back to article Vodafone Ireland admits pocketing dormant PAYG cash

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", …


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  1. Damo

    Could be worse

    Here in France the little buggers nick unused credit if you don't use it up withing a certain time period. A 5 Euro top up lasts one week.

    Don't put credit on your account for six months and they'll nick your number back.

    And don't get me started on trying to find a reasonable PAYG data package.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Is there one?

      If there is a reasonable PAYG in France, where the credit doesn't time out, do let me know!

      BTW, be careful. On those I've looked into, the 5E credit only extends your line validity for THREE months, not six. Yet another slap in the face, and why sometimes I really feel like blowing them up... oh wait, I shouldn't say that... some twat might take it seriously. But, hang on, this is El Reg not Twitter. Higher IQ of readership. :-)

      In any case, before you bemoan taking abandoned credit, at least you GET to abandon it first...

  2. Andy Barker

    Same in the US

    Just got back from a 4 week trip to the USA, used a PAYG AT&T SIM. Number and credit will disappear after 90 days of not being used. Seems reasonable that unused numbers are recycled, and consequently the credit goes too. Minor annoyance, as intend going back once or twice a year, but can live with it.

    1. David Beck

      Buy a Tracfone

      I have used Tracfones in the US for the past 5 years (ignore the noise on the internet about how bad the company is, those days are over and I never experienced it anyway). The phones are available in most "drug" stores/Walmart/Target as are airtime cards (or on the net). The phones roam on GSM in the US and appear to work about everywhere. You can setup 10 x 800 numbers to call Europe for the same prices as a US call (I know this works and well as I've used it for the past 2-3 years). I buy a $100 airtime card once a year to get a year's use and add minutes of airtime as I need them. The minutes cards come with days of use too (90 days is the smallest) and these accumulate to the existing expiry date in the phone. My phone (a Nokia 1100) currently expires in May 2011 and has 1200 minutes in the tank.

      You have to use the phone once a year to keep it active but can reactivate for about a year after that..

      Don't lose the phone, all this stuff is stored in the phone and is gone if you lose it.

      They do SMS and data as well if the phone supports it.

  3. Pyers

    It's not lost in France

    When buying a pay as you go SIM in France recently I had to give ID and evidence of an address. I was told that it is law that all mobile phones have a verified name and address associated with them.

    This would make it easier for operators to return unused credit!

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Lost in France

      That's probably to stop criminal activity. Oddly enough, however, a visitor last year brought a UK phone and purchased a SIM (only) using a photocopy of his student card... great security.

  4. ShaggyDoggy


    Why do they cancel accounts at all ?

    Short of numbers ?

    After all there's only 999,999,999 after the 07 prefix

    (ok some are reserved e.g. 999)

    1. Fat Jez


      Because each mobile operator has a finite amount of HLR capacity and it costs money to run kit that's only being used for dormant accounts (support costs, air conditioning, floor space, electricity, etc). Then there's the cost of buying capacity for new customers (which typically amounts to hardware and then a license fee on top for each customer provisioned).

      Why pay all that when you can turf people off the network after 9 months of inactivity and re-use the space gained?

  5. ravenviz

    Spare SIM card

    I have a spare PAYG SIM card that I keep in case I lose my phone, for the gap in between the loss and getting a replacement SIM. So far I've not needed it for about 2 years, I have actually plugged it in a couple of times and it says it needs to be reactivated. This suits me as far as I am concerned. To find that the number would have been reallocated and my pre-pay stolen would not suit me. Given there are 1 billion combinations of 07 numbers in the UK, how long does it take before they're all used up and they can start recycling the inactive numbers (e.g. most inactive first)? At least attempt to contact the previous holders in some way, if no reply then that's their fault especially if they've been inactive for a number of years.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      So, ummm...

      Why not just buy a fresh PAYG sim for a couple of quid if/when you ever lose your phone?

  6. druck Silver badge

    No emergency phone then

    So the old handset with a free Vodafone SIM that I gave to my fiancée to keep in her car in case of emergencies when she's forgotten her iPhone (or it's flat), wont work unless I remember to dig it out and use it every 3 months?

    1. Steve Evans


      It depends how you define emergency. You don't even need a SIM to dial 999, and I'm sure a lady in distress will get away with a 999 call to say her car has broken down in a dark country lane far more easily than a man would.

  7. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    Another good reason for ID cards?

    You can only get a PAYG mobile or SIM on production of a biometric ID card. This will make it easy for us to refund any unused credit to you*. Remember, ID cards are for your own good!

