The $5,000 roaming bill blues

Dealing with Vodafone is like dealing with a blancmange, says disgruntled customer

A Wellington business woman’s experience of the widely publicised Vodafone Vodem is hardly a great endorsement of the new product. She received a bill of nearly $5,000 for two day’s occasional usage in Australia, and when she asked for written details was subsequently told Vodafone was cutting off her service for non-payment. The telco did just that — despite never having issued a physical bill.

Stephanie Guigou, principal of International Systems, bought the Vodem on October 17, then signed a roaming agreement for a late October trip to Brisbane. She says she was told the cost would be NZ$10 a megabyte for the Australian usage. However, she made the mistake of connecting to a Vodafone partner there, rather than Vodafone, and the rate jumped to NZ$30 a megabyte.

The first she knew of the near $5,000 bill was when a telesales person rang her to review her contract and mentioned the outstanding amount. She was then connected to Vodafone’s accounts department, which confirmed the size of the bill.

“I asked for a detailed written breakdown and was told I would have that within 48 hours,” she says. “A week later they rang me back to say the bill was correct. I again asked for a written breakdown, and the next communication was a call on November 15 saying they were cutting off my service.” Outgoing calls were cut off later that day.

Guigou went to the shop which supplied the Vodem and got a partial printout of the Australian usage. It showed a bill of $87 for unspecified time on October 25, then $2,000 for 69MB of usage later that day. Usage on October 26 was shown at 36MB for 24 minutes ($1,079), and 46MB for $1,346.

But while in Australia she had monitored her Vodem usage, which showed she had used only 5MB. Computerworld has seen that usage printout for October and can confirm the 5MB figure.

A Vodafone spokeswoman says Guigou was advised on November 8 of the high usage and was cut off on November 15 because she had not written to dispute the amount. But Guigou says she was not told until November 15 that she had to write to Vodafone.

“Besides, without any information from them what was I going to dispute?” she says. “I haven’t received a physical bill from them and, as a director of my company, I can’t pay bills without an invoice. Dealing with Vodafone is like dealing with a blancmange.”

The Vodafone spokesperson says unusual usage is treated on a case by case basis and that within the terms and conditions of the contract, the company can restrict service if it regards the activity as unusual.

Guigou has been a Vodafone customer for more than five years.

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