False promise of free data bundle

Hajiera Safiedien-Maloon has two contracts with Vodacom, and when she received a call from a sales consultant telling her that because of the many complaints Vodacom has been getting about the high cost of data, they are offering a special at no charge, she accepted.

The Portland woman, who works in Milnerton, said the deal was she would get a free portable wi-fi with 2 Gigs of data.

“I told the consultant I have two contracts and do not want to pay for another. The consultant insisted there would be no extra costs involved, and all I would have to pay was for my existing two contracts, so I consented to this ‘great deal’ that was free because I am a loyal customer and have been one since 2007,” Ms Safiedien-Maloon said.

“But it wasn’t free at all. Vodacom debited R119 from my account at the beginning of August, and when I contacted the call centre they informed me that I was paying for the wifi 2 Gig contract. I have been calling and speaking to consultants and managers at the Vodacom call centre with no help at all.

They cannot even retrieve the reference numbers from their system. How’s that for service?

“There is no accountability at Vodacom. It’s unethical and unprofessional. I don’t know what else to do to stop this fraudulent contract and to stop having money debited from my account. Somehow, somebody has to be held accountable for this,” said Ms Safiedien-Maloon who sent a trail of correspondence she had with Vodacom with everyone promising to call her back but not ever doing so. And some of the emails bounced back as she was given the wrong addresses. “I am at the end of my tether.”

Vodacom confirmed that Ms Safiedien-Maloon had been offered a new data bundle from one of their added-value trade partners – Rewards Co/ Mondo. What was not made clear to her was that she would be charged a subscription fee for the additional data and that this offer was not free.

“Having reviewed the merits of this case, Vodacom has cancelled the data contract, and the invoices processed for the new lines have been credited, and we have sent Ms Safiedien-Maloon an updated statement, which reflects the correct credit on her account,” Vodacom said.

Ms Safiedien-Maloon confirmed that Vodacom contacted her. “Thank you. I do appreciate your assistance – had it not been for your intervention, I am certain that the matter would not have been finalised so soon,” she said.

Lewis Stores in breach of NCA

The National Consumer Tribunal (NCT) has found that Lewis Stores is in breach of the National Credit Act (NCA). This, after the National Credit Regulator (NCR) referred Lewis Stores and Monarch Insurance Company to the (NCT), last year.

An NCR investigation showed that Lewis Stores sold loss-of- employment cover to self-employed consumers and disability cover as part of credit insurance to pensioners.

Jacqueline Peters, the investigations and enforcement manager at the NCR, said that the basis of the NCR’s referral was that the sale of loss-of-employment cover to pensioners and self-employed consumers was unreasonable and imposed an unreasonable cost on the consumers.

The same applied to the sale of occupational disability cover to pensioners when they were no longer employed.

The NCT has agreed with the NCR’s submissions and found that Lewis Stores had acted unreasonably by offering or demanding that pensioners or unemployed consumers take out loss of employment insurance; had acted unreasonably by offering or demanding that pensioners take out disability insurance; and was guilty of prohibited conduct for breaching the NCA.

“The NCT has interdicted Lewis Stores from engaging in this conduct in future; has ordered that an independent audit be conducted on all credit agreements entered into since 2007; and has ordered that all affected consumers, identified in the audit, be reimbursed the premiums paid for this insurance.

The NCR will be returning to the NCT to argue the imposition of a fine on Lewis Stores,” she said.