    * minus a £25 administration fee

  8. John Lilburne


    I can quite easily go 6 months without using the mobile phone. It doesn't mean that its abandoned, or whatever. Simply that during that period I've had no use for it and its switched off in the glove box of the car.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      O2 suck

      This happened to me a couple of years back with an emergency mobile on O2 PAYG, after 6 months of not making a call with it the credit I had on the sim was stolen by them when they cancelled the sim.


      The mobile phone industry is bad as the banking industry, who are also bastards.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not just mobile.

    When i left Sky and had a credit balance they didn't even mention it until i did at which point they said "We'll keep hold of that for when you come back to Sky". For some reason they seemed really surprised when i asked for it back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: not just mobile.

      Good old Sky.

      They continually bombard our block of flats with "offers" for taking up Sky subscription.

      Despite the fact that everyone in the block has cable tv...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: not just mobile

        Why would Sky bombard a block of flats where everyone already had Sky? It's because, not despite, the fact that everyone has cable that you get these mailshots.

      2. Trevor Marron

        Two Salesmen

        Two salesmen go off to a far-away country to sell shoes, the first returns after a week complaining that no-one wears shoes, so it is pointless. The second salesman comes back saying that there is great potential, as no one even has shoes yet so once they see how good the product is they will all want some!

        Your the first salesman, you can not see who would want it, Sky is the second, just feeling you need to see what your missing. Sky Marketing really believe their service is a must have, so see the great potential of selling to your block of flats.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Ah, sweet justified outrage

    It's good to go out and rage at something now and then, eh, Chief Executive ? Taking the moral high ground is such a rush.

    So Vodaphone is a thief and picking pockets of innocent people ? Consumers should "vote with their feet" on the matter ?

    Well I guess that, if their account is unused for the past nine months, they already _have_ voted "with their feet".

    And, by all accounts, a nine-month delay is quite a luxurious one, given what standards are in use in other countries.

    Oh, and there is the ever-so-small issue of the accounts that are untraceable. What would the Chief Executive want Vodaphone to do with those accounts ? Send him the money, maybe ?

    Yes, it is surely that.

    All in the name of justice, of course.

  11. Michael Jennings

    The US is different

    The Americans decided that they would use their existing numbering ranges for mobiles, and they only use seven digit local numbers, so in a lot of cases they actually are running out of numbers. If AT&T claim they have to do this due to a number shortage, I believe them. Over here, maybe not so much. There are a billion numbers starting with 07, and about 60 million people in Britain, which is about 17 numbers each.

    That said, I would have had at least that many numbers allocated to me at some point. Some of these were only for short periods and were formally cancelled (for instance, I get a new phone that has a temporary number for a couple of weeks before I port another number over), but a few were things like PAYG phones that were lost and such. I can conceive that some management and reuse of numbers is sensible - I just can't see why the wait period can't be a couple of years. That would be much better for those of us who travel and don't want to get a new SIM every time we visit a country.

    Of course, the operators would probably prefer we roam rather than get a local SIM, so perhaps it isn't in their interest.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I have an older O2 phone and must use it twice a year to keep it alive.

    And I don't think I gave them my personal details, although the advertised credit at purchase turned out to be only if I did give them contact information and agree to it being sold to third parties to use. Uh, no.

    I don't use that phone much, in fact.

    More recently I purchased a new Orange SIM for an experiment that I haven't got around to yet. There it's apparently a condition of "registration" that you provide contact details and allow them to be used by every spammer in the world if Orange so pleases, and I'm hoping that I can do what I want to do - test whether a spare device is only locked or actually broken - without doing that.

    However, I didn't produce ID to obtain the SIM. What happens if I try to get a new phone, I don't know. Since a phone has a fixed(?) IMEI, that's also identifiable. If it's tied to my own identity -

  13. Jess--

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Virgin is leniant on idle phones, as long as there is a chargeable call or text every 12 months the phone stays active.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      In Canada

      That's fine, but in Canada, Virgin Mobile steals all your credit if you don't use it in one month.

      And don't even get me started on paying for incoming calls

  14. nickrw


    I got a T-Mobile PAYG number a good few years back and straight away started getting calls looking for "Mimi", I can only presume she was an idler. Still get the odd call nowadays, having ported the number to a contract on a different network.

  15. john loader

    They do it here

    I asked Vodafomne for a refund to teh card that I had used to top up credit when they stopped my PAYG - they refused though they knew who I was. I now have a contract 3 mobile. When will these people learn that if you upset a customer you mat never see them again. They are thieves though it is perfectly legal

  16. smudge

    Yup, O2 do it in the UK

    Have twice had to get a new SIM for my aged Mum, because she hadn't used the phone for months. I now have reminders in my diary to get her to use it.

