Profile: Sir Charlie Mayfield

John Lewis Partnership Chairman

Vodafone slammed for 'short and sharp' price hike comms

Vodafone has been slammed for the “short and sharp” nature by which it informed customers about new “simplified” charges on pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariffs, which will raise the cost of the majority of calls.

Vodafone Freebee

Vodafone TV ad for its Freebee package.

The mobile operator began sending text messages to PAYG customers earlier this week notifying them of the amendment, which will see it charging for calls by the minute rather than the second. Call time will be rounded up to the minute, meaning a customer making a call lasting 1 minute 2 seconds would be charged for 2 minutes, for example.

Vodafone also posted notification about the “simpler” pricing on its website and is responding to the predictably negative customer feedback on social media - although neither Vodafone UK’s Twitter or Facebook accounts have created standalone posts about the topic.

Adam Kirby, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com says the restructured PAYG tariffs act as a “Trojan horse” for price rises, but the real gripe with consumers was the way the message was communicated.

He adds: “Sending a text may be a quick, simple and cheap way to communicate with your friends, family and even your boss, but Vodafone breaking the news about price changes this way may be a bit of a stretch. The short and sharp nature of a text may explain why the message failed to tell the whole story - and so went down like a lead balloon with some customers.

“We have seen mobile companies move away from traditional paper bills, and this seems to signal the end of written communication altogether - most likely to save networks money. But if customers can be kept happier for the cost of a stamp, it may be some money worth spending.”

One poster on the Vodafone UK forum accused Vodafone of “patronising” customers by attempting to dress the changes up as a simplification of call charges.

Another poster wrote: “Simpler? Maybe slightly. More expensive? Potentially much more. Communicated in a reasonable manner? Certainly not. I am sorry but this is a joke, it is price hike and nothing else and you are treating us as idiots in trying to call it anything other than that.”

An Ofcom spokeswoman confirmed the regulator has had no complaints on the issue to date but that all pricing information and related policies should be made available to customers “clearly and transparently”. Ofcom does not regulate on the retail prices charged by providers or any rounding policies applied.

A Vodafone spokeswoman says: “We continue to tell our customers about the changes through various channels including text, our social media channels and online. Customers can also find out more at www.vodafone.co.uk, visit their local Vodafone store or talk to us by 191, free from their Vodafone mobile.   

“Many of our competitors already offer price plans charged in this way. We believe that by offering propositions with a generous allowance of minutes, we continue to offer our customers great value. For example, our Talk Freebee package includes 1000 minutes over 30 days when a customer tops up £10 and Vodafone Freedom Freebee includes 100 minutes and 300 texts when a customer tops up £10.”

In response to a question about the criticism the “short and sharp” text message used to communicate the price changes to customers has amassed, the spokeswoman added: “Telling our customers of any price change is important. Pay as you go customers are not obliged to give us their address, so text messaging is one way we can get in touch.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • It's not that it was communicated by text, it's that the communication was an insult to the intelligence of the customer.

    A twofold insult... the idea that the customer is unable to cope with the "complexity" of per second billing, and then that they are stupid enough to be taken in by the corporate speak that tries to present a price hike as doing the customer a favour.

    Of course all companies like to make price rise announcements seem a little more palatable if they can, but this one is up there with the Netflix price change announcement debacle in terms of how not to do it.

    That one reportedly lost Netflix 800,000 customers.

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