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Peak communications body ACCAN commends Vodafone CEO Nigel Dews for his frank and unqualified letter of apology to the company’s four million customers for a string of incidents that has seen its network – and customer service – stretched to its limits over the past four months.

 

Since October many customers have experienced call drop outs, delayed SMS and voicemails, data problems and, in some cases, a complete lack of coverage for hours or days at a time.

“We’ve been communicating with Vodafone since we became aware of the issues in October and advised them to start writing directly with their customers about it,” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. “As we’ve said before, customers will understand if there are network issues from time to time but you have to be upfront and fair about it by letting your customers know what is going on.”

Criticism of Vodafone became vocal and public throughout December and January when customers were alerted to systemic network issues through online and social media. Customers united through the Vodafail.com website – which logged 11,000 complaints in a month – created by software engineer Adam Brimo while he was frustrated and waiting on hold to report his complaint.

“We know many customers have exited their contracts already but we’re pleased Dews is now writing to customers directly. Many customers have already been compensated by having bills waived or by some other arrangement and Vodafone, while slow to respond to the problems initially, has made an effort to make up for them since.”

ACCAN says this period is a crucial one for the industry with the ACMA due to report on its “Reconnecting the Customer” inquiry and the Telecommunications Protection Code under review.

“This Vodafone incident has highlighted how crucial it is we get these customer service and complaint handling issues fixed now with the National Broadband Network being rolled out around the country. We don’t want to migrate these problems to a broadband future where there are even more complex products and services available – we need to get the basics right,” said Ms Corbin.

Vodafone is sending the apology to all of its customers, which attributes part of the problem to a rapidly increasing demand for data delivered wirelessly that Vodafone says it wasn’t prepared for.

“Technologies have developed rapidly since the deregulation of the telco industry in 1997 and unfortunately Australian customers have often had to bear the brunt of the self-regulation experiment. The time has never been more right to shine the spotlight on the issues, look at what needs to be fixed and work together to make it happen,” said Ms Corbin.

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