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Vodafone user wins charges battle

Monday 23 May 2011 13:34 BST

A mobile phone user who was sent an astronomical bill has won a battle with telecoms giant Vodafone to get his money back.

Freelance journalist and website publisher Neil Winton was hit with hundreds of pounds in data roaming charges by Vodafone after a trip to America.

But after threatening to take the matter to the Small Claims Court, the 66-year-old got his money refunded.

Mr Winton said he was shocked to receive bills of £550.55 for January and £238.39 for the following month after the two-week US trip in January - his monthly bill is usually roughly £70.

He calculated he had been overcharged by £627.45 by Vodafone for data roaming charges he was unaware he was incurring through his HTC Legend phone.

"I was told about all the great things the phone would do, but I wasn't told it would incur all these extra charges. I wasn't aware I could turn it off," he said.

"As soon as you step across an international line apparently the charges suddenly rocket up.

"It struck me as particularly weird when going to America, where the phone systems are cheaper than they are in the UK, Vodafone are charging these charges to use the American system.

"If you were travelling to Angola or Honduras you might think it makes sense, but not in a cheaper market like the US.

"To be fair to Vodafone they did send out a message of some kind but it meant absolutely nothing to me.

"It talks in megabytes, if it had said I had consumed £50 worth of data I would have known what they were talking about but they used some sort of language that wouldn't mean anything to most people."

Mr Winton, from Findon, Sussex, wrote to Vodafone contesting the charges, instructing the company that it owed him the £627.45 that he felt were extra and unwanted charges for data roaming.

After his first complaint, the company offered to cut the data content of the £550.55 bill by 25% and of the current bill also by 25%.

Mr Winton declined the offer and took his case to the Sunday Times and BBC Radio 4's You And Yours programme.

Half an hour before the radio programme went on air, he was offered a 50% cut in the bill but again declined, he said.

Mr Winton instead threatened to take the mobile phone giant to the Small Claims Court, giving the company a deadline to respond before he started legal action.

"I set out in a letter exactly what I was complaining about, and saying that unless I received full compensation, I would see them in court.

"About a week before my deadline expired, I received another call from the Vodafone Director's Office, agreeing to refund everything I had claimed."

He has now received a full refund of the £627.45 he claimed he was owed.

Mr Winton added: "All I had done was threatened to take them to court and the letter I wrote to them was a basis for a small claims court case which I actually didn't ever start.

"I'm pleased enough to have got my money back, but it strikes me that there are hundreds of people who have been hit by the kind of charges I was hit with."

A Vodafone spokeswoman said they could not comment on individual cases, but all of their charges were on their website for the UK as well as countries people might be travelling to, so customers could look at where they are going and what they would be charged.

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