    You'd think that they could phone or text to warn of impending cut-off - they do have the number after all - but I suppose most of those affected will be like my mother and have the phone switched off.

    1. smudge

      Actually I meant Vodafone...

      ... but who can tell the difference anyway?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the robbing bastards at skype

    Skype stole the money from my skype-out account because I hadn't made a chargeable call in 90 days. I'd made loads of free calls so they must have known that my account was active. Apparently they needed to take the money in order to comply with accounting regulations

    1. Puck
      Thumb Up

      In Skype's defence:

      I got this email recently, which is pretty damn good practice if you ask me:

      "30 days left to save your credit

      It appears that you haven't used any of your Skype Credit for quite a while. Your balance expires if you haven't used it for 180 days in a row. You have 30 days left to take action to keep your credit. "

      So I made a chargeable call and now have another half-year before they remind me again! How good is that!? Now, were the mobile payg providers to send reminders by email, THAT would be bloody good. And of course they're sneaky buggers for not sending them. But in their absence, of course, a solution is to schedule in one's electronic calendar, a series of reminders starting a week or two before cutoff, to make the chargeable call required to maintain one's phone. I have to do it with other forms of subscription - and to remind me to pay my credit card bills etc - it works pretty damn good.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    T-Mobile's policy is to keep your cash

    You can't get your money back even if you want to. I bought a T-Mobile PAYG phone from Tesco and stupidly topped it up with £5 before realising the coverage was crap in my area. Took the phone back and got a refund no problem but when I phoned T-Mobile and asked for my fiver back they said their policy was to not refund money from PAYG accounts. Thieving bastards. Won't ever be doing business with them again.

  19. ZenCoder

    My phone tells me how soon it will expire.

    My pay as you go phone tells me my minutes and days until expiration when I turn it on. When you are out of days your minutes expire. You can buy additional days without buying additional minutes.

    Then I find out if I don't use it at least every three months they will deactivate my account until I call, presumably with another phone.

    So I have to remember to call myself every three months to keep my emergency phone in service even though I have over a years worth of days on the card.

    I wonder if there is a service that will call my phone every 3 months to remind me to use it every 3 months?

  20. Alan B

    Vodafone won't reactivate your account...

    ...unless you pay for more credit, even if you already have credit on your phone. How can they justify this? I had eight quid on mine , and didn't make a chargeable call within a 90 day period, so they barred out going calls. I phoned them and asked them to reactivate it after just 96 days from the date of my last chargeable call, but they refused unless I bought at least a five quid topup. I told them to stuff their service and asked for a refund of the eight quid they owed me, but they flatly refused, saying it was impossible to do this!.

    I would never ever use vodafone again, even if they were the only mibile phone provider in the world.

  21. Stu 3


    "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"

    Yeah, but they can do what we (I work for a Mobile Operator in another country) do - send an SMS to warn that they are going to be disconnected and have a certain amount of days to either topup or call before getting permanently cancelled.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so it's ok then....

    I use a mobile phone on an emergency basis only..... I don't feel the need to be forever on the damn the thing, and buddies calling me know it's cheaper for them to call our landline. Likewise, that's how contact them. Apparently this is no longer acceptable to the carriers..... They appear to actually require us now to behave like hyperactive teens....... Oh dear.....

  23. Eugene Goodrich
    Paris Hilton


    Surprised the government hasn't yet figured out that this unrefundable credit belongs to them.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Must be a chargeable call

    Thanks for pointing out that to keep it alive the activity has to be chargeable.

    I have a "spare" phone that I try to remember to use every few months to stop them from de-activating it. But now I believe that I get free calls from my Virgin landline to my Virgin mobile, and so making that call would not work for keeping it alive.

  25. Crumplecorn

    Sensible practices

    A number of the complaints in here boil down to 'the company will only let me use their service if they make money off me!' or 'the phone companies remove apparently dead phones from the network!'. Not exactly compelling complaints.

  26. Andy Enderby 1

    @ Crumplecorn

    you sir, are a troll sir. The carrier has already made money off me as I prepaid for the service.

  27. andy 49

    not quite never again

    I had Vodafone UK disconnect the same SIM 3 times in 2 months, the last time only 3 or 4 days after they reconnected it. Then I just gave up.

    Last summer, with Vodafone's free roaming promotion, I lent my mum a phone and SIM so my sister could call her when they were all meeting up in France. Never been topped up, never will be.

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