Are you aware that Turkey and North Cyprus are no longer on Vodafone’s roam-free list? I have three lines with them and only found out by chance when my father, currently in North Cyprus, couldn’t use one of them. All last week he was unable to call or FaceTime my sister and I in Britain.
My 82-year-old dad Oktay Hamit is not very gadget-literate, and we initially thought he’d mistakenly pressed a button on his smart phone and stopped it working. He’s got form, applying the airplane mode or turning off Wi-Fi or mobile data without realising. Trying to guide him on restoring the right settings when you are 2,000 miles away is no easy feat, but when that didn’t work either, I decided to call Vodafone to ask if they could identify the problem.
After a lengthy wait, I finally got through to a customer services representative on Friday, who informed me it wasn’t my dad’s fault at all. Apparently the line had reached its data limit for the package he was on because, unbeknown to my dad or I, Vodafone had decided to implement their roam-further plans for Turkey and North Cyprus.
They had first indicated this was happening back in March, but the switch from roam-free to roam-further was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic and we have heard nothing since.
“When did that come in and why didn’t you let us know?” I asked the customer services rep. After a lengthy pause for him to check, he replied “The changes came in on 20 August”, adding that “Vodafone had informed us of the changes – in March.”
I was livid, and pushed back: “But Vodafone didn’t carry out its proposed changes due to the coronavirus,” to which the rep interjected, “the delay was actually due to technical issues in switching over.” News to me….
“So what stopped Vodafone from sending their customers another text to let us know of the imminent changes? It doesn’t strike me as very ethical, and it’s probably unlawful to implement these changes without informing us,” I responded, adding “We are in the middle of a pandemic and you’ve left an 82 year old without access to his family.”
His reply: “Everything is back to normal,” before telling me to speak to another department as he was unable to process my issue further.
I then spoke to Muhammed who works for the Complaints team at Vodafone. He was similarly very polite, and diligently researched all aspects of my enquiry, informing me, amongst other things, that the 30-day penalty-free period for leaving Vodafone had expired in April, and that it would cost me £126 end the contract for my dad’s line. Alternatively, I could pay an extra £14 a month (£36.55, up from £22.64) to continue to have roam-free. I could terminate the contracts for the other two lines with 30 days’ notice.
I am a Vodafone customer for over twenty years and one of the major reasons for sticking with this mobile network for so long was its excellent roam-free package. Being of Turkish Cypriot heritage, my family and I spend a lot of time in Turkey and North Cyprus, and over the years, all of my UK family and many friends have all switched to Vodafone for this reason.
Two years ago, Vodafone proposed to remove Turkey and North Cyprus from its roam-free list of fifty destinations. It would have meant an additional daily charge of £6 for UK customers using their phones in Turkey and North Cyprus under Vodafone’s roam-further scheme.
Customers protested in numbers and the company did a U-turn, allowing the two countries to remain a part of its roam-free package.
In March of this year, Vodafone tried again, sending customers like myself texts and emails warning that they were changing their policy on roaming in Turkey, and by implication North Cyprus, whose international isolation means its telephone and internet system is classed as part of Turkey.
Vodafone’s roaming changes were due to be implemented on 6 May 2020. Like the proposals in 2018, Turkey and North Cyprus would move to the roam-further scheme where UK customers would pay a daily tariff of £6 for use abroad, or, they could upgrade to the Unlimited Max plan and continue to make calls and use the internet in Turkey and North Cyprus without additional charges.
Customers could change their monthly payment plans or exit them entirely without penalties provided they responded within 30 days of receiving the notice.
The timing of Vodafone’s announcement could not have been worse: the coronavirus meant tens of thousands of people were stranded abroad due to emergency travel restrictions imposed by governments trying to contain the pandemic. Call centres were besieged, not helped by the lockdown, leaving them devoid of staff and angry customers unable to get through.
Not surprisingly, there was another huge outcry, and again Vodafone shelved its plans.
At the time, T-VINE contacted Vodafone for a response about the situation, but although their press team promised us a reply, it never actually materialised. Nor has there been any announcement since. We have been none the wiser whether the roam-further plans were permanently cancelled or just temporarily suspended.
And it’s not like Vodafone is shy about contacting its customers. Every other day I receive marketing messages from them urging me to check out rewards or to switch to their Home Broadband, or to upgrade. But there has not been a single message about the imminent changes to their roaming.
If you are a Vodafone UK customer that relies on roam-free in Turkey and North Cyprus, I hope you have already switched to a better plan or have a limit on your spending, or you could get a nasty shock when you receive your next bill. You could be up to £180 worse off, in fact.
As for me, I am now looking to leave Vodafone as soon as I can. I cannot justify spending thousands of pounds a year with a firm that shows utter contempt for my loyalty. I’m sure I won’t be alone there.