People love to complain about their telco provider, but when it comes to no. 3 telco Vodafone, kicking it to death has become somewhat of a national pastime. We now stand two years after the #Vodafail fiasco, and the class-action lawsuit for disgruntled customers has resurfaced. When the case was proposed back in 2011, it was fun and empowering, but now that it's back in 2013, it feels wrong and cruel. Here's why it's not fun to kick Vodafone anymore.
I can't think of a clearer way to say this, so I'll just come straight out with it: two years ago, Vodafone screwed up. It didn't spend money on the right things on its network, and it's still paying the price.
Smartphones came along and gave Vodafone's 3G network such a heavy load to deal with that it damn-near crushed the whole company. Three years on and customers are still leaving in droves while the company loses money hand over fist trying to make itself better.
There have been class-action lawsuits and silly hashtags that helped people jump onto the "let's kick the hell out of Vodafone for being rubbish" bandwagon, and that was fun for a while. Hell, we did it ourselves with stories about how bad Vodafone's network is, and even the Federal Communications Minister has had a go.
Here's the thing though: nobody knows that Vodafone screwed the pooch on its 3G network better than Vodafone does. The company has changed its CEO, fired 45 per cent of its workforce in just over a year, and invested a reported $2.5 billion in getting the network back to where it should be.
All the while, the assault on Vodafone for its network is getting petty, and this class-action lawsuit — which won't be filed for three months to get more people on board — is giving people a second, third and fourth whack at the Vodafail piñata. It's a piñata that burst two years ago, and now it's just a group of mean kids hitting things with sticks.
But there's a bigger picture here than just people complaining about their phone service. While some people still think it's fun to kick Vodafone for a dodgy, that fun could give way to some serious consequences for the Australian telco market in the long term.
Vodafone lost $800 million and over 400,000 customers last year. That's huge damage for any company, and when it's compounded with other losses Vodafone has taken in the last two years, it's a miracle to see them still standing and still investing billions of dollars into fixing a network everyone supposedly hates. Regardless, shares are still in the red, meaning that shareholders aren't racing to jump back in bed with the telco. Without key shareholders, Vodafone risks going under due to lack of investment from international partners and parents who have stood by the company for decades.
Here's the worst-case scenario: the people who fund Vodafone pull their investments and decide it's not worth the time anymore. Now that's not about to happen in the near future, but if it did we'd be left with a mobile duopoly in Australia. More carriers means more competition, and more competition means more people fighting for your custom, which usually leads to innovation, better deals for customers and a telco environment that evolves for its customers. Fewer carriers obviously means the opposite.
Australia needs Vodafone more than it knows, so I think it's time we all grew up and stopped kicking it now. It's time we were all bigger than that, isn't it?
Shouting Man image via Shutterstock