Vodafone fined £4.6 million for “serious and sustained” customer failures

Vodafone beats expectations in Europe

Ofcom has fined telecoms giant Vodafone (LON:VOD) a record £4.6 million for miss-selling, inaccurate billing and poor handling of complaints

Between the end of 2013 and April 2015, 10,452 of Vodafone’s customers collectively lost 150,000 pounds when accounts were not updated after topping up their credit to make calls.

Lindsey Fussell has said Vodafone’s failings are “serious and unacceptable” and the fines issued are a 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,” she said on Wednesday.

The problems were caused by the IT issues linked to the company’s move to a new billing system. Ofcom has said that the telecoms company “failed to act quickly enough to identify or address these problems” and only acted after the regulator intervened.

Vodaphone has since said that all but 30 customers affected have been refunded an average of £14.35. It also donated £100,000 to charity to ensure it did not profit from the 30 customers it hasn’t been able to track down.

“This has been an unhappy episode for all of us at Vodafone: we know we let our customers down,” the company said. “We are determined to put everything right.”

The telecoms giant has said it also plans to invest more into 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.”

Since 2013, Ofcom has also scrutinised two other mobile operators: EE and Three. EE was given the biggest fine last year, £1m, after an investigation revealing the company had failed to tell customers they could refer their complaints to an independent dispute-resolution body.

Britain’s regulators have stepped up the pressure to ensure customers are being protected. Ofcom said in September that Sky (LON:SKY) may have violated consumer rules by making it too difficult for customers to cancel or switch providers.