Alternative explanation for record number of Vodafone complaints

Vodafone has come up with a line to explain away the “record number of complaints” it has recently received:

Vodafone Hutchison – the nation’s third-biggest phone company with seven million customers – says it received a record number of complaints coinciding with the launch of the Apple iPhone 4 this year, The Australian reports.

“Our view was that some customers were using the complaints process as a means of seeking to upgrade their mobile handset for free to the iPhone 4,” the company says in its submission to the Australian Communications and Media Authority inquiry into telcos’ customer service.

As a Vodafone customer who loses several important telephone calls daily to dropouts, as the sad owner for almost two years of a piece-of-rubbish Blackberry 9000 handset that regularly crashes and requires rebooting (which process takes a good 15 minutes), and as someone who has had to deal with their ridiculously unresponsive customer care line (40 minutes on hold last time, after the voice robot and I determined that understanding plain English was beyond it), I have an alternative theory to explain these complaints:


They’ve spent the last two or more years shoving people onto the network without adequately expanding it to meet the demand. They’ve been pocketing the extra money and not putting it towards running something that could reasonably referred to in the 21st century as a “mobile service”. They certainly haven’t put it towards employing customer care staff who can actually talk to Vodafone customers in anything approaching a reasonable time, or a call answering system that isn’t faulty and murderously frustrating.

You’re stuck on a contract with Vodafone? Oh, I… I’m so terribly sorry. You poor thing.

I’m two months out from the end of my contract. I could upgrade to a new handset, like an iPhone 4, for free, right now – but only by signing on for another two years with Vodafone. No thanks. I’ve had enough. I’ve talked with the TIO, and I’m getting the hell out of there.

But I feel sorry for the Vodafone customers left behind – those who let themselves be bought off with a handset upgrade. I’m hoping ACMA and the TIO can see through the company’s rather unconvincing defence, and that something can be done to help those poor people.

PS Vodafone’s the third biggest network with 7 million customers? So Optus and Telstra each have at least 7 million, meaning the total mobile phone using population of the country is over 21 million? In a country of 22 million! Just how young are children getting mobile phones these days?

12 responses to “Alternative explanation for record number of Vodafone complaints

  1. The explanation of apparent discrepancies in total number of mobile users is they count sim card numbers and not all are in mobile phones. Some are fitted to office phone systems to take advantage of cheaper call rate for mobile to mobile others are fitted to other devices for control purposes ie vending machines, visual display road signs etc.
    All carriers would have less drop outs if all their towers had direct connections to the network and not piggy back off each other (cost saving do not have to to provide capacity.

  2. jordanrastrick

    I think we’re actually on target to reach more than one SIM per capita globally in the not too distant future – by 2020 or something like that? It’s pretty amazing stuff…

    As for vodafone, if it’s any consolation optus’ network is also bad, and while you can get through to their customer service, its pretty damn lousy.

    I recently switched to Telstra to get an iPhone 4, since I knew at least that if nothing else their network was decent. Fingers crossed they’ve improved their customer service from the bad old days as much as people seem to say they have….

  3. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a very basic handset and plan but I’m with VF and never had an issue with them. Having said that, my daughter on an iphone had significant issues and bailed as soon as her contract was up.

    As for age of kids getting phones – my kids got them around twelve.

    Australians are one of the highest users of mobile phones in the world aren’t we?

  4. I’ve had a prepaid Vodafone mobile for nearly six years and not once could I say I had problems with it. Different story with my post paid mobile broadband account. Lousy signal and been overcharged twice within three months. Ringing them is like having a tooth extracted, after endless waiting in the loop you end up talking to someone in the wrong department, who than apologises and promises to put you through to the correct department, only to end up again with the wrong mop. A farce.

  5. Splatterbottom

    JR, do you notice a worthwhile difference between Telstra and VHA reception? I’m fairly happy on 3, but the question is whether the Telstra Next G is worth the extra?

    Galaxy S is $40pm more on Telstra but you get only 500Mb of data vs 2Gb on 3. To get an extra 1Gb of data on Telstra is another $39 per month, so over two years Telstra costs $1896 extra for the same phone.

  6. Jer, with relation to “something being done”, the ACMA have an enquiry at the moment (see submissions here Dunno about the outcome, though.

  7. I believe that’s the enquiry to which Vodafone was making the excuses in the above story.

  8. Duh. Sorry. Just gave it a cursory glance. The submissions are actually quite entertaining if you know the concerns and, er, deficiencies of the major players.

  9. jordanrastrick

    SB: I’ve never been on Vodafone. With Telstra I’ve certainly been getting reception light years ahead of what I had with Optus, but keep in mind that’s with a new phone, and the antenna on the iPhone 4 (despite all the scandal) is I understand substantially better than my old phone, which was an iPhone 3G. Still, I’m yet to drop a call except by going through a train tunnel.

    For me the main attraction of NextG was the bandwidth and reliability of the internet. I consistently get in the order of 2 – 5 Mbits/sec, which is plenty fast enough for a phone, and I never lose internet access altogether, which used to happen with Optus even on main streets ni the middle of the city. I tether the phone to my laptop, and it works fine for basically everything except downloading large files.

    Telstra’s default data offerings are crappy. However on the iPhone 4 plan it worked out that upgrading was actually quite cheap – I’m paying $65 a month and getting 1 GB. It sounds like the deal is a lot worse on the Galaxy – certainly I know the iPhone had a lot of sweetners thrown in – but then again Telstra are incredibly opaque about the cost of modifying their plans. I had to talk to the guy at JB Hi-Fi who sold me the phone to get an explanation of the actual cost structure. So depending on what your source is for the $39 a month figure, you might want to double check it.

    As far as 3 goes, I’ve heard rumours to the effect that VHA are actively degrading the service to try and get people to switch to Vodafone. Why, I’m not sure exactly. But the guy in my office who’s with 3 did a side by side speed test of his phone with me and another person on Optus, and 3 was unequivocally in last place; which accords pretty much with what I’ve read of tech magazine and so on doing tests. So personally, I tend to think if you’re going to get a high end smart phone, it makes sense to pay for the quality of the data connection and not just the quantity.

  10. Splatterbottom

    Thanks for the comments JR. I might look at other phones. Hopefully there will be a Christmas rush of goodies. I’m off plan and can wait a bit as my old HTC Touch Pro is still going strong. Interestingly, a big part of my train journey is through the Epping-Chatswood tunnel which has 3G connectivity throughout.

  11. I was with Vodaphone for a year or two maybe eight or so years back and they were abysmal on every level. I would not join up with them again for love nor money. A complete nightmare. Atrocious customer service. Their bills did not make sense – as in, they literally did not add up. And their poor call centre monkeys could not explain either. Never again.

  12. I am with a month-to-month contract with Vodafone.. no lock-in.. all phone contracts should be like that.
    I have found Vodafone quite good until recently (though they are still miles ahead of Virgin). Though it bugs me that you cannot do many simple account changes over the internet rather than through the (absolutely dreadful) call centres. And it bugs me that the network is getting slower by the day and they are still yet pushing more data and more sales.
    The trick, I have found, to dealing with them, is to find a reason to call sales (looking at a new service) and then as an aside have them fix your ‘other’ problem. You get through to sales almost immediately and they are really friendly and genuinely helpful.

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