The Scottish Mail on Sunday

It’s your call...but I’d take offer to scrap £1,238 debt

Probes a world of scams and scandals

- by Tony Hetheringt­on

Ms W.M. writes: My son upgraded his Vodafone contract and was given the choice of paying £450 or adding this on to the contract. He paid £300 and assumed the balance would go on the contract, but the next month Vodafone charged him £325. They later agreed this was wrong but just offered a £10 goodwill gesture. Staff seem to have no idea how to sort this out. They cut off his phone for a couple of months, saying he owed £180. Then debt collectors demanded first £200, then £284. I paid, as they threatened us with bailiffs, but I still want to sort this out.

YOUR experience highlights why so many people hate having to call any customer service department. You told me that when you rang Vodafone, three different people gave you three different accounts of what had happened.

Then you spent an hour listening to taped music while you waited to speak to a manager, only to be transferre­d back to one of the three people you spoke to earlier. Finally, staff said they were going home and would call you again, but of course they did not. And ominously perhaps, you told me that while Vodafone says all calls are recorded, it was unable to produce recordings you requested.

Your son Jamie also tried. He emailed Vodafone and a month later received a letter asking him to call customer services within seven days or Vodafone would consider the matter closed. The letter took five days to arrive, giving Jamie just 48 hours to respond, after Vodafone itself took a month.

Trying to get Vodafone to explain exactly what has happened has been like trying to knit spaghetti. Things began well, with Vodafone explaining that your son was behind with his payments, so should never have been offered an upgrade. The company admits that payment plans should have been organised both before and after the upgrade, but this was not done. It has offered to credit Jamie with £125 as a goodwill gesture because of this.

As for the recorded calls, Vodafone told me it does keep them for six months, but it has not told me when it believes you requested copies.

While I was going back and forth between you and Vodafone, Jamie received a fresh demand from Vodafone’s debt collectors, this time for an eye-watering £1,238.

There was no explanatio­n of how the figure was reached. During the period covered, Vodafone cut off Jamie’s phone for about two months and also moved him on to a Pay As You Go scheme, potentiall­y against the terms of the contract that its own debt collectors were trying to enforce. But I cannot be certain of this, because Vodafone would not produce any figures.

The company kept telling me it tried repeatedly to phone Jamie to give him whatever figures he wanted, but without success. Equally repeatedly, you told me Jamie’s phone showed no missed calls or messages. Meanwhile, the debt collectors kept up the pressure, despite admitting they had no analysis of the debt.

Finally, while still refusing to give me a breakdown of the debt, Vodafone told me: ‘We would like to offer to remove the outstandin­g amount due once the new handset has been returned.’ And the debt collectors said they were dropping the claim.

This looked like a real breakthrou­gh, so I asked Vodafone to confirm that if Jamie handed back the phone, the whole £1,238 debt would be scrapped. No problem, Vodafone told me: ‘We will clear the £1,238 debt if the customer calls us to discuss returning his handset.’

This was great news – for about an hour and a half. Then, out of the blue, Vodafone told me that you and Jamie had just filed a case with a private alternativ­e dispute resolution firm. The firm would be starting from scratch with its enquiries, so Vodafone would be dealing with them and not with me. I am not sure what outcome could be better than an offer to scrap the entire debt, but whatever it is, I hope Jamie gets what he is after.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to

Tony Hetheringt­on at Financial Mail, 20 Waterloo Street, Glasgow G2 6DB or email tony. hetheringt­on@mailonsund­ Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.

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