Fight for your Rights: Why did Vodafone allow my sister to rack up a £4,000 bill?
I am writing up this case as a warning to other readers who pay mobile phone bills on behalf of family members.
Fight for your Rights has had an email from a reader, SJ, who says she is “currently at war” with Vodafone over a £4,000 debt. A couple of years ago, she signed a contract with the company on behalf of her sister, who promised she could pay the bills.
A few months later, she received a letter from Vodafone to say that her sister had allowed the bill to mount up to £700. She called Vodafone and asked for the debt to be put into a payment plan and it agreed to notify her of any problems in the future.
A few weeks later, she was told that her sister had missed another payment, so she asked Vodafone to restrict the account until the now outstanding £1,000 had been paid.
However, while the line was restricted, her sister rang up and set up another payment plan.
It was only when SJ was rejected for a personal loan that she found out that her credit report showed she now owed Vodafone £4,000. She believes this could have been avoided if Vodafone had taken her wishes as the account holder seriously.
When I spoke to Vodafone, it verified that SJ would have to pay for her sister’s bill.
A spokesperson said: “We’re sorry SJ is unhappy with the status of her account, but as she is the legal account holder she remains responsible for all charges on the account.
“By adding her sister to the account, she gave her the authority to make changes, including the removal of restrictions, without the legal responsibility for the charges.
“When we barred the phone, SJ’s sister asked for the restriction to be lifted. At this point, a text would have been sent to SJ – as the account holder – to advise that this had been done.
“Neither SJ nor her sister have made any payments since December 2015. “As there is an outstanding balance on the account and we are obliged to report a true picture of payment history to credit reference agencies, we would not be able to alter this.
However, we are prepared to offer a goodwill reduction of £700 to help reduce any monthly payments of the outstanding balance.”
It seems a bit unfair that Vodafone allowed SJ’s sister to set up a new payment plan or at least didn’t do more to make sure, other than by text, that SJ was aware of the plan.
Account holders should be allowed to put a cap on the amount that dependants can spend, but Vodafone says it doesn’t offer a spending cap on this type of account. It says that the price plan covers the monthly rental and any inclusive minutes or data, but customers are free to exceed this.
At the time of writing, SJ has not accepted Vodafone’s offer. She says: “I shouldn’t have trusted my sister, but I just don’t see how Vodafone can charge me as the account holder when I wasn’t allowed to make my own decisions on what happened with my account.”
Outcome: Vodafone has offered to cut SJ’s mobile phone bill by £700.
A report containing detailed information on a person’s credit history, a record of an individual’s (or company’s) past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. It also includes all applications a person has made for financial products and whether they were rejected or accepted. Your credit report can be obtained by prospective lenders to determine your creditworthiness.