REPORTER: GEORGIA MAIN.
Revolution through entertainment -- angry Vodafone customers are channeling their frustration into what could be the world's first musical about a telco.
Called Vodafail the musical, it won't be music to Vodafone's ears.
Phyllis and Douglas Ryan fail to see the funny side of phone company errors. Still grieving for Phyllis' father Robert, who died almost a year ago, the couple have been trying to cancel his mobile phone contract with Crazy Johns since October.
Douglas settled the account and was told to send a death certificate along with a letter to the company. "He said don't worry everything's done, you don't have to worry. You already paid the final bill you won't be getting any bill from us", Douglas said.
Despite being told their customer had died a year earlier, Crazy Johns continues to charge the dead man $13 a month, leaving the family distressed and denying them closure.
It's more bad news for Vodaphone who bought the Crazy John's business three years ago. "The next month a bill came. I said what's going on here, I thought you'd fixed it", Phyllis said.
"Now all of a sudden they send a debt collectors letter", Douglas said.
No wonder complaints to the Telecommunications Ombudsman are skyrocketing. "I used to sit and cry every time I see a letter with dads name on it, it upset me so much", Phyllis said.
"These are exactly the sort of issues that should be able to be resolved quickly and telcos should be able to do as a basic customer service. The problem is the industry is failing its customers", said Elise Davidson from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.
In just six months there were more than 106,000 complaints to the Telecommunications Ombudsman -- that's 577 complaints every day, an increase of nearly 7%.
Complaint handling, billing and payments and customer service are the major concerns.
Easter Sunday and another embarrassing network glitch for Vodafone has seen a class action gain momentum -- so far 22,000 Vodafone customers have joined.
More than 1200 poor reception areas have been logged on website
Vodafail.com, set up by 23 year old Sydney software engineer Adam Brimo. "I made the website in a few hours while I was on hold", Adam said.
For months, 4 million Vodafone customers like Damien Viviani have experienced call drop outs, and, in some cases, a complete lack of coverage for hours or days at a time. "Voicemails would come through days later and SMS's would come through a day later. I was just so angry that a huge, huge company with such a huge market share has done absolutely nothing to help anyone", Damien said.
"Vodafone are spending a huge amount of money improving their network which will happen gradually. For those customers who have been experiencing problems for 5 months another 18 may be just too long", said Elise.
Elise says the regulator needs to step in. "Of the 230,000 complaints that get to the Ombudsman every year that's only about 7%, so the tip of the iceberg in terms of the 2.3 million people that said they had a telco problem in the last 12 months".
In a corporate attempt at a kiss and make up, Vodafone sent us this statement, saying:
"Vodafone is giving customers a full day of free SMS on Sunday 1st May, from 8am to 8pm, to make up for a technical issue on Sunday 24th April, which prevented many customers from sending and receiving text messages.
We're sorry for the inconvenience to our customers on Sunday.
Our highest priority is to improve our network, and we've accelerated the rollout of new equipment, our network upgrade and network build across Australia."
You'd be forgiven for thinking Vodafone are leading the way in the number of complaints but that honour goes to Australia's largest carrier Telstra with a total of 237,400 complaints last financial year.
Optus is next with 67,400 complaints; Vodafone a close third with complaints totalling 64,000 and AAPT and Virgin round out the top 5 with 17,000 14,200 complaints.
"The telco's need to do much better and they know it", Elise said.
And late today we heard from Crazy John's who say they can guarantee they will resolve Phyllis and Douglas' matter as the utmost priority.
For further information on the class action, contact Piper Alderman at:
www.piperalderman.com.au/vf/ or phone: (02) 9253 9999