Exclusive: Protection for parents at last as Vodafone finally agrees to introduce UK data cap

Exclusive: By Simon Donohue

Vodafone has finally agreed to introduce a data cap that will protect parents from the expensive excess charges that it is all too easy for children to run up on lifeline smartphones.

It may be a coincidence, but the cap came into place on November 15 – just days after I fired an angry email off to chief executive Nick Jeffery outlining months of poor customer service and unresolved complaints having raised concerns about a lack of protection for parents.

Vodafone had repeatedly insisted that it was IMPOSSIBLE to cap data in order to avoid out of bundle data charges, which are charged at up £6.50 for every 250mb or 500mb of additional data (depending on tariff).

Customer service advisors also neglected to inform me that it WAS possible to cap credit spend, effectively blocking excess charges, then FAILED to implement the cap on my own account, once again leaving me vulnerable to accidental overuse of data on mobile phones.

In response to my email to Nick Jeffery, Vodafone representative Christopher Isherwood apologised that my “recent experience with Vodafone” led to my email to Nick Jeffery, adding: “On behalf of Nick, please accept my sincere apologies.”

While IGNORING the main points of my complaint – that Vodafone had left me hundreds of pounds out of pocket and repeatedly failed to offer protection to millions of parents who rely on its services – Mr Isherwood did explain (sic): “I understand that your email about the troubles you are facing with out of bundle data charges on a number on your account please find some information that may be of use to you. On Tuesday 15th November, UK Data Capping will launch – giving our customers more control over their data usage on our network.”

So an apology, but no resolution.

The letter outlined that Vodafone’s UK Data Cap will be “off as a default” and that customers can opt in via:

  • The My Vodafone app
  • My Account
  • SMS short code (40506 – UK on/off)

The concerns that led to me to raise a series of complaints about Vodafone – all as yet unresolved – will be familiar to many parents who have taken out mobile phone contracts on behalf of their children.

Like many parents, I thought it safe to provide my children with mobile phones for emergency contact and had urged them to be careful only to use wifi. That, I accept, was naive of me. However, I do believe that telecoms companies should exercise a duty of care towards their customers, many of whom will be parents.

Having faced a bill of £140 for accidental use of out-of-bundle data on my son’s Christmas gift pay-monthly phone (I thought wi-fi had been enabled) I threw myself on the mercy of the company, asking what I could do to protect myself against excessive data charges.

I was told there was NOTHING that could be done. Only in September this year, after another bill for excess data charges (incorrect use of the smartphone app designed to prevent excess charge), did a Vodafone representative tell me that the credit cap facility WOULD achieve my aims.

Despite promising that all services would be blocked if the account spend went more than £1 over the agreed monthly tariff, this did not happen. Having assumed protection was in place and that excess charges would not be possible, I was shocked to discover that once again excess charges for data had been applied, this time to the tune of around £30.

I accept that parents should ensure that their children do not go over data limits, but feel aggrieved that Vodafone did nothing to help when it could have done, then did not action the protection that was available to me in the form of a credit cap.

Vodafone has not offered any kind of explanation about having failed to respond to numerous complaints, including the one which led me to email its chief executive.

Vodafone also claims that text messages warning of excess data were sent – although they were not received – and agreed to set up alerts to my own non-Vodafone number, only to later tell me that this was not technically possible.

However, I see the UK Data Cap as a victory for consumers, particularly parents, and urge anyone who would like to protect themselves to apply it as soon as possible.

I look forward to hearing from Vodafone when they have got to the bottom of my personal complaints.