No connection for new Vodafone numbers

Your call cannot be connected at the moment

Vodafone’s new eight digit numbering plan is being rejected by some PBX systems and equipment owners are having to foot the bill to fix the problem.

The cellphone company introduced the new extended numbers in August to cope with increasing demand, in particular for prepay accounts. It claims to have warned relevant industry partners, although it admits that it isn’t telling those buying the phones about the potential problem.

“Early in the project we identified that there may be an issue with the ability of PBXs to recognise the full eight-digit number,” says Vodafone’s communications executive Sarah Rogan. “We informed PBX vendors and advised them to check with their customers to see if their switches need to be updated. [We thought] this was the most direct way we could communicate. We encourage businesses to speak directly to their vendor if they have any concerns.”

PBXs can handle numbers in excess of eight digits but some need to be updated to cope with the new number configuration. The cost of the software upgrade will be dependent on the service contract — plus there’s the inconvenience aspect, as well as the potential for missed calls.

Cisco spokesman Quentin Bright knew of no issues. However, one solution provider, who didn’t want to be named, confirmed one out of three of the PBX systems it services is affected. He doesn’t recall being advised of the problem by Vodafone.

When Glenn Thrasher tried to call one of the new cellphones from work, all he got was the “number unattainable” signal. He knew it worked because it connected from his mobile, so he contacted Vodafone.

“I was told it was a ‘known issue’ with PBXs. I’d have thought at the very least Vodafone has a responsibility to tell people about the magnitude of the problem.”

The Consumers’ Institute agrees and is warning cellphone buyers to beware after receiving complaints.

“It’s impossible to know at this point how many … units cannot handle the eight-digit number,” commented Marc Wendelborn. “Our concern lies in whether the cellphone being sold is fit for the purpose. The Consumer Guarantees Act says that a product has to be fit for its particular purpose. Buyers assume a mobile phone will be contactable by almost everyone. If not, it’s clearly not fit for the purpose. Vodafone must clearly spell out to customers the specific limitations with the phone to customers before they buy.

“If people are finding their mobile phone cannot be called then they should return it.”

Vodafone acknowledges that it does not have any information regarding how many PBXs in New Zealand cannot interface with our eight-digit numbers. But it also believes it has done things by the book and updating PBX systems is not its problem. “It’s not an issue from Vodafone’s end,” wrote the company’s support unit in response to Thrasher’s enquiry.

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