In 1986, I set up a construction business with a fellow builder and we both had a mobile contract with Vodafone in my name.
In March 2019, my business partner sadly passed away suddenly but it wasn’t until May 2020, that his widow agreed the contract could be cancelled.
Unfortunately, our office manager failed to tell Vodafone he had died and just cancelled the direct debit meaning we received debt collection letters to pay the outstanding balance.
I did pay the outstanding amount of £519.36 and thought no more of it until I decided to consolidate the mortgages on the rented properties my wife and I jointly own and found I had bad credit ratings due to the unpaid Vodafone bills.
One Vodafone customer has been trying to have bad credit marks removed from his account
To add to this there is still an outstanding balance showing of £109 which appeared after Vodafone had my partner’s death certificate and after I had spoken to them and paid the debt.
Now we’re in a very difficult situation. Can we get the bad credit removed and the debt collectors off our tail? B.B., via email
Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: Firstly, my condolences to you as you say not only was this man your business partner but also your best friend.
After he sadly died, his widow wanted to keep his phone, and while you didn’t say why, perhaps she wasn’t ready to part with his possessions just yet.
This meant the Vodafone contract continued to be paid by your company, under your name, although it wasn’t used and as you say ‘basically sat in a drawer’.
GRACE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.
Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:
You add that both contracts have always been paid by the company on time and with no breaks for over thirty years. The billing was also paperless.
It wasn’t until May 2020 that the subject of the contract was broached with your business partner’s widow who agreed it could be stopped.
Your office manager agreed to deal with cancelling the contract and you all assumed that was the end of the matter.
Unfortunately, and crucially, she didn’t inform Vodafone of his death and just cancelled the direct debit payments rather than the contract itself.
This led to Vodafone appointing a debt collecting agency to collect the outstanding money for his phone.
The phone company said it had sent letters to you but you say you have moved a number of times since the original contract was taken out in 1986 and unfortunately never received them.
You only became aware of the debt in August last year through one of these letters finding its way to your office address.
A Vodafone customer found he unfortunately had a series of bad credit marks on his account
You immediately rang Vodafone, apologised, paid the outstanding amount of £519.36 and explained about your partner’s death, emailing them a copy of the death certificate.
However, it wasn’t until you decided to consolidate the mortgages on your rented properties that you realised you had bad credit marks in your name that had been added due to an ‘unpaid’ Vodafone bill.
This unpaid bill turned out to be an outstanding balance of £109 which Vodafone agreed was an error and said it would remove it. Unfortunately, months later, the firm still hasn’t.
Therefore, you engaged a solicitor to write to Vodafone, which he did in January 2021, but, again, no response.
I contacted Vodafone as the outstanding debt was causing you much distress with you now aware there was debt collectors and bad credit hanging over you – as well as the fact you could not consolidate your mortgages.
Fortunately, after I did so, you swiftly received an email from the telecoms giant saying it had removed any adverse information reported on your credit file report.
The late payment markers previously reflected for May, June and July 2020 were also amended and the £109 was wiped.
A Vodafone UK spokesperson said: ‘We apologise to Mr B and his business partners family for the inconvenience caused at this difficult time. We can confirm the outstanding balance on this account has now been removed and this change will be reflected on their online credit reports.’
While this means you are now out of the woods with Vodafone, it serves as a timely reminder to always keep your addresses, emails and telephone numbers up to date with service providers so they can get in touch with any problems.
It also highlights that companies should prioritise customer service and respond to complaints swiftly to avoid incidents such as this – especially when it comes to sensitive matters, such as the death of a friend, relative or a partner in business.
We have saved readers £63k
After 23 weeks of Grace on the Case, we have calculated just how much we have helped readers so far – with savings reaching £63,286.
This has included £2,075.82 for a customer whose Diamond Princess Cruise hadn’t been refunded and more than £5,000 for a holiday to Florida that couldn’t go ahead.
If you have a consumer issue that you need help with, contact Grace on the Case at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A TopCashBack customer struggled to get £130 worth of rebates from the cashback company
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.
Miss… but rectified: A reader, Kanti, this week got in touch to say she was struggling to receive a rebate from TopCashBack.
She said: ‘I have about £130 stuck in rebates on TopCashBack and am unable to log in or reset the password as the reset email never arrives. I have tried this several times to no avail over a few weeks.
‘They have no contact number to call and the contact email on the website is also not generating any responses.’
I contacted TopCashBack to say Kanti was waiting to retrieve her money and was struggling to get through to anyone.
It replied that it had sent another few emails but Kanti said they were no were to be found, not in her junk mail or spam folder.
Eventually it was found the emails with a link to reset never reached her inbox but any emails without a link did and by communicating with TopCashBack that way, she managed to reset her account and access her payment.
While it was frustrating for Kanti that she couldn’t contact TopCashBack directly, the team certainly were quick to ensure she got her money when notified. Now you can cash it in.
Hit: A reader has praised home retailer, Richer Sounds.
‘When our two-year-old TV broke down over Christmas the nightmare began. Sometimes it would come on if you switched it on and off about 50 times and waited half an hour. Not ideal if you still watch live old-school telly at a set time.
‘I phoned the Richer Sounds helpline, where we bought it, to make the most of the five-year guarantee but was kept hold for an hour and a half before being cut off.
‘I turned to the company’s Twitter customer support. A wonderful person got in touch and we had a long phone chat about the repairs.
‘It turned out I’d not activated the guarantee with Panasonic and it was no longer valid. The customer agent explained that Richer Sounds would nevertheless honour the guarantee, even though their element of it should have been for a one-year extension to the five-year one with Panasonic.
‘That was great. The repairs were sorted and the TV is working again. But the best part of the experience was when I asked the agent whether she knew anything about Wi-Fi extension devices.
‘She said she didn’t but her partner was a telephone engineer and she put me on hold and phoned him up for some expert advice, which she passed on to me. Over and above the call of duty. 10/10.’
No need to change the channel on this company – top customer service.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.