Roger Shaw: Our nightmare cancelling my partner’s mother’s mobile phone contract

Posted on January 26, 2016

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Two weeks ago, Roger Shaw wrote about his partner’s mother’s large mobile phone bill and his concern that Deaf people might be running up huge bills for using the internet on their phones without realising it.

Here, he gives an update about what happened when they went to the shop to try and sort out her contract, which sheds further light on just how hard it can be for Deaf people to resolve these issues.

Fingers crossed the problem is partly solved now but it took a whole day, two visits to the Vodafone shop and some heated phone calls.

The people in the shop on the first visit listened to the problem and told us that while the oldest contract could be cancelled, the newer one runs for another year.

They said that the easiest solution would be to increase the data allowance on that phone to stop the excess charges.

The response we got from Vodafone when communicating with them on Twitter

The response we got from Vodafone when communicating with them on Twitter

Unfortunately they said they can’t cancel contracts in the shop – it has to be done by phone.

My partner’s exasperation was visible at this point, as he explained that his mother (who was with us) is deaf and cannot speak, and therefore cannot phone to cancel. Also, the Vodafone online help chat person had said that the contract could be cancelled in the shop (after he had asked to speak to my partner’s mum on the phone and we had explained yet again that she can’t speak or hear).

One member of the Vodafone shop staff was very helpful and said we could set up a password for my partner, so he could act on his mother’s behalf when ringing up to cancel.

My partner signed all this to his mum and we left. Everything had seemed much easier than I expected.

We all went for a nice meal in a pub, then took his mum home and phoned the number we had been given to cancel the contract. We were on hold for ages and ages, then the person on the other end asked for a couple of digits of the PIN password for security.

We gave the numbers, but they then said they were incorrect. (They weren’t, I was there when my partner told the staff member, and we wrote them on a piece of paper).  We tried a couple more times, then the person on the end of the line rudely told us we were wrong and had exceeded our attempts and hung up.

So, we went back to the Vodafone shop and tried to keep calm. We waited patiently and quietly for someone to talk to, explained the problem and the staff member seemed confused.

I asked if there was any other way to cancel the contract, by letter maybe? She said they used to do that, but not any more.

Could we cancel by email? They said no.

My partner was about to explode at this point, so I suggested we call the cancellation number from the shop. So we did.

We had another long wait on hold and then someone answered and we had the same problem.

This time, however, my partner wasn’t having any of it, he told the person on the other end of the line that we were back in the same shop where that very morning they had set up the PIN number.

He quietly asked the young assistant in the shop if she could speak to her colleague on the phone, but she declined.

Then the member of staff who had set up the PIN reappeared from the back and my partner asked her to talk to her colleague on the phone. She did this and even she seemed annoyed by the person on the end of the line.

She furiously typed some notes on the computer, had a few more abrupt words on the phone and hung up. She explained that the contract would be finished in 30 days. We thanked her for her help and left.

I am still annoyed that this company seems to make it easy to create a contract but very difficult to end one if you are unable to talk to them on the phone.

Are other mobile phone companies equally unhelpful to deaf customers?

Roger Shaw describes himself as “a guy whose partner’s mother is deaf and has attended a few deaf events, and have  failed to learn sign language (I apologise.)”

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The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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