THE country’s largest mobile phone operator, Vodafone, is to disconnect accounts that are infrequently used, and snaffle any unused credit on the phones.
There are fears that Vodafone’s tightening up of terms and conditions will hit those who keep a mobile phone for emergencies – including the elderly and young children.
The operator claims it is changing its terms from next month in a bid to recycle old mobile phone numbers that are no longer used.
Vodafone customers who don’t top-up their pre-paid mobile phone within eight months will have their account disconnected and lose any unused credit.
They could also face losing their number if they don’t reactivate it within the following six months.
The Consumers’ Association of Ireland said that while it was reasonable to try and re-use old mobile phone numbers, it was “completely unacceptable” that customers lose any credit remaining on their phones.
Chief executive Dermott Jewell said: “It’s the closest thing to putting your hand in someone’s pocket and taking what’s there.”
Eamon Timmins, spokesman for Age Action Ireland, warned older people caught out by the change will “vote with their feet” and change operator.
“Older people tend to vote with their feet and if Vodafone let them down, they will move elsewhere,” he added.
In a statement, Vodafone said there was a regulatory requirement to recycle the finite pool of mobile phone numbers.
It said it chose an eight-month recycling rule as the “overwhelming majority” of customers whose accounts aren’t topped-up within that timeframe become completely inactive.