Hanging On The Telephone

Posted: August 19, 2012 in Dummy Spits, Random Stuff

Folks, I have some bad news to share with you, I have been keeping a dark secret, and the time has come to share it.

For quite a while now I have been chased by debt collectors. There, the cats out of the bag. Caution, thrown to the wind…

You see, a few years back I made a bad decision, one that I now, with the benefit of hindsight, deeply regret. I was caught out in a moment of weakness by an unscrupulous salesperson, a carrot was dangled and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I was an idiot, hands up and head bowed, a total fool.

So, what, you may be thinking, was my mistake? What sort of grave error could I have possibly made?

I went into a contract with Vodafone.

Now that may seem silly and stupid to you now, but let me explain the why…

I had been with Vodafone for around 10 years, always paid on time, and was a loyal customer, and a happy customer. I initially had a 24 month contract, but that had expired many years earlier.

I received a call from Vodafone one day. A salesperson looking to put me on a plan and lock me in.

I had 2 phones on the network on one account, so I was paying for 2 plans each month.

Unfortunately, after much abuse, mistreatment, and utter neglect, my Blackberry had seen far better days indeed, and the promise of 2 shiny new iPhones sounded like quite a tempting offer. So, my soul was sold, 2 iPhones were in the post, and I had 24 months to go on my new contract.

A Blackberry in a similar state of disarray to mine

At the time, I did not envisage ever changing from Vodafone, I was completely happy with their service for the previous 10 years.

Things were soon to change. Drastically.

About 6 months into the contract, and there is no other way to say it, Vodafone’s network turned to crap, in a major way. For 3 months I tolerated it, I rang and was told that they were upgrading the network, I was given discounts, promises, and migraines.

One of the things about working for yourself, being based at home, and doing a job which is reliant on making and taking phone calls, is a phone that works is essential. In order for my new iPhone to work properly, it required reception. Alas, this was not going to be forthcoming it seemed.

Vodafone offered some solutions, good ones too. Like crossing my fingers, moving house, and to switch my phone to 2G instead of 3G. Keep paying for the 3G service, but just not get any of the functionality, that seemed like a good deal. Unfortunately for the whiz kids at Vodafone customer service, the 2G network where I live was crap too.

You may be wondering what rural town I live in where the reception is so bad. I live in a little place in NSW you may have heard of, it’s called Sydney, Australia’s most heavily populated city. I live in the Hills Shire, the largest growth area of the largest city in the country. Maybe Vodafone missed us on the map?

One of the options Vodafone forgot to mention

This is when I decided that I needed to quit my contract and seek a network that actually provided reception. That was easier said than done.

I tried many times to leave my contract without penalty, but to no avail. Eventually, I got jack of it and headed up to the local Vodafone shop with trouble in mind.

The girl at the Vodafone store at Rouse Hill was brilliant, and I actually mean that. She had been struggling to meet their sales targets and totally understood my predicament. You see, it’s hard to sell phone plans in a store that does not have reception on the network you sell…

Funnilly enough, this was arounfd the time Malcolm Turnbull was telling us about his mixed bag wireless alternative to the National Broadband Network. Turnbull thought he could get huge broadband speeds via wireless to far away rural comminities.

Hard to believe when considering that the worlds largest Telecommunications giant couldn’t even get a decent 3G Network going in our biggest city….

Anyway, she managed to get hold of someone capable of making a decision, my contract was cancelled and overnight post bags were sent for me to return the phones. I would owe no money once I returned the phones.

I sent the phones back once the bags arrived, got a new contract with Telstra, and thought no more of it.

A couple of months later a phone bill arrived from Vodafone for about $1400. Not particularly bothered’ I rang Vodafone to clear up the misunderstanding. After being transferred around the world a few times, I finally spoke to someone who assured me that everything was fixed, they had received the phones, and had now cancelled the bill. Job done.

Or so I thought.

This had all happened about 3 years ago, so I naturally assumed all was sorted.

Then, about 18 months ago I received a call from a debt collection agency. Apparently, I now owed $2200 for my old plans.

