VILLAGERS in the Cheviot foothills are taking Vodafone to task because of poor coverage, writes Sally Gillespie.
Some in Yetholm have voted with their feet and gone to rivals Orange after experiencing intermittent problems with the operator for five months.
Vodafone was thought to provide the best coverage in the rural area but since June users have gone sometimes for weeks without reception.
Former customer Peter Newton said: “It’s sometimes off for weeks. If you contact Vodafone you get customer service and they don’t know what is going on, then they will say they will put you through to technical services who also don’t know what is going on.”
Although reception started again at the weekend, Mr Newton is concerned that the elderly in the area are more vulnerable when their mobiles have no signal.
He said: “Before June it was okay but since then we have had very intermittent service, more off than on.
“I was pay-as-you-go but somebody in the village has a £35-a-month contract with them. He said he wasn’t going to pay it because he hadn’t had service and they said they would charge him a cessation fee of more than £400.
“A lot of farms in the area have contracts with them and they can’t get out of them.
“The other thing that concerned me is that a friend and I go walking in the hills and if there was an accident and you can’t get a signal, then you are stuck.”
Mr Newton has given up on Vodafone and has switched to Orange which he says has improved its service in the area.
“The vast majority of people in Yetholm who are on pay-as-you-go have gone back to Orange,” he said.
Nearby on Venchen Farm, Sandra Robson confirmed: “It’s been on and off since June. Every time you phone you get a different excuse – they’re waiting for a part for the aerial, the signal’s coming from a different aerial – but they’re not offering any sort of discount on bills.
“You don’t really have a choice here, it has to be Vodafone. We’ve got three phones with them and are paying them £100 a month.”
Ms Robson said that if Vodafone did not charge the large cessation fee, her family would probably move to Orange, even though it has a less good reputation.
“We would just like some sort of refund,” she said. “You shell out £100 a month, it’s a lot of money, for a service that isn’t working. I have given up phoning them. You can spend hours on the phone and get nowhere. I have just given up.”
On Tuesday a spokesperson for Vodafone said: “The stations are up and running, we can see them taking traffic now: in these very bad weather conditions we are still managing to provide a service to Yetholm.
“From time to time every base station is likely to develop issues but we have some very sophisticated monitoring technology which shows us when problems are coming up.
“It is in our interests as operators and in our customers’ interests – because this is our income – to fix any problem as soon as possible.”