How to complain over Computershare handling of Vodafone payout

Q&A Dominic Coyle: Shareholders should act now and ensure they follow the complaints procedure closely

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 01:08

I was very relieved to read your article describing why Vodafone is facing a backlash because of problems in how Computershare is handing letters received from shareholders. I had hitherto assumed that there had been a problem with just my family’s forms.

On Thursday, five members of my family received letters stating that our forms had arrived in the Computershare office after the January 20th, 1pm deadline and that we would be treated as selecting the default “income” option. I had posted all five of the Vodafone forms in five separate envelopes on February 10th. These forms should have arrived at the Computershare offices by February 13th or 14th at the latest.

I was advised by a Computershare call-centre worker that somebody at a higher level would be making a decision about shareholders who were appealing this decision. He advised me to send an e mail with a subject title ‘Late form of Election”.

I am totally convinced they received our forms on time and that somebody took the option of telling small shareholders their forms were late so they wouldn’t have to commit to paying out a large amount of money to all the naive Irish investors who have already lost a lot due to the fall in value of their Vodafone shares.

Ms M.M., Cork

There have very clearly been problems with Computershare in the handling of Vodafone’s return of value – particularly, it would seem, with Irish shareholders. However, it is very important to state at the outset that there is no question of anyone deliberately misleading shareholders – Irish or otherwise.

Computershare is, I believe, the largest share registrar in the world and, in any case, the money paid out to Vodafone shareholders does not affect it financially one way or the other. The money comes from Vodafone, not Computershare. The registrar is simply processing the payments as a professional outsourced business.

But that is not to say it cannot make mistakes. Like many readers, I find it incomprehensible that letters took so long to get from Computerhsare to shareholders and, later, from shareholders to Computershare as the deadline approached.

Both the Royal Mail and An Post – whom Computershare have tried to blame for any hold-up – have assured me that there was no problem with the postal system in either country over that period. Yet people who posted their replies as early as February 3rd were told they missed the February 20th deadline.

Strangely, the letter Computershare sent out telling me they had missed the deadline made the same journey from Bristol to Ireland in less than two days!

The good news is that, as reported yesterday, one shareholder does seem to have found (on checking with Computershare by phone) that they made a mistake in his case (he had posted his reply on January 24th!) and is promising to rectify the position.

What about everyone else? Well, complain – loud and long, and to both Computershare and Vodafone.

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