Grandmother dies after Vodafone cut off her mobile phone

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Ofcom launched investigation after Sheila Secker, 78, was unable to call family members after collapsing in her York home at end of 2014

An elderly grandmother died after Vodafone cut off her mobile phone, leaving her unable to call her family after she collapsed at her home near York.

Sheila Secker had topped up her pre-paid Vodafone device less than a week before she collapsed towards the end of 2014.

Concerned family members called police after they were unable to contact the 78-year old Grandmother between Christmas and New Year last year. They found her collapsed in her home in a village near York, and she died in hospital on New Year’s Day.

Ofcom said it has launched an official investigation after Vodafone disconnected her 14-year old device, which had been placed in “pre-disconnection” quarantine on September 24 after it had been dormant for more than 90 days, according to the reports.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We are very concerned to hear about this distressing case and have raised it with Vodafone. We are reviewing how mobile providers reuse numbers.”

Steve Secker, son of the deceased, found that the phone had been disconnected after two separate payments worth £30 failed to show up on her account.

He raised the issue with Vodafone immediately, but the problem was not resolved when his mother, who suffered from osteoporosis and a flu infection at the time of her death, collapsed.

He told The Sunday Times: “I suspect there are numerous vulnerable people in a similar position to my mum who think they have a valid mobile but will find, just when they need it, that it doesn’t work.”

A Vodafone spokesman said: “We’re asked by Ofcom to recycle numbers where we can so our policy is that if a phone hasn’t been used for 90 days, we can assume it has been discarded.

“We put the phone number in quarantine at this point and we can reconnect and restore the credit if we’re asked. Until the phone is disconnected, it can still be used to dial emergency numbers even if there is no credit on the phone.”

Vodafone agreed to refund the £30 top-ups, pay £40 compensation and returned payments worth a further £140.

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