Thousands of Vodafone customers have been given the opportunity to leave their phone contracts for free after Ofcom found the network was not meeting industry rules.
Earlier this year, the high-street mobile provider introduced a new roaming charge for people travelling to 60 countries outside of the European Union.
This ‘roam-further’ charge changed the way that holidaymakers were going to be paying for their phone bills, but according to Ofcom they did not sufficiently inform customers who could end up out of pocket.
Instead of being charged per text message sent, or call made, pay monthly customers would now be charged a flat fee of five pounds per day, every time they activated roaming abroad.
Obviously this change had the potential to impact customers who, for example, might only use their phone once a day when out of the country, and would expect to pay pennies for a text message rather than pounds.
All customers were informed of the impending changes in a text message between April and May 2017, and a select pool (those Vodafone predicted would be disproportionately affected) were sent a message and a link to their website.
On the website it specified the consumer rights and that they were able to exit the contract without penalty.
How do I leave my contract? Customers who are concerned they have also been affected by the Roam-further charge should contact Vodafone – 03333 040 191 from UK landlines or mobiles (standard call charges apply). Ofcom says if consumers have a complaint about contract changes, they should contact their provider in the first instance.
But, after complaints from customers, Ofcom decided that this message was not sufficient to meet strict rules about this sort of behaviour. They questioned the clarity of the message and whether it had been flagged to everyone concerned.
There were also questions asked about whether Vodafone had met the requirement to give 30 days notice of contract changes to customers.
After being pulled up on the shortcomings by the regulator, Vodafone agreed to send another text to customers who were originally contacted and to an additional group, clearly informing them of their rights in the body of the message.
They also committed to refund customers who had complained about being left shortchanged and updated their processes to ensure a similar problem doesn’t arise in the future.