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Vodafone Ireland admits pocketing dormant PAYG cash

But hey, everybody's doing it

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Vodafone Ireland has copped some flak for admitting plans to pocket credit left in dormant accounts, though it turns out that everyone else is already doing just that.

The change comes in Vodafone Ireland's terms and conditions, and the Irish Independent has quotes from various bodies saying it's "completely unacceptable", despite the fact that those who abandon pre-paid accounts are often untraceable and the rest of the world has been pocketing the difference for years.

Pre-paid mobile services not only opened up the industry to those who couldn't get credit, but also provided network operators with a slush fund on which they could gain interest, not to mention a trickle of income from those who forget they've topped up their credit and never used the service again.

A quick ring round of the UK operators reveals a general consensus that once an account has lain unused for six months (no chargeable calls, messages or data, incoming or outgoing) it can be disconnected*. Following that there's a period of another three months after which the account is cancelled** and the number reissued to someone else, and the operator takes any credit remaining on the account.

So it might seem reasonable for Vodafone Ireland to announce that it will be closing accounts after eight months of non-use, with the number being recycled after a further six months - but not according to the Chief executive of Ireland's Consumers' Association, who reckons: "It’s the closest thing to putting your hand in someone’s pocket and taking what’s there."

We can only assume that would be a pocket in a pair of jeans that's been lying unused at the side of the road for the best part of a year, in which case we'd probably feel justified in rifling the pockets ourselves.

Even if operators did want to return the money those customers are very difficult to track down - it's not as if they're going to pick up the telephone any time soon. ®

* Vodafone UK disconnects after three months, but for the next three months will reconnect instantly on request.

** O2 waits a year before cancelling the account.

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