After many hours on hold, talking in circles, and repeating myself countless times to what seemed like the entire Vodafone staff, I finally, after 3 days, managed to have the debt collection agency deal with Vodafone. Once again, I was assured that the issue was resolved once and for all.

Guess what?

Last week I was once again called, by a different debt collection agency this time, about my debt which is now apparently over $3000. I told the lady that I was sick of this, and I was not paying.

I was told that if I didn’t pay that she would have to escalate the call, my response to this was “Great, please do, I want this escalated to someone who can fix it.” Clearly this had been a hollow threat to start with, as there was nobody for her to escalate the call to apparently.

In frustration, I called Vodafone, and after being transferred all over town for 2 hours, guess where I ended up? You guessed it, back at the collection agency.

On Wednesday at 11am, I was told by the debt collectors that I would receive a call back within the hour, by a manager. It’s now Sunday, so I’m assuming that either their clock is rather slow, or the call is not coming.

I’m now considering invoicing Vodafone for my time, then sending debt collectors after them.

In the meantime, I wrote this post with 2 hopes in mind. I hope that this may just save someone else the pain, stress and humiliation of dealing with Vodafone. I also hope this goes somewhat viral and finds its way to someone at Vodafone who may actually be able to fix this mess.

Rest assured, I will provide updates via the comments and on my Facebook profile.

Don’t hold your breath for good news.

Comments
  1. Lynnie says:

    I’d do it. I’ll bet they pay attention then

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Been there done that….. only I had Telstra chasing me for a plan that I didn’t even have with them ! Took me months of talking to lots of different people who assured me they had fixed ‘their’ error only for a bigger bill to turn up the next month. Finally found a young lady who was very helpful and made some one fix it while she was still on the phone. Good luck you are probably going to need it.

  3. Catching up says:

    I fear if problems arise, your experience with Telstra will be little better,

    • scotto says:

      Can’t agree enough. I swore off Telstra more than 10 years ago after a prolonged farce which comprised their voicemail service not working, many complaints by me, being hung up on by about 50% of their helpline staff, …….. and finally an embarrassed admission by a techie that there was indeed a problem with the voicemail.

  4. Lizzie says:

    Wixxy

    Same story at our end, ongoing for about 18 months from the first call – send your blog to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. With no resolution in sight with Vodafone I emailed the TO and it was resolved in days……….

    • wixxy says:

      Cheers Lizzie, I will do that…

      • murray says:

        Completely agree. The telecommunication ombudsman actually have some teeth.Had similar pains with Dodo a few years ago. After lengthy arguing, as soon as i mentioned their name i was able to cancel no problems.

  5. Rob Alan says:

    Did the same as Lizzie regarding a series of dud phones Telstra supplied. Had no phone for nine months whilst Telstra kept messing us about with warenty rituals. We were still being charged for the service we couldn’t use. Ombudsman was our last resort but did work out in the end.

    No appollogy for treating us like garbage nor was there any replacement for the known bad phone model but the Ombudsman did get us a refund on service charge not usable for that nine months.

    Looking at offshore sat phone network right now. The cost is higher but at least I might be able to make a simple phone call.

  6. hayzeee says:

    The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is a fast, free and fair dispute resolution service for small business and residential consumers … You must have tried to resolve your issue with the telco’s consumer complaints area first though…(seems done)… You can submit your complaint on-line at tio.com.au
    I handled a matter for a relative who had a small retail business…the telco involved was ordered to pay over $3k for business disruption, plus a daily penalty that escalated day by day until a satisfactory service (similar to previous) was restored. This was all many years ago but give them a go…the only hurdle you might face is if they try to say that the matter is not still in the hands of the telco but a debt recovery business…don’t accept it…restate that the service provider broke the contract with youwhen they failed to deliver the promised service advertised to you.
    Good luck.

  7. janet simpson says:

    Try the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Telcos hate it, because the TIO charges them to fix their problems – and collects stats on them.

    (Trust me , I’m a financial counsellor, and this is far from unique).

