Pricewatch: Readers’ queries

Vodafone’s approach to settling a bill, and Bank of Ireland’s blocking of credit cards, are exercising consumers this week

A reader has been left ‘really upset’ over Vodafone’s approach to collecting an outstanding charge

A reader has been left ‘really upset’ over Vodafone’s approach to collecting an outstanding charge

Mon, May 12, 2014, 01:00


A reader has been in touch over an issue she has with Vodafone. While she accepts what is at stake is “a relatively small amount of money”, it has still left her “really upset over the principle of the matter”.

She has been a Vodafone customer for the past 14 years. Last September she moved to Belfast for college and switched from bill pay to pay-as-you-go. She also got a Northern sim card. She signed up for e-billing with Vodafone years ago and does not get paper bills. “I was informed in the Vodafone store in Galway to pay my last e-statement and that was that,” she says.

When she returned home to Kerry in the new year and went through her post, she found a bill from Vodafone. She rang Vodafone to query the bill, as she had been told in Galway that, once she paid the last bill, there would be no more charges. “When I queried it, the girl told me it was for outstanding charges and a changeover charge. I told her I was told there wasn’t any changeover charge. So she said she would take it off the bill. I asked her to post me out a bill with the new balance. She said it would take a month.”

This bill never arrived and our reader didn’t notice – she had returned to Belfast “and just figured they would contact me”. Last month she was home in Kerry again and was met with a stack of post and loads of letters from a debt recovery agency looking for €74.86.

“I had never got a debt-recovery letter before and was a little upset, especially since I had never got the bill from Vodafone. I emailed Vodafone, certain it was just a misunderstanding. Nobody replied to my email. I then rang two weeks later.”

She spoke to someone, who spoke to the Vodafone credit department to see if she could just pay the bill, “and they said I could not as my account was closed and the debt recovery agency were now dealing with it”. She then got an email saying she could pay the bill in instalments if she wished.

She rang again and explained how upset she was to have been contacted by debt collectors, “when I hadn’t even received the bill. I explained that I was told I couldn’t pay but then I got an email saying I could pay.”

The woman she was speaking to said she could pay the bill but not right then, because the accounts department was closed.

Days later, she “finally got to talk to a lovely girl. I had to explain the whole saga again – she apologised about the whole mix-up, told me that she would talk to the credit department and get it sorted, and that she would make sure they passed on the message to the debt-recovery people, as this was what I was upset about most. She put me on hold, came back on the line and said she would pass me on to the credit department and they would take payment.”

Our reader was “delighted to have spoken to someone so nice and efficient, and was happy that the situation would be rectified. I got on to the credit guy, gave him my details, he took payment for €62.38. I was delighted that it was resolved and just said in passing to him to make sure that the debt recovery agency was contacted to say the payment had been made.”

She was then told that she had paid what she owed Vodafone, but she still owed the debt-collection agency €12.48.

We contacted Vodafone but were still awaiting a response at the time of going to print.


Last week, Virpi Timonen rang Bank of Ireland to ask why her credit card had not worked during a recent trip to Denmark and Finland.

“Luckily I was also carrying a Visa debit card that did work, so I was able to pay for things and get cash,” she writes.

“I was astounded to discover that the bank’s current ‘standard practice’ is to put a ‘flag’ on a card when it is used somewhere ‘unusual’ (thereby blocking it). The whole point of a credit card is to make your life easier when you travel, not cause you to be stranded just because you haven’t realised or remembered that you are supposed to spend half an hour on the phone to ask for their permission to go abroad. (Although it turns out you can do this online, too – how convenient).”

She says this is the “best-yet example of how the banks excel at making your life difficult for you. I read out the dates of my forthcoming trips to the agent on the phone, so hopefully I will now be allowed to buy a cup of coffee in Sydney. Nonetheless, an unsuspecting traveller going abroad just with their Bank of Ireland credit card could find themselves unable to pay for anything. Total nonsense in my view, but certainly essential information for anyone going abroad with a Bank of Ireland credit card (not that the bank had bothered telling me about this new policy).”

We contacted Bank of Ireland and got the following statement. “We only block cards where we deem there to be a high risk of fraudulent transactions. We also make prompt contact with the principal cardholder to advise them that their card has been blocked.

“It is not customer-centric nor in our interests to block cards, and we always alert the customer if a block has been placed on a card.”

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