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171 posts

Master Geek
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Topic # 151683 1-Sep-2014 21:24
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Is it normal that telecommunications providers keep your unused portion of your last bill unless you specifically ask for a refund?

I am just in the process of transferring providers again, and realised that I never got my refund from Vodafone from when I moved from them at Christmas. I just called to query this, and was told they owed me nothing as my account balance was zero.

I questioned them further, as i was sure they did owe me money. Eventually they conceded they did and are going to pay me back (albeit not as much as they owe me, as they claim my service had to stay live for several days after my new provider had gone live due to the number porting - despite the fact that my new provider was providing all services on my line with my number from several days earlier).

So several grumbles with Vodafone.

1) They kept the money.

2) They denied keeping the money and said they owed nothing (when they did owe me money).

3) They are only refunding the number of days they want to, despite my service being cancelled and live with the new provider 3 days earlier than they say. (Surely they should be refunding me from when my new service went live - not a spurious 3 days later?)

When challenged on the phone. the lady said it was my fault for not phoning them ('we didn't know we owed you any money until you phoned with your account number, because our system shows a balance of "zero" unless you phone to claim the refund"). 

Clearly a telecommunications company employs some pretty bright people, and could clearly design their system to automatically work out the money they owed as a refund when the cancellation completion is received... except of course it isn't in their greedy self-interests, because they want to keep your money. There is a word for this... Stealing!

Do you think they would be so generous if I left without paying them... of course not!!

So is this just a Vodafone thing, or is this a NZ Telecommunications provider thing?

Either way, it is pretty shady practice. I suspect that lots of people don't ever phone up for their refund, so it is a nice little earner for them. And even if they do phone (or look online) the system says "zero" balance for money owed.

Needless to say, I'm not happy.

Glad I remembered the refund had never arrived and chased it, so finally have some money coming back now... but I'm pretty annoyed that they are not refunding the full amount. Should I challenge them over it?

Mike

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709 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Vodafone NZ

  Reply # 1120198 2-Sep-2014 07:41
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Hi Mike, I'll answer your points as you have made them.

1) We don't check credit balances on accounts for refunds - large numbers of customers keep their accounts in credit for various reasons. We will of course refund if there are queries and if the customer is able to provide us with the relevant account to refund to, etc.
2) The original person you spoke to would have checked your account and seen your account balance was zero, hence you were told nothing was to be refunded.  This is not the person being shady or lying to you, they were simply providing you the information they were able to access at the time. Written-off amounts do not show up on accounts after 6 months I believe, and the only people with access to the information is our credit review department.
3) You will be refunded a pro-rata number of days unless you gave us one month notice of your intention to disconnect. I believe one month's notice is part of our terms of service. We have to pay your service rental to the wholesale provider for the actual number of days it remained connected regardless of when you believe your service moved.

I am sorry to hear you're disappointed with how the matter was handled and want to invite you to refer to our complaints process if you wish to pursue the matter further.

Regards,
Lon




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  Reply # 1120199 2-Sep-2014 07:46
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I find it strange you feel Vodafone was "Keeping" money from you.
There is a text field that shows the funds available on an account like your bank would. It doesnt lie, it doesnt change by itself.




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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1120227 2-Sep-2014 09:08
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miked: Is it normal that telecommunications providers keep your unused portion of your last bill unless you specifically ask for a refund?


No matter what type of organisation you are dealing with there are very different rules for accepting payment and making payment.  For a refund from anyone you should expect to have to contact them, establish your identity (to a far greater degree than for payment), and then provide details of how they can pay you.



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1120732 2-Sep-2014 18:51
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TimA: I find it strange you feel Vodafone was "Keeping" money from you.
There is a text field that shows the funds available on an account like your bank would. It doesnt lie, it doesnt change by itself.


