Vodafone credits draw praise, fire

Some Wanaka Vodafone customers, fed up with mobile network congestion during peak times, are welcoming news of credits to their account and improvements to the service.

Retail salesman Ben Bagley was among those given half-price billing for six months by Vodafone this week to compensate for ongoing network issues.

''I'm actually surprised that they did anything ... it was a very kind gesture on their behalf to have done what they've done and fingers crossed they can rectify the issue,'' Mr Bagley said.

The Vodafone network in Wanaka has failed several times during the past six months when there has been an influx of visitors into the town, including during Christmas-New Year, Challenge Wanaka, the Upper Clutha A & P Show and Easter.

Problems involved text messages taking hours or even days to send, calls not connecting and no 3G internet or email service on customers' smartphones. A story on consumer affairs television show Fair Go on Wednesday night featured four frustrated Wanaka residents who said their businesses had suffered as a result of the network issues and they wanted answers from the telecommunication company they referred to as ''Vodafail''.

Vodafone apologised and offered the four customers compensation - a six-month half-price plan - and show co-host Pippa Wetzell urged all other Wanaka customers to call Vodafone and ask for the same deal.

While Mr Bagley was successful in his claim, not everyone was satisfied with the subsequent response from Vodafone. One customer - who was offered a credit which amounted to less than half the six-month 50% reduction offer - was told the same gesture was not being given to everyone. Vodafone external communications manager Michelle Baguley told the Otago Daily Times on Thursday customer claims were being assessed on a ''case-by-case basis'' by senior customer service staff.

''We're discussing with them how they've been affected and talking about their individual experience.''

The company had received ''some'' calls from Wanaka customers seeking compensation since the show aired, although she declined to say how many. Mrs Baguley said data usage on the Vodafone network in Wanaka at Christmas had doubled and remained at that level since, because more residents owned smartphones.

Vodafone had done an initial round of upgrades to its Wanaka network in January, then put an additional temporary cell site in place in April to boost capacity during busy periods.

''But we now acknowledge that we should have put one in sooner.''

In July, Vodafone would quadruple the capacity of the Wanaka network which would ''dramatically'' improve customers' experience, and during the next 12 months more than $50 million would be invested in its broader South Island network.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

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