Subscriber OnlyPricewatch

‘My blood is boiling’: Vodafone’s contact methods irk readers

Pricewatch: Two people highlight their concerning experiences with the company

“I’ve meant to write to you many times, each time triggered by calls I receive from Vodafone,” begins the mail from a reader called Paul. “My issue relates to when they call me, usually to sell me something, an upgrade, a renewal, whatever. They call me from an unknown number, tell me they are Vodafone and then start asking me for personal identifiable information (PII). I’m a grumpy old information security professional and know a thing or two about the subject, so I refuse to give them any PII until they identify themselves. They refuse to do so in any meaningful way, the only thing they will do is send me a text message from a short code.”

By his own admission, Paul is grumpy but he is also a reasonable man and says he has given them various options to identify themselves “such as telling me the amount of my last bill, give me some starting/ending digits to my account number or some digits from my Eircode but they refuse to do so giving the excuse that they can’t under GDPR, which is not true. They tell me they are already looking at my information (which is concerning in its own way) but can’t prove to me that they have it.

“So all I have is a call from an unknown number and a text message and I’m meant to give out PII data? Asking this of their customers is bad enough, but what’s worse, in my opinion, is that it conditions their customers to give out this information lightly to any random caller who can also send a text message. What’s laughable is that on their own website they specifically advise to never give out personal information to suspicious sources over phone or email.”

Paul accepts that the company wants to protect the data it is holding and not give it out “for fear someone happens to randomly answer my phone, so they want to validate they are talking to the account holder. But as they initiate the call, they need to identify themselves too. I’m sure there are other businesses out there that think they are protecting PII data by conditioning people to freely give away their PII data, but they are making matters worse and not better.”


He makes the reasonable point that if all legitimate holders of PII “demonstrated excellent security practices, it might be harder for fraudsters to trick people when they can’t do the same”.

We had another query about the manner in which Vodafone contacts people and it is considerably more concerning.

“My blood is boiling,” begins the mail from Linda.

In March a man knocked on her father’s door late at night, selling phone, TV and broadband, for Vodafone.

“My dad invited him in. My dad is 89 years old and living alone since my mother was admitted to a care home in January. I would consider him to be vulnerable. He lives for his sport and prior to this had been subscribing to Sky to get the sports channels. As you know, the subscription price is rising all the time, and Dad was paying over €200 a month. Every so often, I would phone Sky to see if I could get a better deal. Now, as you now, you could grow old waiting on Sky to answer and once you finally get a human, you have to jump through so many hoops and even if you did manage to get a reduction, oh happy days, it was usually only for a few months, with advice to phone us again to see what else might be done. Usually I’ve lost the will to live by this stage.”

Linda says the man from Vodafone “was persistent and Dad showed him his bank statement showing the Sky monthly amount”.

He was told he could have all the channels he wanted for about €100 and signed up.

“I got to cancel the Sky subscription which was another palaver, I got the hard sell and basically a refusal to cancel and a badgering of my poor dad. Now, here we are, Vodafone called yesterday to install the new service. Dad cannot get his head around the new set-up, can’t work the remote control. Long story short. Is there a code of conduct for calling, in the dark, to elderly people, and signing them up to whatever?

“He has changed gas and electricity on the doorstep, signed up for dog food and agreed to a big heating upgrade, he has our hearts broken as each of these means work for one of us, his five daughters and three sons. One of our bugbears is that in order to avail of any of these offers, an email address is required. My dad does not have an email account so one of us has to supply one. I am weary. I want a law that states that cold calling in the evening is not allowed and I think once it is obvious that the homeowner is elderly, no effort should be made to sign anyone up to what is a contract. Is there a code of conduct? Who should I talk to about such a thing. The whole family are mithered at this stage.”

We contacted Vodafone about both these issues.

With regard to Paul’s concerns, a spokeswoman said the “security of our customers’ data is priority and all our processes are in line with best practice. This includes giving customers the option of receiving a validation message and/or calling us back to ensure the customer can be satisfied that their privacy and security is maintained.” She said that the company takes its data protection and security processes “extremely seriously and continually review ways to ensure that we meet and exceed the highest standards with the technical and organisational measures we have in place to protect customer data, while also considering the customer experience. All our customers also have the option to opt out of receiving these calls as per their marketing preferences.”

We also asked about its policies when it comes to doorstep selling, particularly when it comes to vulnerable customers. This is what the spokeswoman said: “Vodafone implements an extensive training process for all sales representatives. No calls to households take place beyond 8:30pm, which is earlier than the industry standard. Customers may request a ‘Do not Call’ notification to be placed against their Eircode and they will then not be included in future calls.

“All customers are also made aware of the 28-day cooling-off period that is in place with such orders, in line with the Distance Selling Act, thereby allowing all customers the enhanced period of 28 days to cancel with no fees. We are more than happy to provide further support to this customer if direct contact details can be shared with us. This could include a demonstration at one of our stores or a call from one of our agents. Through Vodafone’s Hi Digital programme, we also provide a free advice service to older people in select stores on Fridays, between 10am and 1pm.”