Vodafone Australia class action stalls

A class action lawsuit against Vodafone Australia that was being pushed by a litigation funding firm on behalf of "tens of thousands" of ex-customers has yet to reach the courts after more than 10 months.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Despite widespread reports of an impending class action lawsuit against the company, Vodafone has not had any contact from LCM Litigation, or its legal firm Piper Alderman, over a lawsuit that was due to be filed in August 2013 on behalf of disgruntled ex-Vodafone customers that left the company during the peak of its network troubles in 2010 to 2011.

Piper Alderman commenced plans to sue the telco in 2010, at the peak of the "Vodafail" complaints about the network's poor performance. At that time, it signed up 23,000 interested customers who were looking at getting compensation for their network woes.

But it took two years for the campaign to resurface, and it returned in February 2013, when Piper Alderman received the backing of litigation funder LCM.

The firm said at the time that it was looking for tens of millions of dollars in compensation from the telco for customers who had suffered due to Vodafone's network issues, but it needed those 23,000 customers to re-sign up and confirm that they had a valid case against the company before the class-action suit could go ahead. LCM would take a 33 percent cut of any damages awarded to ex-Vodafone customers.

At the time, the firm indicated that it wanted to capture all of the 700,000 customers who had left Vodafone since 2011. The company has now lost well over 2 million of its mobile customer base through combined customer churn and removal of inactive SIMs by Vodafone.

It was widely reported in July last year that the case was set to get underway in August 2013, with "tens of thousands" of customers signed up to participate in the class action suit.

"The lawyers will then need to finish preparing the necessary court documents. We will then need to speak to Vodafone to comply with the rules of the Federal Court of Australia. We are aiming to issue the court case against Vodafone by the end of August," LCM managing director Patrick Coope was reported to have said at the time.

In the subsequent 10 months, however, there has been no filing in the Federal Court of Australia against Vodafone Hutchison Australia. Vodafone itself has not been contacted by LCM Litigation, a spokesperson told ZDNet.

"We have not seen or heard anything about the threatened class action since some press reports in August 2013 and look forward to leaving this matter behind us," the spokesperson said.

"Customer service remains a key priority for Vodafone. Our call centre teams, including our Australian based teams in Hobart continue to work hard to provide our customers with the highest standard of service every day. We want our customers to have a positive experience and where there are any issues, make sure they are resolved swiftly and fairly."

ZDNet made repeated attempts over the past week to contact both LCM Litigation and Piper Alderman, but no comment had been provided at the time of writing. LCM's website is currently listed as "being updated". Coope contacted ZDNet early this morning but did not provide any specifics on the current state of the case.

The class action suit's failure to launch comes as Vodafone continues to shed mobile customers. In the first three months of 2014, Vodafone lost 44,000 mobile subscribers, bringing its customer base down to below 5 million.

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