Law firm Piper Alderman is back to fight for disgruntled Vodafone customers with a three-year old class action lawsuit that aims to take the telco for all its worth for alleged bad service in 2010-11. The law firm won't be officially filing the suit for three months so that new claimants can come on board. Here's how to get involved, along with everything you need to know.
Who Is Eligible?
Anyone who was experienced poor mobile or internet service from Vodafone way back in 2010 or 2011.
What Happens If...
If You Had Already Signed Up?
If are one of the 23,000-odd Vodafone customers who signed up when the class action was first floated in 2010, then you'll be getting an email today or tomorrow with a questionnaire about how much you were paying per month, which plan you had, where you had issues and whether or not you were a business customer so they can work out how much business you lost as a result of alleged poor service from Vodafone.
If You Haven't Signed Up, But Want To?
If you'd like to jump on this three-year old "kick Vodafone while it's down" bandwagon, you're well within your legal rights to do so, providing you were a customer who experienced problems with a Vodafone service between January 1, 2010 through to December 31, 2011.
If that's you and you want to try for a bit of cash to ease your hardship, go to Piper Alderman's website and follow the Vodafone class action links. From there you'll have to fill in the questionnaire about your time as a Vodafone customer.
Will It Even Go To Court?
Maybe. Piper Alderman keeps beating its chest over the fact that it has 23,000 people on-board with the suit, but what you need to understand is that those aren't the amount of people confirmed on the docket. There is no docket just yet, and to be honest, there aren't even 23,000 people formally on board.
23,000 is the number of people Piper Alderman has interested in the class action. Each one of those people will be getting emailed to see if they still want to join, and if they don't, the numbers go down. So the amount of people suing Vodafone in a class action as of right now is essentially zero.
On top of that, the case hasn't even been filed with the court yet. Piper Alderman tells us that it will wait three months to get the necessary paperwork to the court due to legal factors including an out of court negotiation period in which Vodafone might just decide to settle. If not, then it will most likely go to court.
Does Piper Alderman Have A Case?
Kind of. It's worth noting that I'm no lawyer, but for this to stand up in a court of law, one assumes that Vodafone will have had to violate pre-defined service level agreements for the case to be viable. If you look at your phone contract, it absolutely doesn't include that because phone networks are a fluid thing that no telco in its right mind would guarantee in a legal document.
Piper Alderman partner Sasha Ivantsoff told us today that the case will centre instead centre around Vodafone's advertised coverage claims at the time of the Vodafail fiasco in 2010 and 2011. At the time the telco claimed to cover 94 per cent of Australia's population.
We don't see [the case] as a question of service level agreements, we see it as a question of Vodafone telling its customers that it had coverage at 94 per cent of the population at the time and the network didn't do what it was held out to do which was send text messages, load internet pages or make calls when required.
So rather than pursue a service level agreement case, Piper Alderman will chase Vodafone under the guise that it was meant to have coverage 100 per cent of the time when a customer was in a claimed coverage area.
As far as getting the company to come clean on the fact that it had a network issue at the time in question, it's already got that in the bag. Ivantsoff said that it plans to use the public apologies and addresses made by new company CEO Bill Morrow against the company:
We see apologies of being significant. Vodafone are on the record two or three times as having apologised and acknowledged the network issues. The new CEO has made a statement that the network did not have the capacity to acommodate the boom in smartphones and we see all those as pieces of evidence that are in play, and then there's the ACMA report which found that network issues existed at Vodafone.
Of course if this ever does go to court, a judge might just decide to throw it out saying that networks fluctuate and this whole class action exercise might be for naught. It's all down to a judge.
How Much Compensation Will I Get?
It depends on what the court decides, really. Piper Alderman says it's going for compensation in the tens of millions of dollars, but as far as how much you'll get paid as a claimant however depends on your individual circumstance.
The actual amount of compensation per person will depend on what you were paying per month versus the amount of service disruption you experienced. If for example you were paying $100 per month to Vodafone and were only found to be able to use your phone half the time, then you'd be eligible for $50 multiplied by the amount of months you were affected.
On top of that you have to consider that Piper Alderman are a big-name law firm that will be taking a cut. If there's a settlement before May this year then the litigation funder LCM takes 15 per cent of the settlement sum. If the settlement is after May, the funder takes 33 per cent. Piper Alderman gets paid its standard hourly rate. If there's no win, however, there's no fee, and Piper Alderman is left paying Vodafone's court costs. That's assuming it all ends up in a cut and dried situation, though, which court cases often aren't.