Vodafone faces class action by thousands of customers
Lawyers launching a class action over claims Vodafone did not offer a reliable mobile phone network will seek ''tens of millions'' of dollars on behalf of thousands of customers.
Law firm Piper Alderman announced on Tuesday it would go ahead with the long-mooted class action after it secured funding from LCM Litigation Fund to sue the telco.
We envisage being able to approach Vodafone sooner rather than later.
There are no guarantees for consumers that they will receive compensation if the action goes to court.
Sasha Ivantsoff, a partner with the law firm, said it planned to launch the action in the next three months after emailing 23,000 Vodafone customers who completed a survey and indicated their intention to join the class action.
Legal action against Vodafone was first threatened more than two years ago when issues with its network were brought to light by customers and the media.
The action was threatened over dropped calls, bad reception and poor data performance, but stalled after the firm failed to secure funding to back it.
Mr Ivantsoff said the action would cover people who were Vodafone customers in 2010 and 2011.
''They will need to re-enter their details, provide us a bit of information about how much money they were spending each month with Vodafone and that's pretty much it,'' he said.
Hundreds of thousands of customers have deserted Vodafone since network issues were first brought to light. Accounts released earlier this month showed its Australian business lost about 128,000 customers in the last three months of 2012.
On its website, LCM Litigation Fund states it ''prefers'' to undertake projects in which the relevant legal claim is for at least $2.5 million. Gordon Grieve, Piper Alderman's chairman, could not quantify exactly how large the damages claim against Vodafone would be, but estimated it would be ''in the order of tens of millions''.
Mr Ivantsoff said the firm has agreed to give LCM Litigation Fund 15 per cent of the total amount of damages if the matter settles successfully before the end of May or 33 per cent thereafter.
Vodafone said in a statement Piper Alderman had not contacted it about the action, but it was aware the firm was set to announce a lawsuit. The telco said the law firm was known for promoting class actions, but had not ''sought to discuss'' claims of any customers with it.
Asked why it took more than two years to put together a class action, Mr Ivantsoff said that it took ''a lot of work'' to investigate the nature of the claims against Vodafone.
''We envisage being able to approach Vodafone sooner rather than later with the nature of the case, open some discussions and if they are unsuccessful then our objective is to file proceedings within three months,'' he said.
Elise Davidson, a spokeswoman for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said instead of taking part in the class action customers unsatisfied with Vodafone's network should contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
''This class action is going to take a long time to play out and there are no guarantees for consumers that they will receive compensation if it goes to court,'' Ms Davidson said.