20 October 2012

Vodafone - not a travelling network

I've travelled abroad many times and have never really had a problem using my iPhone for data, messaging and calls. You know it's going to cost you a bit more, but in the past, my network provider, Vodafone, has always sent me clear texts to let me know how much it is all going to cost.

However, on a recent trip to Turkey, both the squeeze (who is also with Vodafone) and I had an absolute nightmare, so I thought I would share our experience in the hope of preventing it from happening again.

Immediately upon arriving in Turkey, I started receiving very contradicting texts from Vodafone. Adam was getting completely different texts so we really weren't sure what the costs were of using our phones there. Some texts told us we were being charged £3 per megabyte, some said we had a 5MB allowance and some said we were being charged £5 for 25MB. It really wasn't clear. Below are a selection of the texts that I received to my phone.

Then, literally on our second day, we both received messages from Vodafone telling us that we had used our allowance of roaming for a trip outside of Europe and that our data roaming had been cut off. Apparently, we had both opted into  a roaming cap (although neither of us had opted into this and this hadn't happened in Australia earlier in the same year). Added insult to injury, the message said that we had reached our "euro" cap, which is utterly nonsensical since we both pay our bills in Sterling and the Turkish currency is Lira. The message said we could respond "stop" to lift the cap, but this didn't work.

Now, some people reading this might think, hey, you're on holiday, don't worry about your phone. However, that very same day, Adam proposed to me and it meant I couldn't share a photo of my ring with my friends and family and meant I couldn't let everyone know on Facebook. I was so upset.

Also, Adam uses his phone for work and urgently needed to access his emails to respond to a customer.

So we ended up having to ring Vodafone on the 191 customer services number. Unfortunately, every time we rang them, we were told that their phone lines were busy and we had to hold. We both tried to book in call backs with Vodafone, where your number is placed in a queue and they call you back when it is your turn. Unfortunately, each time they called us back, we were cut off after one minute.

In total, Adam rang Vodafone nine times and I rang them six times. One time I was put on hold for 16 and a half minutes before I gave up (below). It was so frustrating. When I eventually managed to speak to someone, I was told that I was on a package whereby I spent £5 per day for 25MB of data and they switched my data back on.

However, poor Adam didn't have so much lucky. He spoke to two separate people who informed him that Vodafone don't offer a roaming package for the rest of the world and he had to pay as you go. This is despite this package being advertised on their website and the Twitter support telling us both we should be on that package. Finally, he managed to speak to someone who told us that he could have the "Rest of the world" package which would cost him £5 per day and that to date he had only spent £10 on data.

So, it was all great news. We knew that we were each spending £40 for the whole holiday on data which was fine and Mum received the photo of my ring that she had been waiting for. We could get on with enjoying our holiday.

However, this weekend, we received a massive shock. Absolutely huge Vodafone bills!

We have both been charged for calling the 191 number. At no stage when we spoke to anyone were we told we would be charged for this service, nowhere on their website does it say this service isn't free from abroad and none of the times when we were put on hold or used the call back service were we informed that there was a charge from abroad. In total, Adam was changed £100.65 and I was charged £53.83. All of which was mainly incurred being on hold and all trying to resolve an issue which was due to Vodafone's appalling communication.

We were expecting to pay £40 for data roaming, however, we have both been charged far more than that! Adam was charged £163 and we also discovered that when we were told he had only spent £10, he had actually sent £70! I was charged £128 for my data roaming which is substantially more than the £40 I was expecting.

So my advice would be the following:
  • before you go on holiday, make sure you are completely clear what package you are on and how much it will cost you in your chosen destination. Just because it has been fine before, doesn't mean it will be fine in the country you are visiting
  • never ring 191 from your mobile. It would be cheaper to ring from a land line abroad than from your mobile
  • check your bill when you get home. It probably will be inaccurate as both of ours were
So, thanks Vodafone for making what was supposed to be a wonderful holiday an frustrating experience and stinging us both with killer bills. I've been your customer for nine years. I suspect I won't be for much longer.


  1. I'm tied to a Vodafone contract through work. In my opinion they are the worst mobile provider in the world. Unhelpful, extortionately expensive, crap coverage unless you live in the centre of a big city (and even that's no guarantee) and yes I share your frustrations with trying to get them to sort data roaming. As a business account they wouldn't even let me switch to a £5 25mb package. That's when I finally got through to them and stopped getting cut off. Crap Crap Crap. My wife's with EE(tmobile) and they have been fantastic for the past 3 years. Wish I could switch to them. Congratulations on your engagement anyway !!!

  2. Update! Have finally spoken to someone at Vodafone who is willing to help and who speaks enough English to understand what I am talking about!

    They have agreed to refund all of the charges for the phone calls for both me and the squeeze. So that's £150!

    They have opened an investigation into whether the data will be refunded. So watch this space!

    Thanks for your comment Carl. I agree, they have been very frustrating to deal with!