Stayed with Vodafone, should’ve gone with GiffGaff

Heather and I both have two plus year old Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile ‘phones. The two year deal was the ‘phone plus more minutes, text and data than we could use for about £25 per month each from Vodafone. Our ‘phones were fine – neither of us really needed or wanted a new one.

Looking around, the least expensive SIM only alternative was GiffGaff, at £10 per month – way more minutes, text and data than we could use. Vodafone’s slightly stingier alternative was £13 per month. In a year £72 could buy the two of us meal and a night at the theatre. The downside was the hassle in moving and, supposedly, the lower level of support from GiffGaff – only online, no number to call. I’d been a Vodafone client for two decades in business and persona life but, hey ho, time for a change.

So, I prepared to move us. I decided I’d go first to smooth the way.

First I needed a GIffGaff SIM card. I went on-line, ordered one and it appeared in the post a day later, free.

Next, I had to unlock my phone. I filled in the Vodafone form and…nothing…for a week. I looked on-line and the instructions were complicated – basically put a new OS on. Ugh. I called Vodafone a few times. I escalated the lack of response to a senior technician. He told me the phone was already unlocked. All their Samsung ‘phones are. It took a week to find out I had nothing to do – that’s kind of a win.

Then I went on-line to transfer the number, to get the PAC code. Again, that was boring – no response. I ended up calling and got it. Just a couple of wasted days. And, having got it, I submitted it – Saturday the 18th of January. The mobile number I’d had for 20 years was on its way from Vodafone to GiffGaff.

Having submitted my request on Saturday, for activation on Tuesday, I was quite laid back.

On the Sunday, the 19th of January, Vodafone Outbound Retention called. They’d like to keep me. Instead of the £13 list, they’d offer me 20% off – £10.40 per month, 40 p more than GiffGaff. And give me a £10 credit too. And do the same for Heather. And, yes, they’d cancel my transfer. And, no, there’d be no charges. Yes, they would cancel the PAC transfer. I also contacted GiffGaff to say I cancelled – who acknowledged the cancellation, wished me the best of luck and said I could come back any time, without a contract.

Boo, Vodafone. I only get the best deal if I leave. And you still lock me in for a year.

Stay with Vodafone I thought. It’ll be easier I thought. It’s only £5 a year extra. So what if it’s an annual contract, life will be simpler.

Heather’s ‘phone worked fine. Her new tariff worked fine. Hurrah.

Come the Tuesday the 21st of January. my ‘phone suddenly showed “Emergency Calls only”. Yup, it had been transferred after all. Why? The Sunday before Vodafone had updated their back end systems. It hadn’t gone well. It turns out their staff had had no system to access, so my number transfer had gone through and had not been cancelled. Vodafone couldn’t retrieve it from GiffGaff, only I could.

I contacted GiffGaff, online. They responded in four hours, with a “sorry to hear you’re not staying, but come back any time, here’s your PAC code”.

I told Vodafone I was ready to transfer my number back. Well, you remember that back end upgrade that hadn’t gone well over the weekend. It was still down, four days later. I couldn’t transfer back. Indeed, I couldn’t transfer back for almost two weeks. And, even then, I spent nearly two hours with Vodafone’s Indian outsourced technical support team. Because the number had gone to GiffGaff, despite Vodafone’s reassurance, I no longer had an account. I no longer had a contract. Their second level team told me that I was just going to have to have a new number.

Well, at this point, it was pretty plain that Vodafone was a waste of time. If I needed a new number I’d go with GiffGaff. They’d proven themselves far more competent.

But I wanted to keep my old number. I know it. It’s on my email signature. It’s associated with all my records, online and offline. It’s part of a handful of two factor authentication logins. What a pain.

Those who’ve worked in overly aggressive IT organisations will know this as well as I do. Many revenue first shops cripple Support but leave the power with Sales. I called Vodafone Sales to say I wanted to keep my old number. 15 minutes later, I had it.

Boo, Vodafone. Your Support is not empowered. Your Sales is. That’s a stupid management decision.

