Vodafone grovels as CRM cock-up sparks £4.6m fine

vodafone 2Vodafone has offered its “profound apologies” to customers after being whacked with a £4.6m for “sustained breaches of consumer protection rules”, triggered in part by a botched Siebel CRM and billing system installation which has already been blamed for a £54m dent in sales.
Ofcom launched a formal investigation into Vodafone in January following a spike in complaints during 2015 over the system. Vodafone was the most complained about telecoms provider in the three months ending in December 2015, due network failures that meant many users could not make and receive calls or were billed incorrectly.
In its ruling, the regulator said Vodafone had misled 10,452 pay-as-you-go customers, charging them for top-up credit but “providing nothing in return”. The affected customers collectively lost £150,000 over a 17-month period, Ofcom said.
Vodafone “failed to act quickly enough to identify or address these problems” and only attempted to fix the issue after Ofcom intervened, the regulator said.
The company claimed the problems were sparked by technical issues it suffered following its switch to a new Siebel CRM and billing system, first selected back in October 2012 but not implemented until 2015. The scheme was intended not just to service mobile customers, but also customers for fixed-line telecoms, data networking, TV subscriptions and other services. The cock-up has already been blamed for a crash in sales in the three months to the end of June this year.
A second investigation found that Vodafone’s customer service agents were not given “sufficiently clear guidance” on what constituted a customer complaint with some complaints not handled “in a fair, timely manner”.
The firm also failed to ensure customers were told, in writing, of their right to take an unresolved complaint to a third-party resolution scheme after eight weeks.
Ofcom Consumer Group director Lindsey Fussell said: “Vodafone’s failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies. Phone services are a vital part of people’s lives, and we expect all customers to be treated fairly and in good faith.”
In a statement, Vodafone said it had refunded or re-credited 10,422 pay-as-you-go customers, but could not trace the remaining 30 affected. It also said it had invested in better customer service and training.
“Everyone who works for us is expected to do their utmost to meet our customers’ needs,” it said. “It is clear from Ofcom’s findings that we did not do that often enough or well enough on a number of occasions. We offer our profound apologies to anyone affected by these errors.”

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