‘I ran up a £250 bill – trying to call Vodafone’: Mobile phone users being warned to be wary when searching for customer services phone numbers online

Mobile phone users are being warned to be wary when searching for customer services phone numbers online – they risk paying hundreds of pounds for a routine enquiry.

Georgina Jolley, 22, is ruing the day she made an internet search for her mobile provider Vodafone’s helpline number.

The move left her more than £250 out of pocket and facing a black mark on her credit record after a catalogue of errors.

Wrong number: Georgina Jolley used a 45p-a-minute line to get through to a Vodafone call centre

Georgina, from Buckinghamshire, ended up with a bill of £149 on top of her regular £30 a month charge, after her search provided her with a contact number beginning ‘084’.

She says: ‘I called to ask about upgrading my phone. When I typed the number into my phone there was no indication that I would be charged. I was passed from person to person for around an hour.’

She did not realise until later how quickly the costs had mounted up.

Georgina was charged 45p a minute plus a ‘service charge’ to call Vodafone’s customer services phone line.

This was because the number she dialled was operated by a third party that connected her straight through to Vodafone.

She says: ‘I just Googled “Vodafone customer services” and when these numbers appeared I assumed I was calling for free.’

After receiving her shock bill, Georgina called Vodafone – this time on its direct number – to complain. She ended up stuck in a loop of customer service calls. She was told that the debt would be cancelled by one agent, only to be told the opposite the next day.

Georgina says: ‘It was terrible. No one ever took down any notes. Each time I called I was starting from scratch.’

Georgina called Vodafone several times. At one point she was told the bill would be reduced to £30, but that the systems were down so she was unable to make the payment.

The next time she tried to pay, the operator had no record and told her she owed the company £149. Georgina called again and Vodafone said the bill had been reduced to zero.

In fact, her case was passed on to debt collector Fredrikson, which said the money she owed had risen to £250 and threatened to blacken her credit record if she did not pay.Once the complaint had been passed to Fredrikson, Vodafone refused to discuss the case with her.

Georgina, who works in public relations, says: ‘It was scary and stressful’.

When The Mail on Sunday intervened on her behalf the provider cancelled her debt. Vodafone says: ‘We have investigated the two 08 numbers Ms Jolley dialled and it is clear they are operated by a third party which charges a premium rate to divert the callers to Vodafone customer services. This third party has nothing to do with Vodafone. Our customers can call us on 191 free of charge, contact us online or via our app.’

Vodafone is the most complained-about telecoms business, according to Ofcom figures, racking up 23 complaints per 100,000 customers, against 1, 2 or 3 complaints per 100,000 customers for most of its rivals.

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