Great my ‘phone works. I’ll login to my account and check out the details. Yes, you guessed it, my login failed with “Some Business Exception has occured while processing registration/subscription“. (The misspelling was just a bonus.) I reported it and checked back on the status a couple of days later – there was no record of my reporting it. I reported it via email – and was then asked for my bank details to confirm my account. It looks like my transfer, their back end failure and my return screwed up their records. It was two weeks and multiple screen shots later before I could login.

Boo, Vodafone. Your back end systems suck and their support is slow.

This morning, some six weeks after I started a “seamless” transfer I had my first bill from Vodafone. I’m on a £10.40 tariff with a £10 credit. I expected a bill in pence. The £135.36 was more than I expected. I called 191 from my mobile. “That’s because you have a new contract, sir – I can have someone from Accounts call you within the next hour”. 90 minutes later I was called and told it was my fault for cancelling. If I wanted to escalate the matter still further they would ask a manager to call me within the next 48 hours.

Right, I thought. I’m just going to cancel the Direct Debit and go to GiffGaff with a new number. Life is too short.  And then I remembered the power is with Sales.  I called Sales to say I’d never really left Vodafone – 15 minutes later I received a text to say the cancellation charge had been cancelled.

Boo, Vodafone. Your Support is not empowered. Your Sales is. That’s a stupid management decision.

At every step in the process, including some I’ve not mentioned, Vodafone’s normal process came up short. Had I known I’d lose my ‘phone access for a fortnight, my online account access for a month, get a bill for over £100 and spend nearly two working days on my not transferring I’d have gone with GiffGaff.

Come next year, when my annual contract is up, I may just do that anyway. Despite having been customer for a score of years I now have little confidence in my supplier dealing with anything untoward. And I know their preferred internal processes are broken.

I’d been worried about leaving Vodafone’s manned support for GiggGaff’s electronic support. GG have been terrific. V has been an omnishambles.

Stayed with Vodafone, should’ve gone with GiffGaff. Maybe next year.

Update Tuesday 25 February

I have a text from Vodafone Customer Services, at 1:54pm.

Dear Customer, This to confirm that we will be removing the cancelation fees of your bill thank you for calling vodafone

Update Thursday 27 February

The cancellation charge still appeared on my bill on Wednesday – apparently it takes 48 hours for it to disappear. So I checked on Thursday – and their online accounting system was crashing with BEA webmethod errors. They’re upgrading in prime time without redirecting or notifying customers. Cracking. A manager promised me a call before 8pm on Thursday. It’s now 9pm.

I’ve been a personal subscriber since 1999 – and a business subscriber for the decade before that. My once efficient supplier seems to now be in death throes.

Update Friday 28 February

I have another text from Vodafone Customer Services, at 5:12pm.

Dear Customer, please note that we are still waiting for an update on your account and will update you with a text shortly

Update Tuesday 4 March

I chatted again, today. For the third time I was asked to wait 48 hour to see if (if?) the money would be transferred. Again, I was told my case had been escalated. Again, I was told a manager would call me.

I’ve now written an email of complaint using their official channel. Given how inefficient their other processes have been I’m not sure I hold out much hope. But I’m trying to be reasonable.

This farrago has cost me many days of time. It must have cost them many days and pounds. If Vodafone’s results are not all they wished I think I have a glimmering as to why.

Update Friday 7 March

My complaint of early the 4th of March, #6267945, was met with “Your query will be dealt with within 48 hours.” We’re now entering the weekend. I still haven’t received my promised refund. The 48 hours has been and gone.

I’ve now contacted Vodafone UK Help via a Direct Message on Twitter. I’d been tempted to just tweet this blog entry with the hashtag #vodafail, but resisted the impulse. They’ve responded – good. But they need yet more – sigh.

What do I really, really want from this? In order:

  • I want my money back.
  • I’d like some financial recognition of the week plus of no mobile service.
  • I’d like some financial recognition of the days, literally, I’ve spent trying to get Vodafone’s attention.
  • It’s obvious they don’t want my business. I get the message. Give me the PAC to transfer my number and cancel my contract, without any penalties.

