Vodafone fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws

The most complained about telecoms provider Vodafone has been fined £4.6m by Ofcom for “serious and sustained breaches of consumer protection rules”.

Ofcom undertook two investigations lasting 18 months. The first was started on June 15th 2015. Following its investigation, Ofcom decided to issue Vodafone with a notification under s96A of the Communications Act 2003 (the “Act”) on 15 April 2016 as they had reasonable grounds to believe that it had contravened consumer law between 26 May 2011 and 28 September 2015.

Vodafone provided written representations to Ofcom on 1 July 2016. Ofcom and Vodafone entered into settlement discussions and on 24 October 2016 Vodafone wrote to Ofcom admitting its liability in relation to the nature, scope and duration of the contraventions.

In a second investigation, Ofcom were found not to have procedures, effective to “ensure” the fair and timely resolution of complaints, to clearly established timeframes; and not securing, a Written Notification (details of a dispute resolution scheme) was sent to customers if a Complaint remained unresolved after 8 weeks and no relevant exceptions applied. The investigation took place between 1 January 2014 and 5 November 2015 and Vodafone were fined £925,000.

As a result of these failings, two penalties have today been imposed against Vodafone: £3,700,000 for taking pay-as-you-go customers’ money without providing a service in return; and £925,000 for the flaws in its complaints handling processes.

The penalties incorporate a 7.5% reduction to reflect Vodafone’s agreement to enter into a formal settlement, which will save public money and resources. As part of this agreement, Vodafone admits the breaches. It has also reimbursed all customers who faced financial loss, but for 30 it could not identify, it made a donation of £100,000 to charity.

The money, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

The substantial fine sends out a message to telecoms companies that these breaches in consumer law, not ensuring adequate staff training and treating customers badly will not be tolerated. Telecoms companies need to up their game instead of continuing to be the bottom of the pile when it comes to customer service.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the website CEOemail.com which provides the email addresses for any CEO, has seen a rise over the last few years of people searching for telecoms CEOs. He says “I’ve seen a steady increase in people seeking to complain to the CEO of Vodafone when customer services has failed them. As a communications company they must work to improve their own customer communications, which are frequently unclear and confusing.“

So what do you do if you need to complain about a telecoms provider?

  • Keep evidence and write wherever possible. Laws around recording calls are unclear and complicated so you may not be able to use them in court should you need to do so
  • Refer to the correct consumer law. (Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 covers mis-selling)
  • Ensure you set a deadline for response and tell them what you will do if not satisfied
  • Write to the CEO, who is unlikely to respond in person but the complaint will be escalated
  • Ask for a deadlock letter. If the complaint is still not resolved then take the complaint to either of the Telecoms Ombudsmen: CISAS or Ombudsman Services

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers everything you need to know about laws etc when complaining.

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Vodafone were in the news earlier in the year:

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4 Responses to Vodafone fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws

  1. Anne says:

    Wouldn’t recommend CISAS at all. Tried using them a few months back because of local ‘broadband’ consistently and over years failing to provide a service which even meets the minimum accepted definition of broadband. CISAS promptly tried to sell me paid for dispute resolution services. When I complained they blamed it on someone who had left the company and they then totally ignored the complaint I had raised. There is no one to raise a complaint with after something like this happens.

    Classic example of why a public service such as regulation of a utility is not an asset to be sold or given away to a pseudo legal commercial organisation. If the function is to be farmed out, it should be done as an outsourcing arrangement with clear remit and sanctions, not abdication of responsibility as is happening at the moment.

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      I’ve used CISAS a couple of times won both but their administration was dire second time round.

      Regarding your second point. Absolutely, after ombudsman nowhere to go to complain about ombudsman. A point made in the report My co author and I made in Ombudsman Omnishambles. Think you should take a look at the article and link to report within it. Be interested in your comments. Feel free to rant and/or elaborate in the comments there.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    My mum is 89 and has been without her landline phone for seven days. I have contacted Sky on their accessible line who promise response within 24hrs max, but who did nothing for four days. I contacted them further after 36 hours and they refused to speak to me. I had explained my mum didn’t have their phone number and I had given her a mobile to use. I gave both the number and asked them to contact her on the mobile and arrange an engineer, but nobody bothered. I contacted them again on the normal line and contact form, but still nothing. On Thursday there was still no calls and mum was upset. I can’t have her out of contact as she is frail and could fall. I contacted the accessible customer services again and also filled out a form and asked for it to be escalated. Today, still no response or call so I complained to the next level. This evening no response so I contacted them again and pushed. I got an online twerp asking for my mother’s online security to see if her phone is registered. What? My mum pays line rental and talk to these idiots and they can’t escalate her complaint without online security? Mum doesn’t have any online security with Sky as she doesn’t know what a computer is. I got rid of the useless twerp and contacted his boss. Mum finally got a call from someone in charge of accessible customer services and an engineer is going out next Tuesday. This is really not good enough and it will then be 9 or 10 days, no phone service.

    Mum has had to sit by a spare mobile that she can barely use for four days straight waiting for an engineer or customer service person to call. She has had to make expensive calls on my mobile when on her talk package they are included. What are my mum’s rights as a disabled elderly phone service user and what redress can I claim for on her behalf? A phone is essential for my mum as Careline are on there and she didn’t even have someone contact her. I am livid. The engineer is coming on Tuesday next week.

    Thanks in advance.

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