly bills were coming through with between 30 and 40 pages of itemised charges, so early on I had asked to do my billing online. The itemised bills stopped arriving monthly, but I am yet, after 10 months and several attempts at getting it going, able to do anything online. Whenever I enter my mobile number to register, the website tells me the number can’t be found in your records, and to contact customer services, who inform me that ‘it’s not been working for a while, and keep trying’ (by this time, I’d lost all faith in anyone helping me with this). This of course means I now have no way of knowing what the charges are being made for, and much less able to trawl through my past bills to establish what fees had been paid over and above what I should have been charged.
Darren was very apologetic, and agreed that I’d been treated disgracefully. I’ve spent close on five hours on the phone with customer services (or about 30 minutes talking, 4.5 hours on hold) and was losing the will to live, so I agreed with Darren that I’d take the £800 refund just to get this sorted out and save all the hassle – in fact it was a relief that at last someone was willing to do something positive to sort it out. He promised me that the refund would be made into the business account from which bills are paid within 3-5 working days. This should have been by last Friday, and after checking yesterday, I noted that no refund had been made. Yesterday (Wednesday 29th) I called the Hartlepool call centre (I have the direct number for this location so I don’t have to repeat the whole saga each time I call), and left a message for Darren to call me back, as his extension ‘wasn’t signed on’. As of this evening and after three attempts to get a callback, I’ve heard nothing.
This morning, my most recent bill arrived, and it has literally sent me livid. The refund had been made onto the bill, and then taken off again as ‘other charges’, and to add insult to injury, I am still on the extras pack and being charged several hundred pounds for data charges, so it looks like all the above was a complete and utter waste of my time and breath. I am being charged way over the top for the service I require, so much so that I feel I’ve been robbed by Vodafone. I would estimate that my total losses due to being missold and mischarged are well over £1,000 now, and this has gone on too long. Add to this the time and effort I’ve spent trying to fix this problem (I charge my customers £750/day plus VAT for my time, so this has cost me £500 in my time alone thus far) and you can see why I’m absolutely furious at the way I’m being treated. I’m not a small fry customer who spends the bare minimum every month, and I simply can’t understand why no-one will take the actions they promise. Is it corporate policy to charge customers an arm and a leg for services they shouldn’t have been sold, then just ignore them when they try and correct it? From this side, that’s how it seems. I have tried everything I can think of, and it has led me absolutely nowhere.
I am somewhat struggling as I can’t move until the contract expires in October, and I must have this number available for my business, so I’m stuck with being charged a small fortune until someone finally pulls their finger out and does something about it, or I can move over to a new provider.
Now, given that the only step now available is to involve a solicitor, which will cost me even more money, I’ve decided that a more direct course of action is in order. I’ve registered the website name ‘www.vodafone-are-theives.com’ and I will put a somewhat less than polite description of my experience up for everyone to read (please check the site out if you think I’m bluffing). I will then print off several hundred leaflets with a basic version of events on it, as well as a reference to the website, and as my wife enjoys shopping on Saturdays, I will take great pleasure in standing outside your most prominent retail outlets in Reading, Slough and surrounding areas, handing out the leaflets and urging customers entering your stores not to sign up with you, and instead look at O2, Orange and T-Mobile as better alternatives. This may appear excessive to you, but after the way I’ve been treated, I’m thinking this would be somewhat therapeutic for me, as I watch your potential customers look elsewhere. From what I understand, this is an entirely legal course of action, and there’s little or nothing you can do to stop me doing so. I did have visions of raiding a store and grabbing as many products as possible, holding them hostage as you are with my money, but I’m not going to get a criminal record for this. I hope you can see my frustration here – I’m so desperate to find someone who will take some action. I don’t want to make threats, I just want the honest, clearly charged and decent service your website tells me you offer.
Please understand that I don’t want to do this – I chose Vodafone because I wanted great network coverage, fast responses to my business needs and the best possible roaming availability, all of which I think you can offer where the others can’t, but I feel like I have no other choice if this whole mess isn’t sorted out soon. I’m being ignored, lied to, charged excessively and treated with the kind of contempt I’ve not experienced before, and this from a company that claim they’re customer focused!
If anyone needs any clarification, further detail or anything else, I am available on the e-mail and contact numbers below, and will respond immediately if anyone is willing to help, please, please, pretty please, before the lawyers get involved….
With hope but no faith (and can you blame me)…