Epic Vodafail: 30 page report smashes Vodafone


Vodafone accountability website Vodafail today opened up a new and dramatic front in its ongoing war against struggling mobile telco VHA, dumping a 30 page opinionated report on its head that the site claimed documented a history of failures, both technical and human, over the past few months.

The report, dubbed Vodafone’s situation: Yesterday, today and tomorrow and available online (PDF) was put together by Sydney resident Adam Brimo over the past month, using data collected from user submissions to his Vodafail website since it was established in early December. Brimo has submitted the document to regulators the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

In the document, Brimo notes the aim of publishing the report is to provide “an insight into the scale and complexity” of VHA’s network and customer service issues over the past few months from October 2010, as well as the potential causes of those issues, and potential resolutions.

For example, it documents that Vodafail.com has received some 146 complaints about customers not receiving voicemail or SMS messages on time; that 446 Vodafone customers didn’t like its automated voice response system (dubbed ‘Lara’) and that some 6,242 customers had complained that they did not have phone or data reception in an expected coverage area.

“Vodafone’s current situated appears to be the result of underlying network issues [and] poor customer service exacerbated by the difficulty customers have both in getting in contact with Vodafone and the lack of accurate information being made available by Vodafone,” Brimo writes in the report.

The report unfavourably contrasts the geographical areas where Vodafone claims it has coverage with areas where Vodafone customers have reported coverage problems (typically concentrated in cities) and derides the telco’s customer service skills.

According to Brimo, writing in the report, possible causes of VHA’s woes include technical and business philosophy problems stemming from the merger of Vodafone and Hutchison which created VHA, poor communication with customers, and the possibility that VHA acquired too many new customers thoughout the past year and may not have invested sufficiently in its network to support growth.

In the report, Brimo notes there would be no “immediate solution or resolution” that could fix VHA’s problems overnight.

“However, there is no doubt that a number of the problems Vodafone is experiencing could have been alleviated through better communication with its customers,” he wrote, comparing VHA’s handling of its crisis unfavourably with similar corporate issues suffered recently by the likes of Skype and the National Australia Bank.

Not all of the Vodafail report is based on hard statistical evidence from complaints on the site, however. Brimo notes in the report that some of his information is provided by anonymous VHA employees — and “therefore cannot be verified”.

The report contains anonymous emails from what Brimo states are VHA employees, and Brimo states that much of his speculation as to the possible causes for VHA’s problems is based on first-hand research and publicly available information rather than official information provided by VHA itself.

The report also contains a number of opinionated or speculative statements. For example, Brimo notes that a number of staff appeared to have left after the VHA merger. “This reduction in costs may have been a desirable result for VHA as a significant portion of the synergies in the merger would be a result of fewer retail stories and fewer staff,” he wrote.

VHA has been contacted for a response to the report, but has not yet made a statement on the issue.

However, over the past month a number of the company’s executives have publicly apologised for the problems, and the company has posted frequently on its Vodafone blog to update customers on action it was taking to remedy their problems. Despite this, as the report was released tonight, a spokesperson for advocacy group the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network slammed VHA’s response to the crisis, describing the situation as an “information vacuum”.

“Adam deserves all of our thanks for his effort in setting up the Vodafail.com website and taking a month out of his life to run it,” said ACCAN director of policy & campaigns Elissa Freeman in a statement released with the report (PDF). “Prior to Adam setting up Vodafail.com, many customers thought they were alone in experiencing problems because Vodafone failed to let people know what was going on.”

The advocacy group claimed Vodafone had not only damaged its own reputation by “failing to be up-front with its customers”, it had “damaged the industry as a whole”.

ACCAN said in its statement that Brimo also wanted the publication of the report to mark the conclusion of this “unexpected” chapter in his life and allow him to return to normality. Since launching Vodafail, Brimo has conducted a number of interviews with the press and has exited his own mobile contract with Vodafone — although he has refused to say if he has found a new provider, and plans to speak out through the media on the issue no more.

Image credit: VHA


  1. I think the biggest thing Vodafone can do for the industry is start giving everybody with a grievance an out on their contracts, rather than tying up their own resources and those of the TIO while these customers continue to vent their anger publicly.

    I am told a friend of mine has been persistent enough to finally get an assessment of his level of coverage over two months after his initial complaint which also took a sidetrack when Vodafone “accidently” charged him a $200 data overcharge on a device which doesn’t work on 3G at all due to the aforementioned lack of service. This at the same time we’re being told some journo in a cafe has more detail about what charges are actually on Vodafone customers’ accounts than the call center staff.

  2. If one individual can compile such detailed information one must wonder what the hell the ACMA is doing.

    It needs to impose some serious new license conditions on Vodafone or threaten to take away its ability to do business in Australia.

    The consumers get rorted and from what I can see the ACMA has done nothing!

  3. Vodafone as a functioning company is a complete mess. The VHA management team needs to be summarily dismissed and replaced with a competent executive team. They also need to immediately close their Mumbai call centres and switch back to an Australian team who can at least communicate with customers.

    I find it simply amazing that Vodafone continues to heavily advertise mobile phone plans yet can not meet their service obligation. A perfect example of a management team in complete denial or worse criminally inept.

      • As one of the few people that have assisted Adam with moderation on the vodafail.com site, I can confirm that title has been in place since Adam started writing the report many weeks ago.


