Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Vodafone Blues

Sometime back my eldest daughter moved to Brisbane to study IT.

The best accommodation she could find didn't have internet access and she really needed it for her course, so we went looking for mobile Broadband. We found a Vodafone shop in Brookside Shopping Centre where a gilded youth talked us into a deal which involved a two-year contact, and an assurance that it would work in "Metropolitan Areas".

I explained that there was a strong possibility that my daughter would move once she found more suitable digs, and asked for an assurance that I could use the service both in Toowoomba (where I'm based) and as I traveled around in my work in South West Queensland.

In hindsight, I think his gilded youth’s knowledge of his own state was limited to what he'd seen 50 kilometres north or south of the Brisbane CBD, so his assurances about coverage were about as reliable as a 30 year-old Peugeot I once owned. Places like Charleville, St George, Roma and Goondiwindi were well beyond his ken, even though he was happy to assure me that I could use access from them.

Given these assurances I signed up. I've always assumed that people working for large corporations tell the truth, and had no idea that this was a false assumption when it came to Vodafone.

Armed with the hardware, my daughter headed off to set it up. Monthly fees would be deducted automatically from my account until my daughter found her feet financially. I drove back to Toowoomba believing she was right to go online.

Not so.

She phoned me a few days later to say she couldn't get it to work. Now she is pretty IT-savvy, so this surprised me. When I had a free day, I drove down the range to Brisbane and had a go at making the system work.

No dice.

There was nothing for it but to go back to the gilded youth at Brookside. He wasn't there any more. Given the codswallop he'd told me, it may have had something to do with customer complaints, but that’s another story.

The problem was straightforward. Old Mate had taken my money, but hadn't remembered to enter my account details on whatever piece of software Vodafone use to register users. As far as it was concerned I was a non-customer. This was remedied (without anything resembling an apology – despite the cost to me of a day and a 300km round trip) and daughter had internet – of a sort. It dropped out incessantly, and there were times of the day when it never worked.

In time, she found better accommodation with ADSL access, and I loaded the software into my laptop to see if it worked in Toowoomba.

It didn't.

I then took it out west on my next work trip. It didn't work anywhere (Goondiwindi, St George, Roma or Charleville). Why was I not surprised?

I consigned the whole sad saga to my desk drawer for the last eight months, but eventually got jack of paying out $41 a month for nothing at all. $41 a month is near enough to $500 a year that I was effectively donating to the Vodafone Benevolent Society.

I phoned their customer service number and after being ticked off because I'd forgotten the PIN (which they volunteered anyway) was told that I would continue to be billed, despite not receiving a service, for the rest of the contract. Oh… I could buy out of the contract for $325.

To put it simply, I was being charged for a service that was not available to me, and would have to shell out to get out of the contract. When I objected, I was given a stern lecture about reading the small print, needing to understand that the contract did not guarantee a service, and that I would be hearing from Dunn and Bradstreet should I get stroppy and refuse to pay for a service I couldn’t access.

I could always move to Brisbane.

The last time I felt intimidated was in Vietnam in 1970 by earnest little men carrying AK47s. Now I'm sure the good advocates in Dunn & Bradstreet are earnest, but I doubt they carry AK47s.

I decided that Vodafone would not get another cent of my hard-earned. I've never been prepared to go along with unethical practice, whether it shows its ugly mug in business or personal affairs, and I'm not going to start now.

My next stop was the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). I registered my complaint with them at the same time as I sent an invoice to Vodafone for my time in returning to Brisbane to fix the initial problem.

In the fullness of time, I received an email from someone in Tasmania on behalf of Vodafone. It said that if I posted the CD and hardware back to them, all further charges would be waived.

I did so, and have received no more bills.

There are two lessons in this for me. The first one is not to believe anything a salesperson working for a Telco tells you. They’re much more focused on sales than equipment performance and service.

The second is to stand up to the corporation, irrespective of size, if you know you’re right. In the end they will get away with what they can, as it’s the bottom line, not ethics, that calls the tune.


Anonymous said...

MMM good on you for sharing your Telco woes....I will be in the market for mobile internet in the next few months, as my 2 year contract with the Pond expires....yippee - will keep your experience in mind.

In the same vein, I bought a handheld carpet wash/vac from Ausvac (who dont sell that great a range of vacs and you would think that if the person flogging it owned one would know). Anyways,she told me it did something it wouldnt - I learnt my lesson then....

Research, research, research is the only answer - oh and to read the fine print! (who does?)

Cheers......Kim (Hosky)

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys,
Good on you all, we must give them hell, if we let them away with it, THEY WILL GET AWAY WITH IT.

I had the same problems with Vodafone (internet Broadband) although it went through a distributor (Rabtel), I cant remember the exact details at this stage, but I couldnt get the service to work in any city in Australia!!
so I bitched like a crazy horse to both Rabtel & Vodafone, I did manage to beat early contract fees, but the time I put in to it cost me more, but I dont believe in letting them away with it,

Anyway unfortunately I am back with Telstra, because they are the only ones that have good mobile broadband, if anywone know a better service please do let me know.

Bring back power to the people and stand up for what you beleive.

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