In January 2020, my wife and I took out a contract with Vodafone broadband, under her name, for our home in north London. In spring 2021, my wife, Hannah, sadly died at the age of 41, leaving me with our three small children. I told Vodafone what had happened and they transferred the account into my name.

Then in spring 2022 I found out that they had mistakenly registered me as dead, not her. I found this out when I was moving home as I failed the identity checks.

When you buy a house, you have to prove you are who you say you are, but I couldn’t, according to my lawyer, as I was coming up as not existing.

I logged on to Experian to find out my credit score, and read the report, which said “deceased” at the top. I got in contact with Experian. A guy read from a script really quickly – it sounded like a radio advert when they give you the terms and conditions at the end – then hung up. I went back to Vodafone and told them to sort it out.

It delayed me buying the house and I was nervous because it was a competitive market and I was scared I would lose it.

Vodafone did sort it out, we completed on the house sale, and I stayed with them for the move. I didn’t want to but I also didn’t want the stress of changing provider. I was in the early stages of Covid, my wife had only died a year before, and I had to look after three kids under the age of 12 on my own. The solicitor was appalled, but I couldn’t be bothered to get cross.

And then, somehow, things got worse. We moved to the new house in Newcastle, and I had a new connection date for our broadband shortly after. But before connection day Vodafone sent me texts saying “sorry you are leaving us” and I called to say: “I’m not leaving you”. They then said there was no record of me or my late wife Hannah ever having an account with them either in London or Newcastle. At that point I thought I was going mad.

I had to explain the whole situation situation again. They were so unhelpful I asked them to cancel my contract but they said there was no contract to cancel, so I signed up with NOW broadband and thought nothing more of it.

I heard nothing more until February this year, when I received letters from Vodafone threatening me with debt collection agencies, saying I owe £420 for my existing debt of £65which is a mistake as I never received a service from them. They claimed I was a customer after all, although they had never got in touch with me to tell me that.

I’ve spent hours on the phone trying to sort this but Vodafone don’t seem to understand. Please can you help me? Dominic Miller, via email

Grace says: Firstly, I am so very sorry about the loss of your wife. I can only imagine how devastating this would have been and the added stress you must have been caused by Vodafone’s complete and utter incompetence.

The problems with Vodafone started almost immediately when you first took out a contract in January 2020, when they failed to complete your broadband connection and you had to use a dongle for weeks.

Your wife had just become seriously unwell and had undergone a huge operation, it was the Christmas holidays, and you had your three children at home to look after, something that didn’t seem to bother Vodafone, if their service is anything to go by. You eventually got it sorted.

Sadly, the next year, your wife passed away and the account was transferred into your name – or so you thought.

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You managed to get to the bottom of Vodafone killing you off, but then to top everything, on 9 February 2023 you received a letter from Vodafone saying it was passing your ‘debt’ of £65 to a debt collection agency, saying if you did not pay by 8 February (the day before you received the letter) you may owe £420 on top of your existing ‘debt’. It would be funny if it wasn’t so eye-wateringly useless.

You then received daily texts, emails and phone calls from a debt collector chasing you for money you didn’t owe. At this point you spent about two and a half hours on the phone to customer services who disconnected you without explanation or a callback. You called back several times and went round in circles explaining the situation but there was no resolution.

You estimate that in the last year or two you have spent about 30 or 40 working hours either speaking with or dealing with the fallout of all their mistakes.

You then got in contact with me. I immediately contacted Vodafone for an explanation, outlining their numerous costly mistakes and lack of empathy for your situation over the past year.

Vodafone admitted it was wrong and apologised, suggesting the problems resulted from a misunderstanding and error in their customer service team, which was then compounded by technical issues.

A Vodafone spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry for the experience Mr M has had at what is already such a distressing time in his life.

“We’ve spoken with him to apologise, waived the charges and closed his account, as requested. We’ve also offered him a gesture of goodwill and lifted the credit file markers, to clear his credit history.”

This gesture was just £150, which is pretty insulting in the circumstances, but you wanted to draw a line under it. I am glad this can now be put to bed but I know neither you nor I will forget Vodafone’s disgraceful service in a hurry. I wish you all the best going forwards.

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