Very high mobile phone bill for data roaming

67 posts in this topic

Perhaps someone can advise how to deal with Vodafone, who have resorted to their usual obstinate, unhelpful, and contradictory form.

 

In March we received a mobile phone bill for over 600 euro after three days in Hong Kong. It seems one of our phones had data roaming mysteriously turned on and had not used the WiFi networks. We contacted Vodafone and asked for a 'kulanz' solution and promptly received the following email agreeing to do this, and remove the costs from our bill.

 

 

Ihre Antrag auf Gutschrift der Datenkosten wurde am 3. März 2011 bereits bearbeitet und eine Gutschrift in Höhe von 607,52 Euro erstellt.

 

Diese Gutschrift wird mit den Verbindungskosten Ihrer Rechnung verrechnet.

This prompted me to make a post in the happy thread about such good customer service, the post is now removed by the mods, (many thanks!) because of course, this sympathy and understanding was a mistake. Vodafone do not care about their customers and certainly don't do anything to be nice to them, at least not without a fight. When we checked our bank statement the 600 euro bill has become 750 euro because of the foreign VAT and they had withdrawn the credit without telling us, they now refuse to budge but one inch on the payment.

 

The recent emails are like this:

 

 

Im Jahressteuergesetz 2010 (JStG 2010) ist sehr kurzfristig eine Regelung aufgenommen worden, die die Besteuerung von Roaming-Verbindungen in Drittländern (außerhalb der EU) betrifft. Ab dem 01.01.2011 entfällt bei Privatkunden, die im Drittland (nicht EU) roamen, die deutsche Umsatzsteuer. Bei Geschäftskunden bleibt die bisherige Umsatzsteuer-Pflicht bestehen. Durch diese Gesetzesänderung ergeben sich für Privatpersonen, die im Drittland roamen, keine Änderungen in der Endkundenabrechnung.

 

Eine Gutschrift kann Ihnen daher nicht erstellt werden. Die Verbindungen wurden von Ihrem Gerät aus geführt.

 

Wir bitten um Ihr Verständnis und entschuldigen uns für die Missverständnisse! Wir wünschen Ihnen einen angenehmen Tag sowie ein schönes Wochenende!

 

So something about foreign tax means they can't give us a credit for the money, I fail to see how the two are related. When we queried this point we received the even more blunt email:

 

 

 

Wir können Ihnen keine Gutschrift für die entstandenen Roaming Kosten erteilen. Es tut uns leid, wenn Ihnen dieses falsch mitgeteilt worden ist. Durch die neuen Gesetzesvorschriften ist uns dieses nicht mehr erlaubt.

Naturally we have registered complaints with Vodafone's customer support department and will not let the matter drop. The arguments from Vodafone seem entirely fatuous - they seem to be hiding behind irrelevant points about VAT, making points we do not contest, and not discussing the core issue. We asked for kulanz, they said yes, then withdrew it without informing us or making any other offer.

 

Does anyone know what is usual in these cases, and how they usually are resolved? I've done a bit of searching and found various sites with stories and quotes from the mobile providers saying they will usually waive the charges but can anyone elaborate if this actually happens in practice or if these are just hollow words from PR monkeys? Were this in the EU then all sorts of safeguards would have kicked in but these seem entirely missing as this sorry story started in Asia.

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First and foremost, it's important to realise that at the end of the day you don't have a leg to stand on. Unfortunate though it is you were negligent in using the network while roaming, incurred the charges and are liable to pay them as per contract. Vodafone will have had to pay their roaming provider and it would be bad business practice not to pass them on to you, no matter how customer unfriendly it is.

 

In your favour, however is their earlier agreement to refund some or all of the charges accrued. Do you have this by email or paper mail? (The latter provides you with a stronger case to enforce their promise). They appear to be promising to credit you with 607,52 Euros. Have you actually checked if this credit has been applied to your account? It may mean that the original bill will still be payable in full (as the invoice has already been issued) but your account may be in credit such that future invoices will be balanced against it. Given that they are prolonging your argument, I have to assume this is unlikely.

 

I don't quote understand their comments about VAT. They are confirming that as a private person you should not need to pay German VAT on roaming charges outside the EU. Is your Vodafone account private or business? If private then VAT should not be being applied according to their own information and their comments don't make any sense.

 

Seems to me that the usual registered letter needs to be written:

 

  1. you told me on xx.xx.xx I could have (some of) my moneyback
  2. you've charged me the total amount, including VAT which according to JStG 2010 should not apply anyway
  3. where is my credit?
  4. why have you reneged on your promise
  5. fix this asap or I cancel my account at the next opportunity.
If they don't give way you really are only appealing here to their customer "friendliness" and I'm not sure you have legal grounds to take it any further (except of course for the refund of the VAT element). They are entitled to change their mind at any time before actually paying out.

 

I think that Vodoafone have the best network and best technical service. I also know from experience that their customer service stinks.

 

Good luck - you may need it!

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One for a lawyer, surely. They can tell you anything, not necessarily the truth.

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Thanks YL6, I think the registered letter is the way forwards. We don't dispute that the charges were a result of data connections abroad, we are asking Vodafone to offer us a solution other than charging the whole amount. We'd happily pay some part of it, but are furious at their change of mind without informing us, and the nonsensical arguments put forward. We have their original promise to credit our account in an SMS and email, as well as Vodafone having a recorded conversation with Mrs. Angel when they agreed to the credit. It's not clear if it was ever applied to our account but I believe it was but by the time the bill went out it had been removed.

 

It is a mystery how the data roaming ever got switched on, we are both aware of how expensive it can be, unfortunate that the business trip was to Asia. It speaks volumes for Vodafone's customer service that the protections (such as warning SMS messages) required by the EU do not also get sent worldwide which they could easily do, and thereby save everyone the hassle.

