50,000 will be refunded up to €4,000 in Vodafone error
MORE than 50,000 Vodafone customers are due refunds ranging from €50 up to a massive €4,000 because they were charged too much for ringing premium rate phone services.
Vodafone has also been fined €951,000 by the regulator Comreg because of the scale of the error which resulted in a total overcharging of €1.9m.
However, thousands more prepay customers affected between 2008 and 2010 may be unable to get their money back because there are no records available to prove how much they were overcharged by the mobile giant.
Individual prepay customers were charged sums ranging from under €50 up to €4,170 too much for using services such as psychic and gambling phone lines between 2008 and 2011.
Vodafone said it had identified 56,000 customers overcharged since December 2010.
Customers were charged between 10c and 30c a minute too much for calls to 1520, 1580 and 1590 numbers which are all prefixes for high-price phone services.
Those customers overcharged since December 2010 will be paid €800,000 which will include compensation for the error, and the money will be paid as a credit to their mobile account or by cheque.
However, thousands more who were overcharged between December 2008 and December 2010 will have to demonstrate to Vodafone that they are due a rebate.
This will be difficult as the fact they were on prepay services meant they never got itemised bills for their calls.
Vodafone said its internal billing records prior to December 2010 had been destroyed under data protection law.
It said it had set aside €250,000 for refunds to these customers and others who had switched to a different mobile company in 2011.
Any unclaimed money from this fund would be donated to charity.
"Vodafone fully accepts that this is not ideal and not a perfect solution and regrets the impact this has had on customers," a spokesperson said.
It had also agreed a payment of €951,000 to ComReg.
Comreg said this €951,000 was paid under the Communications Regulations Act and the money would be passed on to the Exchequer.
Around 70 Vodafone customers are owed more than €500, 850 are owed over €100, some 1,200 are owed between €50 and €100 and 54,000 people are owed under €50.
The single biggest refund owed is €4,170, Vodafone said.
Vodafone will also have to submit to an independent audit of its billing processes and give these results to Comreg, with ongoing monitoring for the next two years of its charges.
Vodafone said that the overcharging error had been caused by an internal processes failure.
"There was a gap in the process for auditing and updating call charges for these services as they are outside of core package plans," it said in a statement.
Vodafone said it had identified the error in December in an internal audit sparked by a Comreg review of premium rate numbers.
Although it could not give figures for the number of consumers overcharged between 2008 and 2010 it estimated the total €1.9m cost based on summary records of the minutes of calls to the premium numbers.
Comreg said this overcharging error was the biggest in years.