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Customers keep hanging up on Vodafone

9 Feb 2013 THE AGE - BY LUCY BATTERSBY WITH AAP



VODAFONE Group's share of revenue from its Australian subsidiary fell by 16 per cent in the last three months of 2012 as it continued to lose thousands of customers.

Accounts released overnight by Vodafone's European-based parent showed its Australian business lost 64,000 customers in the three months to December 31, to 3.11 million. As Vodafone Group Plc reports half of the results of Vodafone Hutchison Australia, this translates to VHA losing about 128,000 customers in the quarter, or 6.34 million customers.

Customer losses contributed to a 16 per cent fall in Vodafone Australia's service revenue for the period.

"The business continues to focus on network improvements and arresting weakness in brand perception," Vodafone Group said in its third-quarter financial report.

Vodafone Australia's revenue fall was sharper than the 14.4 per cent drop it recorded in the three months to the end of September.

Vodafone Australia is jointly owned by Vodafone Group and Hutchison Telecommunications Australia, which used to own the 3 brand. HTA will release its half-year financial report later in February.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been accused of bullying and intimidation after attacking Vodafone's Australian chief. Senator Conroy reportedly compared Bill Morrow to unpopular former Telstra boss Sol Trujillo, after he questioned the government's commitment to the universal service obligation.

Mr Morrow has called for a review of the subsidies paid to maintain fixed-line services, which he said had cost the industry more than $660 million over 10 years.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said Senator Conroy's comments were typical of "a very arrogant and bullying attitude" to a regulated industry.