Monday, 26 September 2011

Do you own an Andriod phone?

I recently got bitten by the Android bug and bought a Vodafone Smart.
I downloaded some apps just 'cause I could and life felt a bit better.

As a pay as you go customer I don't get itemized bills.
Also, I don't use the phone itself much - I work online and was thinking of developing some Android applications.

So every six months I have to top up even if I don't need to, as Vodafone likes fresh money in my account.

Straight away I gift the top-up to someone else, leaving by ample existing credit as it is, minus 20cent for the gift.

I recently had that old familiar notice about having to top up and dutifully did so - 5 Euros. with the intention of gifting it straight away.

That was last Thursday.

Later I was horrified to discover that the total amount of credit in my phone account was 5 Euros and 5 cents!

I made a note to contact Vodafone over this on Monday.

Now it's Monday and before calling I checked my credit again.

My credit is 5 cents!

I phoned Vodafone about this and after at least 5 minutes waiting I was told:
  1. Vodafone charges me 8 cents per connection to the internet.
  2. Vodafone can't tell me which app is connecting to the internet because of the data protection act.
  3. When I install an app I am told which rights (such as connecting to the internet) I want to give an app.
  4. There's no way for me to discover which app is connecting to the internet.
  5. I can bring my phone along to a Vodafone shop where they can tell me which app might be connecting to the internet.
I tried to explain that giving an app the right to connect to the internet is not the same as saying that I'm happy for the app to connect every 5 minutes (or however often it is) and that this constituted a misuse of terms - a kind of fraud.

I also pointed out that there was apparently a shell game in operation between Vodafone, the phone manufacturer, Android market where none of them are responsible, but which profits Vodafone in the event of misuse - that they're benefiting from the fraud.

The customer services representative told me that I can't check on the phone which app is connecting to the internet.

He also disabled internet access via the phone network at their end, at my request.

Update: I went to the Vodafone shop to find out if they could tell me any more about this.

The Vodafone representative told me that
  1. 5 Euros over 5 days isn't unusual if you're using the internet
  2. Internet access is charged at 80 cents a day
  3. did I have an email account set up on the phone?
  4. An email account checking for new mail would cost that much
  5. You can turn off internet access when not on WiFi from (some obscure menu sequence).
  6. They couldn't tell me which application was accessing the internet

In other words,
  1. I chose to give the email program access to the internet whether I wanted it to cost me money or not
  2. I chose to allow it to access the internet via the phone network because I didn't disable an option I didn't know about
Some people don't trust banks because of unexpected charges.

Let's compare this situation to a direct debit.
  1. I give my bank details to a company because I want a service in return
  2. everything is made clear in advance
  3. both parties have the same expectations as to how much money gets transferred out of my account and in how many payments.
Vodafone missed out on the last two by
  1. Making it my responsibility without me knowing all the relevant information, like how much access to the internet costs per day and per connection.
  2. Not putting a big red warning on their shop window or on the phone box that money will basically fly out of my phone account if I use email (I'm still not certain it was email though)
  3. Not alerting me to unusual account activity
  4. Doing this again and again for all the other customers who fell into this trap, and making it their fault too
It cost me 35 Euros to find out this information - I'm certain that wasn't in the contract.

I hope those reading this won't fall into the same trap as I did, thereby making my 35 Euros a bargain in terms of the revenue Vodafone loses through misconduct, breech of contract, breech of trust, deception, envaglement, confusion, fine print, or was getting ripped off in the fine print too?

I can hear them now - "why wasn't I happy to spend 35 Euros on a test account I had set up just because I could?"
It sounds a lot like roaming charges you can incur from the comfort of your own home.
    I think I'll report this to the Police and see if they have a policy in place for this situation.


    1. I keep forgetting that not all readers of this post (or anything else I do) are software developers, so let me clarify.

      Any Android phone (not just Vodafones) needs the following

      1. Application internet usage request notification:

      The application is requesting access
      to the internet

      [ ] allow on Wifi
      [ ] allow on phone network data connection
      [ ] let it use the internet when I do
      [ ] notify me in future when it tries to connect
      [ ] log connections made by this application


      2. disable the phones data network by default

    2. That should read "the application [name here] is requesting access to the internet

    3. Also there needs to be some security feature in place preventing anyone with a netbook and a usb connection from installing apps in Vodafones Android phone.

      I think you can even install apps from a micro-SD memory card, but I haven't tried it.

    4. I originally decided to find another service provider.
      I've decided not to, because

      1. the alternatives are worse in terms of internet cost
      2. I would have to sim-unlock the phone - 15 Euros
      3. it's inconvenient to change my phone number
      4. This blog tells the story - they already know I'm
      unhappy with the situation as it stands, and going to
      another phone service provider would add little to that

    5. Email sent to on 27/09/11 14:11