Thursday, November 15, 2012

More arrogance and irresponsibility from Vodafone

They issued a woman a phone that they admitted: "wasn't compatible with their network".  I ditched Vodafone long ago.  Only if lots more do likewise might we get some decency from them.  It's a British company so that tells you most of what you need to know about arrogance and contempt for the public -- JR

EVE Gatt has battled with her HTC Desire smartphone for almost two years.  Ms Gatt said the phone, issued by her network provider Vodafone, would never last an entire conversation - dropping out constantly and freezing at random times.

She put up with it and paid her $50 bill every month until last week when the phone cut out and froze at a time when she desperately needed it.

The phone malfunction inadvertently led to her puppy Emma being hit by a car and killed.

"Emma managed to dig her way out of the backyard and under the fence," she said.  "Luckily my neighbour got her and took her home to my daughter. While I was on the phone to him to pass on instructions to my daughter not to let the dog outside until I got home, the phone cut out and froze."

Emma got away and was hit by a car and killed. "I couldn't do anything. I felt so helpless and now Emma is dead. She would still be here if it wasn't for that stupid phone," Ms Gatt said.

She said Emma, a three-year-old long-haired chihuahua, was a "cheeky little thing" the family had saved from an animal rescue shelter.

"She was gorgeous. Just looking at her melted my heart," she said.   "It didn't take long for her to become part of our family."

After repeated attempts to contact Vodafone about her phone troubles, the telco eventually said the phone, which they issued to Ms Gatt, "wasn't compatible with their network".

A Vodafone spokeswoman said they would not pay the $1852 medical bill but Ms Gatt had been offered a brand new HTC phone and has had her bill halved since Emma's death.

"We want every customer to have the best experience possible and I'm sorry to hear this has not been the case," the Vodafone spokeswoman told Public Defender.

"We responded as soon as we were aware of the customer's concerns and have now provided the customer with an upgraded handset that is compatible with our new network."


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vodafone "fix" a failure

"Better, faster, stronger than before." That's what Vodafone says of its mobile network in advertising material on billboards and its website.

It comes about eight months after customers began to notice something wasn't quite right and when they started to post their problems with the network to the online broadband forum Whirlpool. Problems included thousands experiencing dropped calls, reception issues and poor data performance.

But, according to the Australian blog Lifehacker, which recently tested the telco's network in an area that Vodafone said it had upgraded, the network still isn't up to scratch. Editor Angus Kidman said network improvements didn't "seem to be making much difference".

At first, the company blamed software as the cause of two separate issues that caused slow 3G data transfer. But customers continued to complain of poor performance, leading the telco to apologise in February this year and announce it would bring forward an upgrade of its network, adding 1500 base stations over 12 months to cope with a sharp increase in data use.

Amid the customer outcry, a class action suit was proposed, which now has more than 20,000 applicants, and was formed, a site dedicated to expressing dissatisfaction with the carrier. Thousands of customers - reaching about 100,000 a month - have churned away to another provider.

A music video was even created, chastising the telco for the network problems.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vodafone customers voting with their feet

OPTUS and Telstra have divvied up the gains from customers leaving Vodafone Hutchison Australia, with both carriers recording strong growth in post-paid mobile customers in the March quarter.

Optus said yesterday it gained 151,000 post-paid mobile customers in the three months ended March. The result was steady on the last quarter and slightly higher than the same period a year ago. The new figures were released ahead of today's full-year financial report from Optus parent Singapore Telecommunications.

Optus added 570,000 mobile customers in the year ended March, up 7 per cent on last year. But Telstra, after an aggressive pricing campaign, continues to lead the pack, signing up 1.2 million new mobile subscribers in the nine months ended March.

The gains by Optus and Telstra have come at the expense of VHA, especially in the March quarter. Goldman Sachs analyst Christian Guerra said VHA's net loss of 150,000 mobile customers in the quarter was worse than expected. VHA added 142,000 mobile customers in the December half but it is thought customers began deserting the carrier as their plans expired because of poor network performance which has received widespread coverage.

In the lucrative post-paid segment, VHA lost 224,000 mobile customers in the March quarter but added 94,000 pre-paid subscribers which means it suffered a net loss of 130,000.

In a bid to stem defections, VHA began further subsidising the cost of handsets on post-paid plans. In contrast, Telstra and Optus have both reduced subsidies on handsets in a bid to manage margins. "The flood of subscribers deserting VHA is resulting in an easing in competitive intensity," Mr Guerra noted.

In April, as part of a new suite of mobile plans, Telstra introduced a plan priced at $59 a month to rival Optus's highly successful product.

Optus also recorded a healthy rise in customers' use of wireless broadband products in the quarter.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Customers leaving Vodafone peaks at about 90k a month

CUSTOMER growth at Telstra is slowing after it picked up nearly a million customers in the final three months of last year, while Vodafone said that earlier this year it was losing nearly 100,000 customers a month.

