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My son’s in rehab – but Vodafone won’t suspend his account

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My son is entering residential rehab for between six and 12 months and will have no access to his mobile phone or home broadband. He has a two-year contract with Vodafone, which has refused to suspend his account during that time. He is a student who is deferring his studies for a year to work on his recovery and he has no means of paying for his contract during the time he is in rehab. Other services such as the council, the college, the Student Loans Company and his housing provider all have policies in place to support him, but Vodafone is intent on pursuing him for payments which will land him in debt.

CF, London

Given that you are able to provide medical evidence of your son’s circumstances, Vodafone’s intransigence is concerning. The regulator, Ofcom, requires providers to treat vulnerable customers fairly and its guidance includes allowing a contract break in exceptional cases when the service cannot be used.

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Your son’s case appears to have been handled with utter indifference. Vodafone’s terms and conditions only mention contract breaks for armed forces personnel, and customer service staff appear not to have been adequately trained to recognise exceptional circumstances. “We do suspend accounts in certain circumstances, but the customer adviser who dealt with the case had not seen this particular scenario before and the request wasn’t processed properly,” said a spokesperson.

But it wasn’t just one agent. After you’d sent your email, a customer services manager called you, reiterated that nothing could be done and confirmed that if the account defaulted, the company would pursue the debt. When I contacted the press office, Vodafone apologised for “the inconvenience caused”. The “inconvenience” of fearing debt collectors while recovering in rehab has now been removed, for Vodafone has finally agreed to suspend the account.

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