Vodafone Australia problems, glitches, errors and failures

Masterpiece no.1

Just received an SMS from Vodafone Australia: “We're building a better, faster, stronger Vodafone network. See the full details here http://vfau.me/ntwk1”. Usually, I ignore spam, ads and annoying marketing, but the computer was on and within easy reach, so I thought I would have a look, and... error404.html “Sorry, we can't complete your request right now. Please try again later.” Better, faster and stronger indeed...

Masterpiece no.2

While trying to recharge my account, I’m getting the following message instead of the recharge confirmation: “An unexpected error has occurred. Call 1555 to complete your request.”

Calling 1555, managing through the automated questions of a stupid machine that doesn’t want to understand that the recharge didn’t work, then waiting another 10 minutes for a human to talk to, and eventually the guy with a thick Indian accent says that there is a problem with recharges but he can’t help, instead I should keep checking my account balance by calling 1512 and see if the payment goes through.

Ok. Will keep checking...

A few hours later, still calling and checking — still nothing. 1512 now has an automated message: “Vodafone is currently experiencing issues with some recharges where credit is not being applied after a successful recharge. Our engineers are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible. If you’ve just recharged, check your balance regularly by calling 1512.”

In the evening, a Vodafone text message arrives: “Only 3 days until your credit expires on 08/12/2011. Simply call 1512 to check your balance or 1511 to recharge now.” What a surprise!

Damn, I know that my balance expires, and I also know that I will lose all my credit and the ability to make calls and send messages in 3 days if Vodafone doesn’t put my payment where it’s supposed to be.

Luckily, luckily, I still have something to lose in my Vodafone account, which means I still can make calls and send messages. For the next 3 days, at least. But what about the people who ran out of their credit while traveling, or when their car broke down away from home, or those who need the phone for their business?

Masterpiece no.3

Finally, “Thanks for recharging” message from Vodafone! It took 3 days to do the thing that should take seconds. “A better, faster, stronger Vodafone network”, truly.

And then another text: “A big thanks from us. Recharge on TXT&Talk in next 7 days & get triple the amount of Free TXT & Free Talk inclusions in 24 hrs. Info&T&C http://vfau.co/tatjs”

Recharge? In the next 7 days, while your robot keeps saying “Vodafone is experiencing issues... as soon as possible”? Vodafone, that’s not funny! I’ve been trying to recharge for the past 3 days to just have my credit extended, let alone triple anything. Looks like one of Vodafone’s systems has no idea what the other one is doing.

Vodafone sends another copy of the promotional text (the recharge still doesn’t work) “A big thanks from us. Recharge on TXT&Talk in next 7 days & get triple the amount of Free TXT & Free Talk inclusions in 24 hrs. Info&T&C http://vfau.co/tatjs”

That’s becoming annoying. Especially given that the offered link doesn’t work either: “404 Not Found. The requested URL /VFMarketing/2011Q3pt3/TxtTalkJumpstart was not found on this server.”

After some technical investigation, it has been discovered that the links included in the Vodafone “special offers” messages are only working if opened using a mobile phone. All attempts to open them from any computer inevitable lead to error 404.

Calling 1512, just to see how soon Vodafone’s “soon” is. Guess what? “Vodafone is currently experiencing issues with some recharges...” Five days so far.

The recharge is finally fixed!

And then “A big thanks from us. Recharge on TXT&Talk in the next 7 days & you'll get double your Free TXT & Free Talk inclusions in 24 hrs. Info & T&C http://vfau.co/tatrv”

No surprises, http://vfau.co/tatrv leads to 404 Not Found, and strange logic: to offer double amount after offering triple.

An e-mail from a Vodafone employee:

Hi Anny,

My name is Brody, and a part of my role at Vodafone is managing the tool that we use to provision short URLs - such as vfau.co/tatjs. Someone forwarded your page to me, and I thought you might like an update on the issues you've raised.

In the past, a major restriction of these short URLs was that they were only able to work on the phones that they were sent to. Thus, when a customer typed it into a PC browser, the page wouldn't load and an unfriendly error page appeared.

Obviously I didn't think this was satisfactory either, and we've recently updated this tool to be smarter about the way it handles different devices (i.e. desktops vs. phones). The end goal is that no matter what device you have - you'll see a website, and not an error. From now on, you shouldn't receive any more short URLs that can't cater for different devices.

Thanks for your time, and for raising the issue. Please feel free to email me with any further concerns related to this.

Brody McKee

Masterpiece no.4

A story of a friend that only reinforced me in my adherence to prepaid services, because I just can’t bring myself to trust the safety of my credit history to a such a “reliable” company like Vodafone (or any other mobile provider for that matter).

The friend had a contract with Vodafone two years ago then mowed to another provider. Upon leaving, the final bill was paid in full. A year and a half later, the friend received a call from Vodafone in an attempt to win the customer back. The friend refused, told them not to call anymore with any sort of marketing intentions, and at the same asked: “Do I owe you anything?” The answer was a clear “no”. A few month later, the friend was contacted by a debt collecting agency, Commercial Credit Control Pty Ltd (CCC), with claims that there is a $100 debt to Vodafone. After wasting a lot of time on calls to Vodafone and back to the debt collection agency, it turned out that Vodafone employees twice failed to look at the correct account: first at the time of the contact termination, and then during the marketing call. Vodafone and CCC were not interested in talking to each other directly to establish the truth and make up for their mistakes: vodafone already sold the customer’s personal data to CCC and “the debt was no longer with them”, and CCC just wanted to extort the payment as quickly as possible and move to the next victim. As a result, the friend had to pay the debt + 20% fee of the extortion agency, in addition to risking a damage to the credit history and having personal details sold to a privately owned collection agency, which who knows how will keep and use this information in the future. At least, the Commercial Credit Control promised that this case will not go to the credit file.

Sadly, the whole system is set up for the benefit of irresponsible people who can’t or don’t want to do their job properly. Both Vodafone employees surely received their salaries. The Commercial Credit Control employee got their pay too. If someone at the Commercial Credit Control makes a mistake and nevertheless passes the information about the incident to the credit history, there will be more damage to my friend and more financial losses to clear that mess. Then, the credit reporting agency who makes money on collecting, keeping and disclosing the information that is not theirs will make money too. The only person who is at loss is the honest user.

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