Vodafone has been fined £4.6 million for “serious and sustained breaches” of consumer protection rules.
Telecom watchdog Ofcom found that 10,452 pay-as-you-go customers paid money for mobile phone credit which was not added due to failures with a new billing system.
The customers collectively lost £150,000 over a 17-month period. Ofcom said Vodafone only moved to recompense them, and prevent others from also paying money out for nothing, when it intervened.
A second investigation found that Vodafone’s customer service agents were not given “sufficiently clear guidance” on what constituted a customer complaint.
It added that poor processes meant some complaints were not handled “in a fair, timely manner”.
Vodafone said it had “fully refunded or re-credited” 10,422 pay-as-you-go customers and was unable to track down the other 30.
It also said it had invested in better customer service and training.
“Everyone who works for us is expected to do their utmost to meet our customers’ needs,” it said.
“It is clear from Ofcom’s findings that we did not do that often enough or well enough on a number of occasions. We offer our profound apologies to anyone affected by these errors.”
Lindsey Fussell, consumer group director at Ofcom, said: “Vodafone’s failings were serious and unacceptable, and these fines send a clear warning to all telecoms companies.
“Phone services are a vital part of people’s lives, and we expect all customers to be treated fairly and in good faith.
“We will not hesitate to investigate and fine those who break the rules.”