Vodafone’s haphazard data governance and shoddy customer service has been exposed after the company sent a direct mailing offering a mobile phone upgrade to a customer who had died back in 2013.
The cock-up was further exacerbated by the fact that when the deceased man’s widow questioned why the company had sent the mailshot, she was then chased up for a bill over £1,000 as, unsurprisingly, he had not paid his monthly contract for six years either.
The issue has emerged in a letter to The Times Money section from the man’s widow, Margaret Kendall Rodgers. After her husband Ian passed away in 2013, she informed the authorities and shut down all his bank accounts and removed his name from a joint RBS bank account they had held.
However, the first Margaret knew of Ian’s Vodafone contract was when the upgrade direct mailing arrived at the beginning of September. She was then presented with a bill for over £1,300, even though the account had obviously been dormant for years.
Vodafone had not sent a bill or payment reminder letter over the entire six year period.
When Margaret contacted Vodafone, the firm refused to write off the debt and told her it would continue to pursue the outstanding balance, until she could provide his death certificate – even though Ian’s death was a matter of public record.
Vodafone then sent out yet another direct mailshot, telling Ian the “good news” that he could now get £2m off broadband as well.
Margaret said: “Vodafone’s attitude made me worried, stressed and shaky. I was in a state of shock when I took over the bank statements.”
After being contacted by the newspaper, Vodafone closed the account and refunded the money in full. It also paid £50 in compensation and apologised for the distress it had caused.
However, one industry source said: “Where do you start to unravel this mess? There are so many issues which should have been flagged up way before this stage of the process, initially when the first payment was missed. To allow customers to rack up this sort of debt is simply unacceptable.
“Then you have to ask, why wasn’t the mailing list run through a suppression file? This is pretty basic stuff. And to force someone to send in a death certificate before they call off the debt collectors is outrageous. But will Vodafone review its practices? Probably not.”
Earlier this month, Vodafone blamed a technical glitch after many customers were hit with roaming charges of over £12,000. And, in 2016, the company was forced to offer 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.
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