Fire Service hit by Vodafone fault

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 15:44 16/01/2014

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The Fire Service is the latest organisation struggling with the fallout from a Vodafone fault that is delaying the delivery of text messages to and from Vodafone and Telecom mobiles.

A source said the Fire Service used text messages to call in replacement crew when they were required to cover for sick or absent staff, but the two-day-old fault was making that difficult.

As the Fire Service was a Telecom customer, it had been unable to raise the matter directly with Vodafone and had been able to get only an answer-machine message when calling Vodafone's customer service line.

Vodafone said today that its customers were still having intermittent problems sending and receiving texts to and from Telecom's network and texting short codes.

ASB Bank said the fault was preventing some customers getting codes on their mobiles that they needed to complete internet banking transfers.

It was affecting ASB's Netcode service, which uses two-factor authentication to secure money transfers. The bank advised affected customers to use phone banking or a mobile application instead.

No advisory was visible on Vodafone's mobile network status page, accessed from Vodafone's homepage, earlier today.

A spokeswoman said a notification had been put up elsewhere on its website and on social media, but Vodafone added the advisory to its main network status page after Fairfax queried the omission.

Vodafone said the fault was "under repair".

It acknowledged problems with its text service on Tuesday, saying they were because of an "IT issue", but said later that day it believed the issues had been fixed.

Vodafone is also in the spotlight after acknowledging it had been forced to pay $268,231 to thousands of customers to settle a dispute with the Commerce Commission.

The competition watchdog said Vodafone had not adequately advised people of the terms and conditions of a mobile broadband promotion it ran between 2009 and 2011.

Although the commission has only now agreed to settle, Vodafone spokeswoman Michelle Baguley said all the refunds had been paid to customers by June 2012.

During the Broadband Lite promotion that was subject to today's Commerce Commission settlement, Vodafone offered 100 megabytes of mobile data free for three months before a $10-a-month charge kicked in.

If customers wanted to cancel the service without incurring the ongoing fees they needed to text Vodafone before the three-month period expired.

Vodafone said it would send a text message to customers reminding them of the need to opt out to avoid charges.

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The commission said it received complaints from customers who said they had not been adequately informed of the charges.

It said nearly 8000 of the 146,000 people who took up the offer did not receive the "opt-out" text reminder, and 3000 customers cancelled the service but were still charged for it because the Broadband Lite add-on was not removed from their accounts.

"In reaching the decision to settle, we took into account the fact that Vodafone put things right as soon as it became aware of the problems. Nonetheless, the case highlights the potential problems with 'opt-out' sales promotions," commission consumer manager Stuart Wallace said.

"Such promotions require the consumer to take an active step in order to not buy something. Customers can be locked into a deal that they don't want and maybe did not understand.

"Unless the 'opt-out' condition is very clearly disclosed, these promotions have a high risk of being misleading and in breach of the Fair Trading Act."

Vodafone ran up penalties of $1.44 million in 2011 and 2012 for a series of misdemeanours that included a $960,000 fine for misleading advertising.

- Fairfax Media

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