  4. Playing Devil’s Advocate – (just for a moment) – while Brimo has undoubtedly generated a report with significant merit, one must remember that it was created using data from pissed off customers, who are invariably going to exaggerate their woes to make their point.

    Having worked in the telco and corporate IT space for more than 15 years, I could almost write a book on the claims made by customers with a problem that were later found to be exaggerated to make a point. I would never blame people for doing so, but it’s human nature to pump your problem up to get more attention.

    Where Vodafone have REALLY failed in this situation is how they’ve handled the situation. They need to be much more open and responsive to their customers, whether they have genuine complaints or not.

    Even if a customer is wrong about a problem, if they are still pissed off, they will still leave. Even when the customer is wrong, you have to make them feel that their issue has been dealt with in an appropriate and – more importantly – “human” way.

    Having spent two years in charge of the support/service department of an ASX-listed telco, I would quickly run out of fingers if I counted the number of times I worked on the ego of the customer that was clearly wrong about a problem, by going out of my way to make absolutely sure that the customer TRULY FELT that the problem had been looked at and rectified – even if there was nothing actually wrong.

    There are clearly technical issues with VHA’s network. Any sane and rational person understands that things do go wrong from time to time, and that it takes time to resolve problems permanently. A situation like this can be turned into a situation where customers GAIN confidence in your company, by showing that you can effectively deal with inevitable problems when they occur.

    It is however a BIG fail by Vodafone that they have been slow/lethargic to accept that there is a problem, give assurances to customers, and give them a clear avenue for discussion about mitigation procedures – (temporary or permanent) – to get them through.

    Every bad situation can be turned into a positive – the biggest failing is that VHA have missed this point.

    • while Brimo has undoubtedly generated a report with significant merit, one must remember that it was created using data from pissed off customers, who are invariably going to exaggerate their woes to make their point.

      As a current Vodafone customer (currently with an investigation ongoing into my lack of ability to get data) trying to get out of my contract, I agree. I wouldn’t exactly call random complaints on a website “hard statistical evidence” IMO.

    • “while Brimo has undoubtedly generated a report with significant merit, one must remember that it was created using data from pissed off customers, who are invariably going to exaggerate their woes to make their point.”

      …yeah, he should have compiled the report with data from happy customers!! (note sarcasm…)

      • In my experience, happy customers don’t exaggerate how happy they are. Pissed off customers do exaggerate how pissed off they are.

        He can only use the information he’s given.

        • My ecstatic review of a service/experience is no different to one I found to be acceptable.

          When I’m pissed off about something I can easily slip into hyperbole. How others will parse it never gets considered until after I click the button.

        • I agree that some people with poor service may exaggerate their claims, but my point is that to compile a report on unhappy customers with service problems, you need to use unhappy customers with service problems…and that may come with the baggage of exaggerated claims, but there is still a legitimate claim in there regardless.

    • Couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said, and all of it stands true in my experience. People want to be treated like (shock, horror) people and have their viewpoints acknowledged – even if they are incorrect.

      While I don’t believe “the customer is always right”, I do believe that “the customer’s viewpoint should always be treated as a valid one”.

    • Michael, you say “Where Vodafone have REALLY failed in this situation is how they’ve handled the situation. They need to be much more open and responsive to their customers, whether they have genuine complaints or not.”

      No, where VHA have REALLY failed is how they’ve allowed this situation to develop through incompetence and under investing in their network.

      One really has to ask if Vodafone are seriously interested in continuing operations in Australia given their abject failure to deliver a reliable service.

      • For the record, I agree with you Paul, 100%.

        All service based companies will at some point strike problems with the offering – generally unforseen, whether through incompetence or just not understanding the ramifications of the organic growth of their product offering.

        As I suggested, problems ALWAYS occur at some point, and most people expect them at some point, so in this instance I was more looking to address their botched attempt to deal with it, which they could have turned into a positive experience, with a far better response.

    • I have just completed a 2 year contract with a top of range Vodafone usb modem… it is the worst internet product I have ever used. It would always drop out after about 5 minutes, was slower that dailup and often would not connect at all. Trying to call the company was a joke. I gave up 18 months ago and got a similar product from a competitor which works OK.

      I paid out the plan but did not or could not login for over a year. I hope the class action gets off the ground as I would like a refund!!

      As a sidenote my son in law recently got an IPhone from Vodaphone and although he lives only 17 Kms from the Melbourne GPO has to use his landline to make calls from home because his mobile keeps droppoing out.

      Surely its time these guys were put out of business.

      Vodafone… never again!

  5. I finish my contract in July I currently am using a telstra prepaid sim as I can’t get data at all on my voda contract sim
    My fiancé resigned a few months back since they merged 3 & vodafail october last year it has been awfull
    3+ call dropouts a day and that’s in coburg vic and no data reception as it is 0.26 Mbps can’t even load google ffs
    2 3G bars max ever
    My fiancé is going to telstra as well less drama and data is useable
    Don’t sign up with these guys my fiancé gave me his upgrade handset it has been in for repair 2 times so far
    Shitty sony freezes and they blame the phone but my fiancé brought a gs3 still the same network issues !!!
    So no not a exaggerated customer just annoyed im paying for data I can’t ever use or call drop outs

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