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.

The initial response will, no doubt, be that it is the shareholder’s responsibility to ensure the forms arrive back in time. And for some (especially those who sought forms in the final days before the deadline), it is very likely that they will have to accept they are too late to this particular party.

However, those who acted in reasonable time – and remember Computershare had no problem getting mail to shareholders in less than two days – have a case, especially where postal services in both countries say there was no problem with their service.

Certainly no-one apart from Computershare and Vodafone’s unlucky shareholders seem to have experienced problems with the mail over the period. Computerhsare is regulated by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (http://www.fca. org.uk/) and says it manages all complaints within the rules of that body.

To complain, you can either contact them by email at http://iti.ms/1hF73qn. Alternatively, you can write to either: Computershare Investor Services, The Pavilions, Bridgwater Road, Bristol BS99 6ZZ, United Kingdom or Computershare Investor Services (Ireland) Ltd, PO Box 9742, Dublin 18, Ireland.

Alternatively, you can phone 00 44 (0)870 702 0198 or (01) 247 5058 (for shareholders resident in Ireland). Finally, you can FAX Computershare on 00 44 (0)870 703 6101.

You’ll note that the list does not include the particular email option suggested to you.

I would strongly suggest that anyone complaining does so in writing – either by email or letter – with COMPLAINT written at the top. Also, please ensure you keep copies of all correspondence, including the letters you are sending. Any additional information should also be sent in writing – and the content of any phone calls should be confirmed in writing subsequently.

Ironically, Computershare says in its complaint procedure (a user friendly leaflet available at http://iti.ms/1cndUG6 or a website FAQ at http://iti.ms/1cncJq7) that it aims to have a final response sent to you within five business days of receiving your complaint. If it is not “resolved”, it undertakes to write to you within those five days.

On their recent track record, shareholder will no doubt expect to receive that communication anywhere within two days to five weeks later . . .

Beware, when Computershare makes a final decision on your complaint, its procedures say it will consider your complaint resolved if it does not receive any further communication from you within 10 days. Again, this is a real issue, given its decidedly mixed interaction with the postal service.

If, having exhausted the process at Computershare – and you do need to ensure it has been followed to the letter – you should be able to refer your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service in the UK. Its complaints procedure is available at http://iti.ms/ 1cneSSFand there is a helpful “hints and tips” sheet available at http://iti.ms/1hF9Sri.

Beyond that, the final option is formal legal action which, given the sums involved, is an expensive process.

Finally, remember, that for all your woes with Computershare, it has been appointed registrar to deal efficiently and effectively with shareholders by Vodafone, in which you are an investor. If you have a problem with its registrar, you should let Vodafone know.

Its director of investor relations is Peregrine Riviere, whose number is 00 44 7825 124868. The Investor Relations department is: 1 Kingdom Street, Paddington, London W2 6BY. Details of other investor relations executives at Vodafone are available on its website at: http://iti.ms/1cnfZ4E (scroll down to get below the Computershare details).

Vodafone will undoubtedly look to pass dissatisfied shareholders on to Computershare but there is no reason why they should not be made aware directly of the annoyance and financial loss of many Irish shareholders the inexplicable delays in contact to and from Computershare.


What’s the price of share in Vodafone?

You say (last week) that Vodafone shares were trading at €3.03 last Monday, but in The Irish Times markets page on the Tuesday, they appear at €135.83. Am I reading something wrong? They were trading at 2.35 on Jan 8th – a big drop since.

Mr P.ÓC., Dublin


Confusing, isn’t it? Vodafone has done a six for 11 stock consolidation – for every 11 shares you used to own, you now own only six. When that happens, the stock market websites adjust the historical share prices to reflect the new position.

So, on February 20th before the consolidation, Vodafone shares were trading at 229.6 pence sterling each. If you had 11 shares, that would equate to 2,525.6 pence. On February 24th, when the new consolidated shares started trading, the shares finished the day at 252.3 pence. But this price is for the six shares, a total of 1,513.8p.

Thus, even those the nominal price is higher, your shareholding is worth considerably less because the “return of value” payout has been made.

To reflect this, the market takes the 252.3p price and multiplies it by six before dividing it by 11. This allows it to give a direct comparison of the share price performance (minus the payout) before and after the return of value. On this basis, it determines that your shareholding was effectively trading at 129p per old share before the changeover.

One other small point. The price in the paper for Vodafone is quoted in sterling, not euro. If you look at the share price yesterday morning, it was 246.15p per share of your new smaller consolidated holding.


Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St , D 2, or e mail dcoyle@irishtimes.ie. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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