Being ripped off by one of Vodafone’s sales agencies: An outrageous example

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Goodness me I’m shocked by what I’m about to narrate to you: It’s a tale of woe, desperation and sleight of hand and it involves:

a) A relative of mine
b) One of those ‘independent phone specialist’ agencies who cold call you regularly
c) And the great company of Vodafone

I should point out now that whilst this post involves Vodafone as the operator, it could easily apply to any other mobile operator. Indeed I’ve had similar experiences at the hands of an agency (apparently) working on behalf of Three.

However I’ve never experienced anything that involved such blatant trickery and manipulation.

Are you ready?

I’ll use the relative’s first name, Julia.

Across the past weeks she’s been getting annoying phone calls from Vodafone. At least, she thought they were from Vodafone. You know the ones, I’m sure you’ve had similar: Someone phones you and explains they can get you a better deal, yada yada. They usually say they’re “calling on behalf of Vodafone” or similar; They’re only interested in adding NEW lines, not dealing with your existing contracts; And they’re persistent.

A few times Julia answered the phone and said she was too busy to talk. Then last week she eventually relented.

“I felt sorry for them,” she said, “These poor people calling me all the time.”

So she listened.

The chap on the other end of the line explained that he was her Vodafone Account Manager.

I’m horrified.

He’s nothing of the sort.

Absolutely ridiculous. I do wonder if Vodafone *actually* know that this kind of thing is going on.

So having introduced himself as her Vodafone Account Manager, the chap proceeded to “confirm her details” including date of birth and address. Julia can’t quite recall this part, but I wonder if he only had her phone number and was therefore *asking* for her account details. I think this is what he must have done.

The chap went on to explain that he could save Julia money on her account by making some changes to her price plan.

She’s been accustomed to this sort of call over the years so she carried on listening.

The chap explained that if Julia liked, he “Could send her a cheque for £90.”

Julia was confused.

“Why can’t you just credit my account, I pay by direct debit,” she told him.

He obviously made some good excuses — but couldn’t hide any further, so pointed out that his firm wasn’t actually Vodafone but worked closely with them. Ouch.

Julia was rather confused by the whole call but she does recall saying words to the effect of, “Oh very well then,” regarding the chap sending the cheque.

Her viewpoint? If he was able to save

Now here’s the science bit: According to Julia’s recollection, at no point was an upgrade discussed. At no point was an additional line discussed. At no point was a new BlackBerry handset discussed.

Julia uses a Doro handset that she’s delighted with — she has absolutely no use for a BlackBerry — “And I’d have said that at the time, if I’d been given the opportunity,” she points out.

Fast forward a few days and a cheque arrived as the chap had promised. The cheque was drawn on the account of this independent agency, not Vodafone. Julia was worried that she’d been conned.

So she phoned Vodafone.

When she got through she was astonished to find that she’s got a new line on her account (reportedly for a BlackBerry!)

Further, she’s even more astonished to discover that she’s already out of her 14 day cooling off period.

She concludes that the chap must have used one of the previous times when he’d got through to her (but she declined to talk) as the commencement date for the ‘transaction’.

Now she has to unravel the mess. As you might expect, that’s not easily done when you call up Vodafone’s call centre, especially when you’ve got an enquiry like this. Customer service agents are not, I hope, used to dealing with this kind of nonsense.

What an appalling situation. Absolutely appalling.

It’s a sad indictment of the British mobile industry when this is how these weasel agencies conduct themselves.

I have to say I’m particularly alarmed by the “I’m your account manager” bit. Indeed, that’s the most concerning part of the whole transaction for me. This was a total out-and-out lie intended to win the trust of Julia.

How was the chap able to add a new line in her account without her understanding that this is what he was doing? If you talk to Vodafone directly, they’re always ultra clear about what you’re buying. They repeat everything. They use carefully authored language to make sure you understand. They insist their sales people read out all the terms and conditions.

But when it’s a third-party agency, I presume it’s game on.

The chap must have been able to use her date of birth and address that he “confirmed” by explaining he was her account manager. That must be how he was able to get the whole thing processed without Julia’s express agreement or any signatures.

Highly dodgy. Highly suspect. Truly disappointing.

Julia finally got through to Vodafone and explained the problem. They are, I understand, in the process of dealing with it. I hope that means they’ll reverse everything.

Further, I trust that Vodafone’s senior management will burn the sales agency involved. To the ground.

Other mobile operators should also be careful about how they handle these types of sales agencies. To have third party sales folk impersonating mobile operator account management staff in order to make a sale is simply inexcusable.

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  • http://www.amlr.co.uk Shortnwide

    A cautionary tale indeed – and far too common.
    It needs to stop.

  • Anonymous

    3 UK Sales Agents based outside of the UK have been annoying people for years. Seems Vodafone is a good target now.. enjoy… i NEVER talk to sales people when they call. And most normobs are not smart enough to see through a lie like that… oh well loads of people for the picking in todays slim time. You can expect to see fraud in mobile to go up 200% this year i suspect. 

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I’m hoping so too!

  • Anonymous

    God I just love the free market!  Deregulate more…please.  Oh…that feels soooo good.  D-REG-U-LATE!!!!!

    It must be the invisible hand of..you know who…and it feels good.  So efficient too.  Now, if we can just get rid of those pesky consumer agencies…that would be heaven.

  • Anonymous

    These are predatory companies and these practices should be illegal.  Rule of thumb…never give out personal info to someone who is calling you.  Always get there information first…and only follow-up if they are legit and after doing your homework.

    I get the “I’m for Wall Street” calls from time to time.  Clearly Boiler Rooms who prey on the more trusting souls in this world.

  • Gavin_Is_A_Man

    Uh, I work for Vodafone Outbound in Dearne Valley, Rotherham, our area code when we call is 01709, and we do not do anything like the example you provided. We are not fraudulent sellers either, despite what some genius has been saying about us online (clearly someone with a grudge). The people who fall for the “Vodafone in Rotherham is a scam” are clearly people who put no effort at all into researching the facts, which is pretty typical of today’s ready-to-be-angry-with-no-reason society. Why would Vodafone be sending cheques to people – we do value our customers of course, and the Outbound team offers discounted deals for loyal customers, but we would go bust if we simply sent people money for nothing. A genuine caller from Vodafone will tell you which contact centre they are calling from (Webhelp TSC is the one in Rotherham), this information is freely available online, and the advisor will be making you an offer of a handset, sim deal, tablet or dongle with the device usually free (depending on the tariff and device) and a discount on the line rental. They will make you aware you’re signing up to a new contract (an additional line in your name) which you or anyone in your family can use. They will not take bank details unless required to take a large upfront payment eg if there was a device charge of £100 on the additional contract. They will not offer cashback. Also, if people keep getting calls, why not just answer it and state you’re not interested, otherwise the outbound dialling system will keep trying you. Not answering is NOT the same as saying you’re not interested – the computer doesn’t know.

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