Vodafone customers still owed €1.1m in refunds
MOBILE giant Vodafone has not returned more than half of the €1.9m it overcharged customers using premium rate phone lines.
Vodafone admitted two months ago that it overcharged prepay customers using services such as gambling and psychic hotlines over a three-year period between December 2008 and December of last year.
However, it has emerged that less than half of this cash has been given back to customers -- and there is little likelihood the remainder will be returned.
Vodafone has only refunded customers who were overcharged after December 2010, saying it had paid out €800,000 so far to 56,000 customers overcharged from December 2010 to December 2011.
But records relating to customers overcharged before then had not been retained -- in line with data protection guidelines.
Because of this, it has been left to customers who believed they were overcharged to come forward and seek a refund.
The firm has set up a €250,000 fund for such people and for former customers who have since switched to other mobile companies.
But the fund has not been widely publicised and there have been no applications to it.
The Irish Independent has learned that Vodafone did not send texts to its customer base to alert them to the issue so that they could seek a refund -- despite its frequent bombardment of customers with marketing texts urging them to sign up for different offers.
The result is that Vodafone is only likely to pay back up to €1.05m of the €1.9m it overcharged users.
However, the firm has also agreed to pay more than €951,000 to state watchdog ComReg as a penalty for the overcharging blunder, and this sum will be passed back to the Exchequer.
Vodafone confirmed it had not received any applications for refunds from customers who were charged too much between December 2008 and December 2010.
"Any monies not refunded to customers from the €250,000 will be donated to charity. The charity is yet to be decided," a spokesman said.
All the customers overcharged were prepay customers.
Vodafone has some 1.5 million prepay customers -- far outnumbering those on bill pay plans.
Customers were charged between 10 cent and 30 cent a minute too much for calls to 1520, 1580 and 1590 numbers.
Vodafone said the problem had arisen due to a failure in internal processes, meaning tariff levels for premium rate calls were not updated. A spokesman said it had not yet attempted to reach potential overcharging victims by text, but it would review this matter shortly.
ComReg said it was monitoring Vodafone's provision of refunds to affected consumers.