By George Bevir
PR battle between Vodafone and Qtel intensifies with web-based war of words
Vodafone Qatar has offered to give the first 1,000 customers who used the network during its test phase a full refund following complaints about the service, as the PR battle between Qatar’s new mobile entrant and incumbent operator Qtel intensifies.
Grahame Maher, the CEO of Vodafone Qatar which launched its service last week, said that if any of the first 1,000 customer who used the network during its initial launch were unhappy with the service they could contact the network to arrange to have their four monthly payments of QR280 (US$77) refunded.
“If any customer feels they had been taken advantage of, or were completely unhappy with our services, I would always offer to refund their money,” Maher told CommsMEA. “I believe this is what all customer focused companies would do. We do not want to force people to stay with us and pay for services if we do not deliver.”
Maher made the offer after internet users posting on the message board of the “Qatar Living” website expressed their dissatisfaction with the service during the four month test phase, citing patchy network coverage and difficulties connecting calls and receiving text messages.
One post on the message forum suggested that “Vodafone should pay the beta participants and not the other way round…an apology is the least Vodafone owes to the first customers”.
Other posts on the website complained that the tariffs offered by Vodafone, which were revealed last week, offered only a marginal difference to those from Qtel.
Vodafone defended its prices, with Maher, posting under the pseudonym “Grandma” stating that there are many “tricks and surprises” contained in mobile deals in Qatar, and that “every Qtel post pay customer I have asked does not know what their monthly bill will be till they get it, and it is usually a nasty surprise.” He also said that he had been told opening a Qtel account was “difficult” and paying for it “inconvenient”.
In response, Qtel’s PR team said that it was “a bit stunned” by what it described as “inaccurate statements” and “misleading information” by Maher and another representatives of Vodafone who commented on the forum.
Both operators offered a number of comparisons of their tariffs and deals, and both sides claimed to offer residents of Qatar the best value for money.
Maher said there was “no policy” behind the move to offer customers a refund, which he described as “simply a commitment of doing the right thing for a customer”. He pointed out that customers who took part in the test phase were free to leave the service after the first month if they were unhappy with it.
If all 1,000 of the customers decide to reclaim their four months worth of bills it could cost Vodafone Qatar QR280,000 ($77,000), but Maher said that as far as he was aware initial response to the service had been positive.
“We have communicated with the first 1,000 regularly and I have spoken to several of them personally. We have had great feedback. Most people felt that they got great value and were very happy helping us design the network build and coverage which is still continuing.”
Vodafone is set to become the "New Coke" of phone launches at this rate - I can't think of another operator that had to provide a refund for their first service! After all the high hopes with the arrival of a second competitor, it's all becoming a bit of a shambles now...
Qtel is very expensive, and I'm looking forward to using Vodafone when I visit Doha soon. The Saudi market has changed considerably with competition, and I expect the UAE would do too if it had competition. Let's hope everyone in Qatar can benefit from Vodafone soon!
I do not have any bank accounts and credit card neither I have any friends to help me. I only can pay and buy but Pre-paid Sim cards are not available in Qatar. How can I solve my problem?