Update Sunday 9 March

It just gets better. I missed a call. The caller left a voice mail. I dialled 121 to retrieve my voice mail. I got a message saying I needed to set a voice mail PIN to retrieve my messages from overseas or another phone – and that I should do so by calling 121. The first trouble is the message came from 121 – and gave no options to change my security code. The next is that I wasn’t dialling from a different ‘phone or from overseas. I was dialling from my mobile from my office. Sigh.

I dialled 191. After the ritual wait and security clearance I had my voice mail code reset – it was texted to me.

I dialled 121. I was challenged for my security code. I entered the new security code – absolutely accurately. And I heard the response along the lines of “that was wrong, and your voicemail is now locked”. There was no second or third chance – but it would have made no difference, I’d entered my new code correctly first time.

So, I contacted support again – this time via a chat window instead of a call, so that I have a record.  He did the same thing, with the same result.

I was then connected with a specialist. He did the same thing, with the same result. He then had me deregister my phone from vodafone, turn the device off and remove the SIM. The he said he was transferring me to second level – and I listened to Muzak for a few minutes.

The second level chap came back and said the error was on the network side, not on the device side. He was transferring the call to them. But they don’t work on Sundays so someone will start to look at it on Monday. And they usually fix things within 48 hours of starting.

So, that’s at least another day or two without voice mail. And I wonder if we will lose the voice mail? I hope it wasn’t urgent. 😦

Update Monday 10 March

Someone whose name I did not catch (between his strong accent and my weak ear) has called and told me he is crediting my account for the cancellation fee – and that it should be with me in three to five working days – and that he’d send me an email confirming this.

Interestingly the call was not as a result of my open trouble ticket, nor was it a result of the formal complaint procedure – it was from the social media team.

I decided not to pursue any other points until after I’ve seen the money. I’ve not asked about any recompense for my time or loss of service. I’ve not asked for my contract to end. I didn’t ask when my voice mail would be repaired. Not yet.

I am preparing to call Which Legal one week from now if the money does not appear.

Update Wednesday 12 March

I had a text to say my voicemail problem had been fixed. Of course the final PIN didn’t work so I had to call 191 to have it reset – and then call 121 to set it to something I would remember. But at least it worked – and the whole process only took 15 minutes – cracking for Vodafone.

And do you know what voicemail was stuck? Why the one from Customer Services to do with my refund. They’d called my mobile on Sunday and left the message. Thank goodness I’d given them my landline.

The refund has not appeared as yet.

Update Friday 14 March 

The refund arrived. Huzzah.

Come February 2015 it will be time to move away from them.

Over the last nearly two months:

  • I lost access to my mobile number for two weeks.
  • I lost access to my online account for nearly a month.
  • I lost access to my voicemail.
  • I’ve been billed for leaving when I never left.
  • I have spent approaching 40 hours dealing with Vodafone’s problems.


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3 Responses to Stayed with Vodafone, should’ve gone with GiffGaff

  1. Rachel says:

    Wow! This is appalling and I now know never to sign up with Vodafone. When I was in the UK I was with Three on prepay and it was great and very cheap. I rarely had to top-up. I hope this marks the end of your hassles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Natalie says:

    My mum just phoned to cancel Vodafone, i’d suggested giffgaff as i’d used them for a couple of years before having to go contract to get a new phone.

    All the usual deals offered, getting gradually cheaper (but not cheap enough) after being adamant she wanted to leave. Eventually she said she’d seen a deal on giffgaff to which the Vodafone guy said ‘Oh well, the reason they’re so cheap is they sell all your details, i’d read the small print if i were you, i’d be careful!’

    I stifled a laugh (as i was listening in to help her) when he said this. Desperate tactics of a sales and retentions guy who couldn’t match the price?!
    For all i know GG did sell off my details but tbh, who doesn’t know them already these days? Nuisance phone calls and spam emails are just a normal thing. Then again maybe they don’t and he was just lying!

    i loved being with GG, and when my contract is up, assuming i don’t have to get another just to get the best price overall on a new phone i’ll be going straight back there!
    i never found the lack of phone contact with them a problem. The customers online always knew plenty and were very eager to help, due to being nice and of course the fabulous payback scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

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