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Vodafone Ireland admits multi-million overcharge

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Vodafone Ireland has overcharged over half a million WAP customers as a result of a billing inaccuracy.

Following a bout of overcharging incidents earlier in the year, Vodafone conducted an internal review of its charges over the past few months. The company said it discovered a billing discrepancy in its WAP services. Some 550,000 WAP customers were identified as having been overcharged by approximately €5 each over 19 months, amounting to a total overcharging of €2.65 million.

Vodafone has apologised for this latest round of overcharging and says that it has begun reimbursing all affected customers. Each customer will also receive compensation worth 10 per cent of the overcharged amount.

"We apologise to any customers impacted by this incident, and I want to reassure them that their accounts are being appropriately credited, and that we are applying an additional compensatory payment to recompense for any inconvenience," said Paul Donovan, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, in a statement.

Following the discovery of this latest billing inaccuracy, Vodafone called on PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out an independent review of its internal procedures for tariff changes. The accounting firm suggested a number of changes within Vodafone's content management processes and recommended deploying additional resources to keep a closer eye on billing procedures.

Vodafone has accepted PwC's recommendations and has since made the suggested modifications.

This year has been peppered with overcharging incidents. In June Vodafone overcharged 22,000 Irish customers who roamed between 25 May and 15 June to the tune of €147,000. In July both Vodafone and O2 were accused by the European Commission of using their dominant positions in the UK to their advantage. It said that Vodafone had been involved in the practice of overcharging other operators for roaming services at wholesale level since 1997 through to September 2003, and that O2 was involved in the same practice since 1998 through to September 2003.

Ireland's communications regulator, ComReg, responded to these overcharging incidents by implementing a code of practice on 12 August which states that telecom companies must provide accessible and accurate pricing information. The regulator went on to reinforce its position on overcharging at the end of August by proposing that accurate billing should become a core requirement for operating in Ireland.

On Friday ComReg expressed dismay about the latest overcharging. "While acknowledging that Vodafone is taking the steps that ComReg requires in terms of advising customers, making speedy rebates and making an additional inconvenience credit, ComReg is disappointed that the processes in place at that time were neither robust nor accurate enough to prevent this sort of issue arising," said John Doherty, chairman of ComReg.

© ENN

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