A reader called Amanda contacted us on behalf of her mother, who is 73. Last year her mother received a cold call from Vodafone, asking if she would like to upgrade her phone. So she upgraded to an iPhone.
“This is her first smartphone,” Amanda writes. “We set the phone up to connect to her wifi, and when she was in other people’s houses we set it to connect to their wifi. All hunkydory so far.
“She got the new phone in early December. She asked me to check why her bill was so high for December and January.
“She has opted to pay by direct debit, and received an email to direct her to check Myvodafone.ie. The bill was paid by direct debit on January 29th, and when she checked her bank account the amount taken was €60.84. Her bill is usually between €30 and €40.”
At the start of this month Amanda checked the usage. “She was being charged for Vodafone Live updates that she didn’t know her phone was connected for.
“She also didn’t know how the phone connected to get these updates. I had a look at the phone and turned off the mobile data.”
A few days later she went into her Vodafone account again to check the January charges and again she was being charged for Vodafone Live at 80 cent per connection.
“The strange thing was she was being charged each day right up to January 22nd, and then the charges stopped, but the connection was still being made, only now she was not being charged for it.”
Amanda contacted Vodafone to ask about the charges, but the company could not explain why she was being charged and then not being charged.
“I found it extremely frustrating to deal with them, as they could not explain the reason why the charges had stopped and also how my mother had been charged for a service she didn’t even know she was using, with a phone that she only upgraded because of a cold call,” Amanda writes.
“My gripe is that there are charges worth more than €40 that my mam had no clue about, and if she hadn’t changed her phone there would be no issue.”
Amanda says that her mother was widowed in the past year “and does not need this kind of nonsense. She does not fully understand all the ins and outs of new technology, and none of her children lives in Dublin to sort out these things on a daily basis. Also, she wants to be as independent as she can be.”
Amanda tried to sort this out directly with Vodafone, “but I was directed to ring 1907. What a disaster. I could not get to speak with anyone on the phone, so I eventually hung up. I don’t know where to turn next to try to sort this.”
We contacted Vodafone, which then “resolved the issue to [our reader’s] satisfaction”. In a statement, the company said it had “refunded the incorrectly charged service and has apologised for the inconvenience caused.
“We are reviewing our systems and processes in relation to this service to ensure that similar issues do not happen again.
“However, we can confirm that this issue does not reflect the standard customer experience.”
LoCall numbers that don’t add up for consumers
Donal O’Connor asks whether it would be possible for us to comment on 1890 – so-called LoCall – numbers. He points out that a lot of public utilities use only these numbers, and, depending on your provider, calls to them can cost up to 35 cent a minute. He is not wrong.
Numbers prefixed 1850, 1890 or 0818 are sometimes referred to as Callsave or LoCall numbers. They are not classified as national or local calls, so operators generally do not include calls to these numbers in any free minutes they offer as part of a monthly fee.
Calls to 1850 numbers are charged at a flat rate per call. Calls to 1890 numbers are charged per minute, normally at local call rates for fixed-line providers.
The cost of making the same call using a mobile can be as high as 35 cent a minute. While many large organisations advertise their LoCall numbers as if they were entirely for the consumer’s benefit, they don’t make any mention of the potential cost.
The better companies will point to their regular “geographic” numbers too.
Saynoto1890.com is a website that has a comprehensive list of alternatives to 1890, 1850 and 0818 numbers, as does the app Forget 1850.