I might be wrong (it is my word against theirs - my memory against their policy), but I don't think the credit showed on my account even before the 6 months quoted by Vodafone above, as I had logged in online looking for it a LONG whole ago... before I finally called them last night to manually chase it. (I've been chocka busy for the last 6 months so chasing it slipped my mind before yesterday, but only because I didn't have the paperwork in front of me to prove my case before yesterday) I would have claimed it back in January had a final bill been sent out, because I was looking out for it to arrive!

So I recognise I might be over-dramatising, hence my question, is this typical for all providers, or just a Vodafone thing? It sounds like from others opinions of me, that this is an "all providers" thing.

I would have thought that the "polite" thing to do (for any provider not just Vodafone), would be to re-calculate the final bill once the service has been cancelled, and then to email or post that final bill out in the same way the other bills came. If there was a refund due, they could mention this on that bill summary, and tell you to contact them to get it paid out. However, it would appear to my cynical mind that they don't want to do this, as they quite like just quietly keeping all the extra money they gain by not issuing a "final bill" which shows a credit.

That might be not the true case at all, but I can't help but feel that based on my own experience (which might not be typical of other users, but that was my experience).

I would love there to be some research into this, to find out how many people fail to collect their refunds that are due when they change providers.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was half (or even more than half) of all people who switch in a given year (if all providers play the game I experienced).

So let's do a thought game.... with completely guessed numbers (so take this with a pinch of salt!)....

If there are 1,471,000 residential broadband connections a year ago (according to Wikipedia)
If an average bill size is $100 per month
If people leave with half a month remaining (on average)
Then on average $50 would be the amount owed to those leaving.
If only 5% change providers each year (that is 73,550 people changing per year).
If 75% get their money back and therefore only 25% forget. then 18,387.5 people will forget to claim their $50.
In this thought exercise: this totals $919,375 unclaimed refunds across all internet providers per year.

I suspect the money gained is actually higher than this (I suspect more than a quarter don't claim their refund, and I expect that more than 5% change each year), but it shows why there might be an incentive for providers to not tell leaving customers they are due a refund. Nearly a $1 million dollar incentive!

So this is maybe not about Vodafone any more, but more about all providers. (so this thread might be in the wrong forum then now).

OK, so consumers should be more on the ball in seeking their refunds, but I think suppliers should take the initiative too.

Mike

PS...  So just for the record, I am satisfied with Vodafone's official answer above, in that it is their official answer and clarifies their position. However I don't agree with their position by a long way. I understand why they will charge until Chorus cease the line (don't understand why that is 3 days later than new provider is providing service, but not worth arguing about). I don't want to single out their policy of not sending a final bill showing a credit, as I suspect form what others have said that this is an industry-wide norm. I don't think it should be the industry norm, but I don't want to pick on Vodafone per se, if they are all at it! And of course, they could easily make processing a "final bill" an automated process when someone leaves if they had the will-power to do so...



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  Reply # 1120775 2-Sep-2014 19:43
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Every business process has a real cost.  Whatever remaining balance a customer has is likely to be less than the cost of continuing to send correspondence.  I also suspect that all your numbers are wrong.



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1120797 2-Sep-2014 20:09
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My numbers in the example ARE probably completely wrong! (That's what comes from me making them up...)  ;O)

And to clarify, I'm not talking about KEEP mailing people to tell them over and over again. I am talking about sending ONE final bill summarising the final state of play, (including the bill for any calls made in the last part month!). my apologies to Vodafone if they ever sent this out, but it certainly never arrived, because I was specifically looking out for it.

The last bill I got from Vodafone (not to pick on them), was dated 8th Dec. And covered my pre-paying for my service for the full month from 8th Dec to 7th Jan. My service was then migrated to Flip on 16th Dec. However, I never received a final bill from Vodafone. So any calls from 8th of Dec until 16th Dec were never shown anywhere (there might have been none made, as we don't make many calls, but there was no bill to show this). Cynically, I believe this is because they don't want to issue you a final bill showing you are in credit, so they (all providers, not just Vodafone apparently) quietly want to keep that credit they owe you as a refund, so they don't want to remind you it exists. So they are happy to quietly not bill for the final part month of calls, and take that money from the credit owing... oh, and keep the rest in their pockets!

