October 13, 2008

Mobile Charges

HASN'T VODAFONE done well. The company managed an 18% lift in profits to $191 million this year, and paid a $742m dividend to its parent company in the UK following a $500m dividend last year, despite government efforts to bring more competition into the mobile phone market. Now they are planning on making even more money by charging customers who wish to speak to a live customer services representative instead of a computer-generated voice. This is surely the pits.

When planning an overseas trip earlier this year I purchased a Vodafone mobile as Telecom's network did not cover areas I wished to visit. I loaded up a reasonable sum of money, but on return to New Zealand received a substantial bill for toll calls, both to and from NZ. I had assumed the costs would be deducted from my pre- loading, which had depleted substantially in any event. I thought that I should have been warned in advance of these costs, and endeavoured to phone Vodafone to inquire as to the account for future reference.

After pushing various buttons on my cellphone, a voice informed me that if I wished to speak to a customer services representative it would cost $1, to be charged to my account. To agree to this iniquitous charge I pushed button one again, to be then told the charge would be debited immediately, before I spoke to anyone. After four attempts I gave up, still not having spoken to a live person, and my account presumably $4 lighter. I have no way of knowing.

Since then I have written to the company, but have not had the courtesy of a reply.

The government hasn't been backward in trying to bring Telecom into line, and I would be interested to know what the Telecommunications Association thinks of the practice.

Rod Maxwell


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