    Janet Simpson

  8. Heather says:

    Hmmm I also live in a ‘bad spot’ (in the middle of Melbourne). I recently managed to pull out of a Vodaphone contract due to very poor reception (am now with OPTUS- which so far is good). Are you telling me I may expect a debt collector’s letter within the next year or so?

    • wixxy says:

      My advice, hold onto all correspondence, if you die at the age of 108, leave the correspondence for your Great Grandkids. I hope it doesn’t happen to you. Good luck

  9. rodfairgo says:

    Luckily, I have retained Telstra, who mostly seem to compete, sometimes belatedly. Sympathise with your frustration, and hope the migraines don’t continue. Australia needs you and your phone. Regards

  10. Stephen Tuck says:

    Hi Wixxy
    Had much the same experience. Was a long time Nodafone user and most of the problems started with the formation of Vodafone Hutchison Australia. Prior to the sell out or merger of Vodafone with Hutchison I support them 100% after when all the problems started it became a never ending downhill slide. I spent 9 months trying to resolve issues before giving them the flick due to a complete lack of results. Luckily I was only a prepaid customer so the dump was easy. Then I got about 6 months of “special” deals to entice me back. They really objected to my use of Nodafone on twitter.
    Best of luck

  11. Ern Mallee says:

    I was a senior network engineer with Vodafone for years until they decided that getting their hands dirty by operating a mobile network was beneath them. They were better than that because they were a “brand”.
    They outsourced all of their engineering functions to cut-price cowboy outfits and just concentrated on marketing and sponsoring car races.
    They always tried to get by with a shoe-string network even before their big outsourcing push but now there’s no-one left within the company capable of even comprehending a technical problem.
    Doubtful that they’ll fix your coverage but you might get a good deal on a Grand Prix ticket.

  12. Terry says:

    Telstra did me over.
    Changed address 2 years ago, notified telstra to disconnect and advised new address, Service was fast, old address off within 24hours, new address on within 48 hours, when we got our first monthly account at the new address, Just simply paid the bill, as we needed a land line as the missus has a lot of health issues, and we needed the doctors, hospitals etc, to be in easy touch. After 3 bills I had a good look at them and realised we were being charged for 2 line rentals, the old address and the new address. After much complaining and getting nowhere, I wrote to their complaints dept, and copy to general manager, etc, and refused to pay. They cut the phone off.
    Then they contacted and said they’d made a blue, I asked for it in writing, and they apologised in writing, stating it was their mistake, but because after the adjustment, that we still owed $157 in calls, they would reconnect, free of charge, when we paid the outstanding amount.
    By now we’ve gone all pre paid mobile ( not telstra). So they can shove their bill.

    And to top it off they reported us as a bad debtor, they can get stuffed.

  13. Florence says:

    The Ombudsman is the way to go Wixxy , don’t be duckshoved by their incompetence handling of your issue. Very often in these situation there is no one they can escalate to , and they have scripting prepared to respond to every question , and the frusstration in having to re-repeat the whole story because there is no formal dispute resolution process in place.

    You need to be also aware that once it gets to the debt collectors stage, it may be beyond the 90 day bill cycle it may adversely affect your credit score , and overall CRAA record.They are merciless with credit scoring so better to go to Ombudsman sooner rather then later be dealing with incompetent telco call-centre bureacracy.

  14. oscar jones says:

    The ombudsman is pretty good on these matters but Vodafone are a shocker.

    Here is one thing you can do and remember :Vodafone no doubt are adding the fibs to your credit file.

    I had the same problem with both Vodafone & the old Yellow Pages lot in the past. Both pursued me via debt collectors (you get no sense fro debt collectors-best ignored).

    I let them take me to court-they do these in bulk in magistrates court. represented myself and their solicitor is never prepared for this as they simply cannot be as they are pushing thru 50 that day.

    Their response is to drop the matter and hope you will walk away. Not so for me: I demanded my costs plus all costs associated with their rat baggery. You will always have a sympathetic magistrate as you have helped relieve the boredom of the day.

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