For a lot of people, a simple IT upgrade is a fairly routine event, but that hasn’t been the case for UK wireless network, Vodafone, which as recently been fine a total of £4.6 Million ($5.6 Million) as a result of an IT system upgrade gone wrong, as well a failure to do right by its customers. The regulatory body in the UK, Ofcom, has fined the wireless network as their “failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies.” The fines represented the second-largest in the UK, with TV network ITV £5.7 Million back in 2008 for abusing high-cost phone numbers for voting in shows like the X Factor and other contests.
The £4.6 Million figure is made up of two separate fines that resulted from two separate investigations, the majority of which – £3.7 Million – was because of a failure to top-up customers on pay-as-you-go tariffs with the correct amounts. In the UK, many customers still have to top-up their accounts with a pre-determined amount in order to keep using their service, and Vodafone got this wrong after an IT upgrade failed to adequately move over all information to the new system, resulting in some users paying for more airtime, and not having it credited to their account. Vodafone has refunded on average £14.35 ($17.55) to each customers and the network also made a charitable donation of £100,000, too. The second part of the larger figure was for £925,000 for failing to properly handle customer complaints. Ofcom has given Vodafone 20 working days to pay the full balance of the fine and the network admitted their faults, saying that “This has been an unhappy episode for all of us at Vodafone: we know we let our customers down. We are determined to put everything right. We offer our profound apologies to anyone affected by these errors.”
Fines like these aren’t uncommon, and given that the money will be passed over to the UK’s Treasury, it could be easy to argue that the UK government is using Vodafone as something of a top-up service. However, it is true that if other networks and operators see the regulatory body fine a competitor for failing to uphold their end of the bargain, it’s likely they won’t do the same thing. Or so the theory goes, at least.