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Vodafone accused of harassing bereaved families over dead peoples’ accounts

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A fair-goer checks his mobile device in front of a Vodafone logo. (AFP/Getty)
A fair-goer checks his mobile device in front of a Vodafone logo. (AFP/Getty)

Vodafone has been accused of preying on bereaved families to extract money they do not owe.

The mobile company refused to cancel the account of Guardian columnist George Monbiot’s mother, despite her having died in March 2022.

“After our repeated failure to have her account cancelled, we stopped the direct debit. In response, Vodafone appointed a debt recovery agency to seize the money *we do not owe it*, which has been serially harassing my father”, Mr Monbiot tweeted.

Vodafone allegedly asked Mr Monbiot’s father, when he attempted to cancel the account, niche questions which he could not answer, including the exact date when the contract started. “At no time, even in the first phone call, was there any expression of commiseration or sympathy, just outright hostility and aggression”, Mr Monbiot said.

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Mr Monbiot said he received threatening phone calls from a debt collection agency. Vodafone has apologied in a tweet.

“On behalf of Vodafone I would like to offer my sincere condolences to George Monbiot and his family after the recent loss of his mother. A number of errors were made by Vodafone following this bereavement, for which I apologise. These should never have happened and I am sorry”, Shelley Malton, the company’s UK customer services and operations director, said.

“We do have processes and polices in place to handle cases of bereavement and to support our more vulnerable customers. We regret to say that not all of these processes were followed in this instance. We have launched an investigation into why and how this happened. In response to this case we are upgrading training for all our customer care colleagues.”

Mr Monbiot said he received a “flood of similar reports from other customers” in situations similar to his own.

He added that he found it impossible to find a link on the company’s website for a bereavement team, that there is not a step-by-step account of the process to delete a deceased person’s account, and there no easily visible customer support email.

“The policy, as I see it, is systematically to prey on bereaved families and extract money from them which they do not owe. I struggle to see any other explanation for this consistent pattern of behaviour”, Mr Monbiot said.

The Independent has reached out to Vodafone for comment.

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