Why else wouldn't they bill me for my final calls? Surely a final bill of some sort should be issued on 8th Jan at the latest (or ideally shortly after the service is disconnected on 16th Dec in my case).

Again, maybe I am being overly cynical and overly dramatic, but I think it is pretty rubbish tactics.

So in case my final bill went missing, and therefore we are talking at crossed purposes.... should I have expected to get a bill from Vodafone later in Dec or on 8th Jan (that got lost in the post for some reason), or is the last full month of pre-payment (i.e. on 8th Dec in my case) the last bill I should expect to get from any supplier?

Mike

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  Reply # 1120801 2-Sep-2014 20:14
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Vodafone quite often write off balances that customers fail to pay on the fail invoice, Yes it may only be a few $$ per invoice but this adds up as well

John



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1120803 2-Sep-2014 20:23
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JohnR

Thanks for the reply. Very helpful info.....

But I guess my question remains... Do Vodafone normally send out that last invoice? or does it never get sent?

(What about other providers too?)

I know I am being a bit provocative in my style, but I am genuinely interested to know whether final bills are ever sent by Vodafone (or any other provider for that matter)? I expected one, but was surprised it never arrived, then I forgot to chase it at the time as life got hectic - which was my fault)

So last bill I received was 8th Dec (covering the pre-payment from 8th Dec to 7th Jan).

Service was then disconnected on 16th Dec to Flip.

Would Vodafone have sent a bill on 8th Jan (or sometime later in Dec) that somehow got lost, or is the policy to always scrap the final bill (for whatever reason).

Not wanting to kick up a stink (yet at least!), just asking the question.

Thanks

Mike

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  Reply # 1120805 2-Sep-2014 20:28
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I don't really think you grasp the reality of business.  I know of one instance where generating an invoice cost $80.  Sending you that final bill could realistically cost $20.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1120815 2-Sep-2014 20:47
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Glassboy: I don't really think you grasp the reality of business.  I know of one instance where generating an invoice cost $80.  Sending you that final bill could realistically cost $20.


If generating an invoice costs you $80 then you're doing something wrong.




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Stefan Andres Charsley

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  Reply # 1120818 2-Sep-2014 20:55
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charsleysa:
Glassboy: I don't really think you grasp the reality of business.  I know of one instance where generating an invoice cost $80.  Sending you that final bill could realistically cost $20.


If generating an invoice costs you $80 then you're doing something wrong.


Maybe a invoice for a new Boeing 787 - 9 ?



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1120845 2-Sep-2014 21:46
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JohnR

No answer to my last Question?

Mike

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 1120846 2-Sep-2014 21:47
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johnr:
charsleysa:
Glassboy: I don't really think you grasp the reality of business.  I know of one instance where generating an invoice cost $80.  Sending you that final bill could realistically cost $20.


If generating an invoice costs you $80 then you're doing something wrong.


Maybe a invoice for a new Boeing 787 - 9 ?


I would think that a company such as Boeing that has some of the most advanced technology in the world would have everything automated and the generation of invoices would cost mere cents which would be the cost of having someone click the generate button and the cost of powering the computer systems for the split second it would take to do the generation.




Regards
Stefan Andres Charsley

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  Reply # 1120847 2-Sep-2014 21:48
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Yes as far as I am aware a final invoice is sent, No reason not to



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Master Geek
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  Reply # 1120886 2-Sep-2014 23:08
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JohnR

Thanks, that is good to know... (although that wasn't my experience)

Ultimately at the crux of my issue with Vodafone, is that I never got a final bill sent (for whatever reason)... or at least it never arrived if one was sent.

This whole thread is therefore about the grumble I have over not getting one.

If I was able to get a copy of that final bill now, then all my problems would be resolved.

Emailed would be fine. Would you be able to arrange that for me? (or maybe Demeter/Lon?)

Mike

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