Vodafone's churn rate, the pace at which customers leave a company, peaked in February at just over 2 per cent for post-paid customers - those on contract - but it was falling to more common levels of about 1.8 per cent, the chief executive, Nigel Dews, said yesterday.

In customer numbers, that means about 90,900 post-paid customers left Vodafone in February for other mobile providers, when its reputation for customer and network services were at a nadir.

Mr Dews said complaint levels had declined to the same level as in November, which was before dissatisfied customers launched a class action against the company. "All metrics are improving and we're really well and truly into the recovery phase from a performance point of view," he said.

Churn levels of 1.8 per cent per month are similar to those of other large carriers like Optus and Telstra.

However, Vodafone may have lost some of its more valuable customers, the research director, Foad Fadaghi, at Telsyte, said. "All carriers experience churn, but the question is whether [Vodafone] has lost its high-value post-paid customers, that rely more on data services than just voice and SMS," he said.

Mr Dews said Vodafone was still likely to see some effect from network problems but customer numbers were steadying. Additional call-centre staff had cost Vodafone "single-digit millions", he said. He also announced that the mobile phone company had been approved as a retail seller of NBN Co's fixed-line network.

The Telstra chief executive, David Thodey, confirmed yesterday that the company was expecting to pay a fully franked dividend of 28¢ for the full year after flat sales and a single-digit decline in pre-tax earnings.

He revealed that Telstra had signed up 364,000 mobile customers in the first three months of the year, compared with 555,000 new customers in the last quarter of last year.

Vodafone lost 244,000 customers in that time. Fixed retail broadband customers fell from 80,000 additions in late last year to 47,000 additions in the first quarter this year.

Analysts at RBS said Telstra was likely to beat its customer estimates for the full year and see stronger than expected revenue growth from mid next year.

The Goldman Sachs analyst Christian Guerra said Telstra had benefited from Vodafone's loss and the momentum gained from last year's price-cutting and customer subsidies.

"Telstra appears to be confident of pulling costs out of other parts of the business to offset the continued increase in mobile subscriber acquisition costs, driven by the strong post-paid sub growth," he wrote in a note to clients.

Telstra shares closed 3¢ higher at $2.92, the highest price since February 18.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vodafone 'main reason' for telco complaint increase

Vodafone customer complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in the last quarter have risen by 96 per cent when compared to the previous quarter, the telco ombudsman revealed today.

Overall complaints for the quarter have risen over 30 per cent to just under 60,000 new complaints, and a spokeswoman for the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, says the telco industry needs to do better at resolving complaints in the first instance.

The news comes on the day Vodafone is due to hold its Annual General Meeting in North Sydney.

Between January and March Vodafone customers made a whopping 14,670 new complaints to the TIO, an increase of 96 per cent from the previous quarter.

But it wasn't just Vodafone which had an increase in complaints on the last quarter, the ombudsman said. Most large service providers had an increase in complaints too. But the ombudsman did not reveal those figures in its findings.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) today pushed for Australian regulators to adopt tough new regulations for the telco industry. It said the complaints stats showed 2010-11 was destined to be the worst financial year on record for Australian telecommunications customers.

"The industry will point the finger at Vodafone and say, yet again, that there is no problem. The truth of the matter is that complaints about customer service and complaint-handling issues continue to climb across the board," said ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin.

"The ACMA announced a major inquiry in March last year called Reconnecting the Customer, to address customer service and complaint-handling issues that were spiralling out of control back in 2008. Now – right when the ACMA is set to release its recommendations from the inquiry – the industry produces its highest number of complaints in a quarter.

"This disastrous result at such a critical time would be laughable if the impact of this industry's inability to get it right didn't affect so many millions of Australians every single day. Communication services are vital and every telco customer in Australia has a horror story about dealing with telco providers – no matter who you have a service with."

Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said rising complaints were the reason the government released a discussion paper evaluating whether the TIO was equipped to continue to deal with complaints. Submissions are on the department's website.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority is also working through its Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry, while the industry is also revising its self-regulatory Consumer Protection Code. "The government is considering whether new protections that enhance the well-being of consumers are needed," Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said.

In total, 59,532 new complaints were made to the ombudsman in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 31 per cent on the previous quarter.

"The main reason for the continuing increase has been complaints about Vodafone, and its well publicised mobile coverage and customer service issues," the second edition of the TIO Talks newsletter, released today, said [PDF]. "New complaints against Vodafone were highest in January 2011, with some decrease recorded in February and then March 2011."

Ombudsman Simon Cohen said the TIO had “never received so many complaints". "We received increased complaints about landlines, internet services and a 50 per cent increase in mobile telephone complaints. Additionally, most categories of complaint – including billing, faults, contracts and credit management – increased.”

Cohen cited credit management issues as a "key problem area" for the telecommunications industry, after the busiest quarter for new TIO complaints on record.

