Angry reader Peter Hurst has slammed the Vodafone mobile network customer service as insensitive and uncaring after he discovered his vulnerable 93-year-old mother’s pay-as- you-go phone had stopped working.
The retired Clanfield lecturer was alarmed to learn her phone had been disconnected without her knowledge and the number recycled despite having a £65 credit remaining on the account.
His mother Joan lives in Bognor and a mobile phone is the family back-up lifeline in case of an emergency.
Peter said his mother’s saga emerged when he was on a regular routine visit.
During the course of conversation it came up that she had become confused when she tried to use the phone and found it wouldn’t work.
Peter said: ‘At the beginning of August we discovered her mobile wasn’t working. She hadn’t used it for some time. She said she would take it into the Bognor Vodafone shop.
‘When I visited a week later, she told me they’d sorted the phone out. I should have checked, but didn’t.
‘On my next visit I checked. After some time we discovered mum had a new phone number, and her £65 credit had gone.
‘Mum had no paperwork and didn’t even know they’d changed her SIM card. When I saw her I asked if her mobile was OK. She told me it was working but when I asked her if she knew what had been done she said she didn’t know.
‘Subsequently I had a chat with Vodafone support online. They said they couldn’t sort it out, but our chat had been recorded and to go to the Bognor Vodafone shop where they’d be able to give my mum her previous number and credit her with the £65.
‘They suggested the shop would be able to restore mum’s previous number, and credit her with the £65. They said they’d be able to read the summary of the chat online.’
When an angry Peter made it to the shop to complain about the indifferent way his mother had been treated and find out precisely what happened, he was given short shrift and an entirely different story.
What upset him most of all was the fact she wasn’t given any paperwork, leaving the entire family in the dark as to why she’d been abruptly disconnected in the first place.
The store confirmed his mum had been provided with a new SIM card and topped up with a £10 bundle, the only usable part was the 199 minutes of phone calls.
After he explained the situation to the staff he asked them to check the online chat, but it wasn’t there and they knew nothing about it.
They suggested he made contact with the firm’s complaints department.
Annoyed at being given the run-around Peter promptly filed an online complaint but was furious when the response was about as persuasive as an Alcoholics Anonymous session in a distillery.
A customer relations officer explained that in common with other networks Vodafone disconnects inactive pay-as-you-go accounts and recycles the numbers. Any credit is automatically lost and can’t be applied to another account.
Peter protested the problem hadn’t been resolved. His 93-year-old mum deserved to be treated with respect and should have been given an explanation when she tried to get her phone fixed. Instead she’d been punished by depriving her of the substantial account credit.
In response Vodafone offered a miserly take-it-or leave-it £10 account credit refund.
An astounded Peter decided it was high time to call in Streetwise to see if we could help.
We got on to Vodafone and expressed the view Peter’s complaint had been handled with a staggering degree of insensitivity and incompetence.
When the venerable Mrs Hurst turned up at the Bognor store seeking help she wasn’t told about the circumstances that led to the disconnection of her phone.
The terms and conditions of service were buried in the firm’s small print, but as she wasn’t given any paperwork when the phone was reconnected to the network she was left totally in the dark about the number change.
Her son Peter only found out when he couldn’t call her and had been given completely incorrect information leading him to believe the phone could be restored to its original settings.
Following our intervention Vodafone were anxious to make amends. They went through their disconnection policy with us, but didn’t explain why Peter’s mother wasn’t told about it when she turned up at the shop.
A spokesperson said: ‘When a phone is inactive, we have no way of knowing whether it’s being kept for emergencies, or has been disposed of for good so we recommend that customers make a chargeable call (not to 191), a chargeable text or make a top-up every two months or so. If you’re keeping a phone for emergencies only, it’s also advisable to check the battery is still charged every now and then too.
‘In this case we would be happy to credit the full £65 to Mrs Hurst’s new number, and we have made her an offer of £50 by way of compensation for any regrettable stress and inconvenience caused.’
An appreciative Peter said: ‘We got a call and an apology and had an admission the situation could have been handled better. The additional compensation for the stress mum had been caused enabled the matter to be closed.
‘Thanks for all you did for our 93-year-old mother. Your input was really appreciated.’