The Consumer Show receives more complaints about telecoms than every other issue put together. Last year alone there were 33,000 issues about telecoms raised with the regulator's office, ranging from allegations of overcharging, to the cost of roaming charges and faulty handsets.
Dr Pete Lunn, Behavioural Economist with the ESRI, believes complaints about telecoms are rising sharply, and this rise seems to be linked to the complexity of the products which are now on the marketplace. With consumers being asked to choose between the physical handsets or modems, plus the software which runs on these appliances, as well as the billing options they want, the issues become very complex.
Lesley Hewson from Kilkenny spent 11 days in Canada in January. Before she left, she arranged a roaming facility with her mobile phone provider, Meteor. She only used her mobile to see if emails had arrived - she did not open any emails or download attachments. She was shocked to receive a bill for ¤1400 plus VAT- her normal bill is ¤30 per month. Lesley now understands that her phone was downloading data automatically, without any action on Lesley's part. On speaking to Meteor, they confirmed the data usage amount and whilst they could not tell her what it was updating, they could outline that most of it occurred during night-time hours - when she would have been sleeping. Meteor insisted that Lesley would have to pay the charges. She complained to ComReg who raised the matter with Meteor, but Meteor were adamant Lesley must pay the roaming charges.
Dr Pete Lunn feels the 'bill shock' some consumers unfortunately experience could be avoided by suppliers allowing consumers to check their data, text or calls usage with one easy click.
Amanda Dunne signed up for a Vodafone Home Phone and Broadband package last year for ¤38, switching from Eircom. On sleeping on it, she changed her mind and cancelled the following day, thinking she would be fine within her 7-day cooling off period. They told her that it had been cancelled. Amanda then started getting letters requesting payment, which she ignored, but when she got a Final Demand for ¤93.31 she called them and they said she was still signed up to Internet, even though she did not have a modem and had cancelled her account. They said they would discount ¤19.99 as she did not receive the modem, but she would have to pay ¤73.31 and that if she didn't pay she would get a bad credit rating. Even though she did not think she was obliged to pay, Amanda did so as she was afraid her credit rating would be affected. When The Consumer Show contacted Vodafone, they apologized for the inconvenience Amanda experienced and have refunded her accordingly.
Statement from Meteor:
We must comply with data protection which means we are unable to comment on this customers individual case.
Meteor has some of the best value data roaming, we were the first operator in Europe to abolish roaming charges in Europe enabling our customers to pay the same for calls and texts when roaming as they would at home.
Offering our customers the best value when roaming is of the utmost importance to us, we have included on the Meteor.ie website information about automatic data connections which may seek websites or download e-mail automatically and the terms and conditions surrounding this.
To help our customers there is an advisory section on turning off data on mobile phones to prevent such cases arising: www.meteor.ie/terms_and_conditions/automatic-data-connections/
Statement from Vodafone:
I can confirm that the issue has been resolved to the customer's satisfaction and we have apologised to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have robust processes in place however, in this particular instance the process was not followed correctly so we have taken the a series of steps to ensure that the process is adhered to in the future.