"Credit management issues are often a result of consumers who don’t understand the service they have contracted for, or the charges they will incur," the TIO said in a statement alongside Cohen's comments. "These consumers receive bills that are too expensive to afford. As a result, their services may be disconnected or suspended, and their details lodged with a credit reporting agency."

Cohen said telephone and internet companies needed to "do more to make sure consumers are given the right information up front, and provided the right tools to monitor their usage and charges".


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vodafone hit by contract terminations over poor service

VODAFONE'S contract fee structure could be hurt by the growing number of customers terminating their monthly payments because of poor coverage. The telco is being pummelled by complaints on social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter and local site Vodafail. Some customers said they were released from contracts after repeatedly complaining.

Under pressure from these infrastructure problems and from a proposed Australiawide class action, Vodafone seems to be giving in to customer demands.

The latest customer outpourings were on Sunday and yesterday, after another embarrassing network glitch. The failure, on Easter Sunday, meant customers could not make calls or send and receive text messages. "From 14:30 AEST 24/04/2011 to 21:34 AEST 24/04/2011 users may have experienced difficulties in sending SMS," Vodafone acknowledged. "We apologise to customers for the inconvenience."

Last year, more than 1200 poor reception areas were logged along the east coast on the Vodafail website, set up by Sydney software engineer Adam Brimo while he was waiting on hold for Vodafone customer support.

On Facebook yesterday, the group "Can we find 1 million people who will never use Vodafone (again)?" included stories from customers released from contracts or granted reduced payments. "I have been complaining since January," one customer wrote yesterday. "They offered three months half-price, and that the problem will be fixed end of March, beginning of April." The customer said Vodafone had offered another three months coverage at half-price.

A Vodafone spokeswoman said all customers will be able to text free-of-charge on May 1 from 8am to 8pm to compensate for the outage -- a technical fault in the core network. It was resolved around 9.15pm on Sunday.

Vodafone would examine options for customers suffering from poor coverage in areas with no scheduled upgrade planned in future, she said.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vodafone turns on the charm again

About a year or so ago I got a mobile broadband plan from Crazy Johns. I asked the sales person if there was good coverage in my area as I wanted to replace my ADSL as it was costing a lot of money. She told me that there was excellent coverage. I asked her about speeds and she assured me that it was as fast as, if not faster than my ADSL.

I attempted to use the service and was disappointed to find that it just wouldn't work. After several frustrating calls to their tech support I was told that it must be my fault. I followed their instructions and pleaded with them to come and see for themselves. They refused. There just simply was no reception, anywhere in my house. At most there was 1 bar of EDGE reception that would appear occasionally but not for long enough to connect for more than a few minutes and the best download speed I ever reached was something like 20bps, that's BPS, not KBPS.

I asked them to cancel the service, and I was told that their people would contact me. Surprise, they never did. A couple months passed and I called again to confirm that they'd canceled the service. The man on the phone told me he could not tell me anything til I paid the past few months balance. I was annoyed but he gauranteed it would be refunded anyway as the service didn't work and that this was just a formality. I paid it via credit card and was again told that they'd be in touch regarding any issues with the cancellation.

I never heard from them again. My mobile phone is with Vodafone, so they know my phone number, they could've called me if there was any issues.

This morning I get a call from an overseas number and straight up the woman asked for my full name, date of birth and address. I told her I don't hand these out to random international callers. She said she worked for NRG solutions on behalf of Vodafone for debt recovery. I was confused because my Vodafone bill for my mobile is fine. I gave her my details and she told me I owed over $900 for the broadband service. I was shocked.

I explained to her that I'd been assured the service would be canceled a long time ago. She told me if I wanted to place a hold on the account, I'd have to pay $90 right now, of course I said no. I told her there was no way known on this planet I was going to pay for a service I never received and had canceled. I told her I'd already paid too much for it as it was! She said I'd need to provide written proof that it was canceled and of course I've never received a letter from them. I told her the proof was that the service was never successfully used and there'd be logs of my calls canceling the service. She stated that this wasn't enough and that collection proceedings will commence immediately. I asked her to get vodafone to call me, she said I have to call them but they'd just tell me to call NRG solutions.

Great. So now I have a bad debt record for a service that never bloody worked.

From another reader

I had similar frustrations with Vodafone for many months, finally going to the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman). That got a response after 10 days (they had to respond within 10 days). I got a poor compromise, they refused to budge on cancelling my mobile phone contract even though I said the coverage according to their maps was misleading (it said there was coverage in the area when I repeatedly found there wasn't.) I finally wrote a letter to the CEO Nigel Dews which prompted a person from Vodafone to call me, and I finally got a satisfactory resolution. If you want to send him a letter his address is:

Mr Nigel Dews
Vodafone Hutchison Australia
Level 7, 40 Mount St
North Sydney NSW 2060