A relative in her eighties has managed to accrue a credit of nearly £1,000 on her Vodafone pay-as-you-go mobile. She believed she had to top up her credit regularly using a top-up card, partly due to texts from Vodafone warning her that she’d lose her free minutes and rewards unless she did.
Vodafone says it is willing to refund her but is unable to do so unless she uses a debit card to top up the account further, so her bank details are with the account. However, this is not possible as the system does not allow debit card payments if the credit balance is more than £700.
Several hours on the telephone have established that there is apparently nobody, in one of the biggest companies in the world, able to override a computer system in order to manually link a customer’s bank details with a mobile phone account and process a refund. She only uses the phone rarely, so reducing the balance by £300 is likely to take many more years than her remaining lifespan.
It is dismaying that Vodafone continued to text incentives to top up the account when the credit was already eye-watering. And it’s concerning that there is no upper credit limit to prevent such errors, especially since there is no obligation on telecoms firms to refund unused credit if a customer switches provider.
Vodafone finally found a way round the problem when contacted by the Observer. It turned out the PAYG account was linked to the details of a grandson who had helped her set it up in store years previously.
“We’d like to say sorry for the experience, and we have arranged to refund her the full amount,” it says. “We acknowledge that customers shouldn’t be able to run up such credit levels on our pay-as-you-go services. We are also currently looking at our existing processes to ensure similar activity cannot take place in the future.”