 

If they don't budge then next week our kundigung goes in.

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Which phone were you using? Normally phones have a setting to disable data when roaming. I want to check if this really works.

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It was an iPhone 3GS. We travel a from time to time around Europe so are aware of this problem - it's a shame the iPhone doesn't have a huge flashing icon warning of data roaming like the HTC Desire does.

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Roaming protection is pretty much a new thing in the EU, much to the chagrin of the network operators.

What a great shame Darkknight is no longer with us. Another nail in the Apple/iPhone coffin, no less.

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:( I'm so sorry to hear about this, it's so easy to accidentally run up a huge bill like this, just a setting on the phone at the end of the day.

 

This should definitely be outlawed, the obvious thing to do would be for network operators to have to by law SMS/network message you when your bill is higher than a set amount and keep SMS'ing you for each increment (unless you specifically choose to stop receiving alerts via a STOP to an operator shortcode).

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DK has abandoned us? Shame...

 

Do you know what this means, YL6:

 

 

Wir können Ihnen keine Gutschrift für die entstandenen Roaming Kosten erteilen. ... Durch die neuen Gesetzesvorschriften ist uns dieses nicht mehr erlaubt.

I have no idea why a law would prevent a company from crediting our account with some money, specifically because the money is for data roaming. Doesn't make any sense to me.

 

Thanks for your kind words dcgi - it is all too easy and this is why the EU have acted to limit the charges and the chances of accidentally running up massive bills. There are stories on the 'net of people running up tens of thousands of euro bills so in a way we're quite lucky, if you can call it that.

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This should definitely be outlawed, the obvious thing to do would be for network operators to have to by law SMS/network message you when your bill is higher than a set amount and keep SMS'ing you for each increment (unless you specifically choose to stop receiving alerts via a STOP to an operator shortcode).

 

The new EU regulation has a data roaming cap at 50 EUR. But again this is applicable only within EU countries.

 

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/regulation/index_en.htm

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minga: ah ok, thanks for the information, good to know.

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Do you know what this means, YL6:

 

Sounds like male cow poo to me. I can't imagine any law preventing a credit refund.More likely their problem is they paid the HK provider and don't want to lose it themselves.

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This should definitely be outlawed...

 

Why and by who? We don't (or shouldn't) live in a nanny state. If the user is stupid enough (sorry, HellesAngel!) to run up these charges then he's stupid enough to pay them.

Buyer beware!

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Sounds like male cow poo to me. I can't imagine any law preventing a credit refund.More likely their problem is they paid the HK provider and don't want to lose it themselves.

 

My thoughts exactly. Many thanks.

 

and who you're callin stoopid?

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Why and by who? We don't (or shouldn't) live in a nanny state. If the user is stupid enough (sorry, HellesAngel!) to run up these charges then he's stupid enough to pay them.

Buyer beware!

 

I dunno. The only reason he ran up these charges in the first place is because he was unaware of what was happening, and he was unaware because the whole thing is very intransparent. Most developed countries have laws making sure that a consumer knows what he's buying and how much it's gonna cost, because that's necessary for a functioning market.

From where I'm sitting, data roaming is probably one of the most poorly functioning markets around, because carriers keep their customers in the dark on purpose, in order to charge them a fortune for services they don't really want.

 

An expensive roaming plan on a fast data network can cost you $8 per second, which is about what it costs to operate a Boeing 747. As far as I'm concerned, when a cell phone has the same operating costs as a Jumbo jet, it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask carriers to warn their customers.

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Normally I feel bad that I can't do much travelling anymore lately, what with a small child at home, another on the way and a booming business... no time left except maybe for a short trip to Austria or italy at best.

For once I am happy now that I could not travel much lately as I had no idea that you have to switch something off in your phone (Android Smartphone) in order to avoid getting such hefty charges... Jesus wept, I bette read the manual and my contract again, me thinks. My sympathy for you, HellesAngel. If you need a good lawyer, let me know, I know the right "terrier" kind of lawyer for that.

 

Cheerio

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(Android Smartphone)

Einstellungen -> Drahtlos und Netzwerke -> Mobile Netzwerke -> Daten-Roaming

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Why and by who? We don't (or shouldn't) live in a nanny state. If the user is stupid enough (sorry, HellesAngel!) to run up these charges then he's stupid enough to pay them.Buyer beware!

 

I don't think you can call adequately informing the customer as to their bill in realtime a 'nanny state' move. Nanny state would be if you cut off their data access if you hit a predefined limit. I think everyone would prefer to be told what they've spent, I know I would for things like heating/electricity for instance.

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My sentiments exactly, gents. Normally we spend around 100 yoyo a month with Vodafone for two phones and the full data package, with some flat rates thrown in. This has been constant for ages so it wouldn't be beyond the wit of a computer programmer to write some clever things that notices our bill is climbing fast way above normal and send us an information SMS (like is now law in the EU). Some may call that nanny state, but I'd call informing your customers about the state of their account 'customer service'.

 

Anyway, we're now on the back end of Vodafone's customer service and the case has gone to a supervisor who will look at it on Monday. Should they maintain their stance that we should pay the whole thing and be damned then we may well ask for Starshollow's lawyer for an opinion. He sounds like exactly the type Vodafone should have to deal with...

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The iPhone automatically establishes data connections to apple-servers also when you're roaming abroad. That's why charges are produced even when you do not actively use data apps.

 

You can easily avoid those worries by calling Vodafone's customer care before you leave Germany and have data connections disabled in your customer account. Only voice telephony and sms will be possible outside Germany. After returning you call again and have this suspension being lifted.

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