Vodafone PLC (LON:VOD) risked attracting public anger on Thursday after saying that it will push ahead with a 2.5% rise in prices for pay monthly customers despite many households facing financial strain as the coronavirus pandemic hits the UK economy.
The changes are due to come into effect next month, around the same time when the full economic impact and infection rate of the coronavirus is expected to become clear.
Vodafone admitted that now was perhaps not a good time to be communicating a price rise, but stressed that it was standard practice across the industry, with providers such as O2 and Three also due to increase their bills in line with the retail price index (RPI) inflation rate.
Shares in the firm were down 2.9% at 113.7p in lunchtime trading.
The timing of Vodafone’s price hike is unfortunate as UK consumers have in recent weeks been turning their guns on business chiefs who have been accused of acting without compassion for their employees in the face of the crisis.
Earlier this week, the boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon PLC (LON:JDW), Tim Martin, was castigated for suggesting that the firm’s 43,000 staff would not be paid over April and suggested that those out of work should find jobs in Tesco in the interim period.
The chain has also suffered backlash for saying that none of its suppliers will be paid until its 874 pubs reopen after being forcibly shut last week under government containment policies.
Meanwhile, the boss of Sports Direct owner Frasers Group PLC (LON:FRAS), Mike Ashley, has also come under pressure for demanding that the group’s stores be deemed ‘essential’ and stay open during the outbreak before hastily backtracking on the decision following a public backlash.
More recently, TV chef Rick Stein has become the latest businessman to face scorn after it emerged that his staff will not be paid for over a month during the closure of his restaurant empire, despite Stein having previously posted on social media about the importance of looking after staff during the outbreak.
Both Stein and Wetherspoons are holding out for when a government salary scheme is brought into force at the end of April, which will see the Treasury pay workers 80% of their wages if the closure of their workplace prevents them performing their duties.