Diverting from the call script leaves a mess

2015-03-31 00:00

ROD Brent of Newcastle ended up with three unwanted cellphone contracts after he took a telesales consultant at his word that Vodacom was apparently offering him “free” cellphones for his long-standing association with the company.

Brent, a retiree, complained to me that he had received a series of what he now realises were telesales calls from Vodacom offering him “free” cellphones, between 2013 and November 2014.

“I received a call from Vodacom offering me a new phone. I told the caller that I had no need for another phone,” he said.

“He insisted that the phone was free and told me ‘you can do what you like with it,’ ” he said.

“I remember replying, ‘okay, if it’s free, send it’,” he said.

“The phone arrived and came with a tax invoice which was ‘nil’. I gave the phone to my gardener, together with everything else in the box,” he said.

Brent said during July last year, he got a second call from a Vodacom consultant who told him that because of his long association with Vodacom, the company was offering him a new cellphone which came with free airtime.

“After listening to much rambling it came out that the phone and airtime were free and I could therefore give it to someone who was in need of a phone,” he said.

Brent said he again told the consultant “okay, if it is free, send it” and the phone arrived and he gave it away to a friend.

Four months later, Brent said he received a similar call and again received a phone, which he gave away to a friend, who later returned the phone.

Brent may have landed up with a fourth “free” cellphone after receiving another telesales call in January this year but by this time he had noticed that the debit order for his own cellphone contract had skyrocketed.

“I discovered that since August 2014, my account had increased by more than 300%. I took all my statements to the Vodacom agent at the Newcastle Mall, who explained that my account was being debited for the purchase of three phones valued at R347 per month,” he said.

However, Brent had not received any contract documents for the additional phones.

“He also explained that I now had three additional cellphone numbers registered in my name and that if the phones given away exceeded their airtime, all calls would be debited to my account,” he said.

Brent said the agent referred him to Vodacom’s customer care department, but he said call centre agents repeatedly shoved him from pillar to post without resolving his problem.

“As a matter of interest, who on Earth is going to carry around four portable phones all with different numbers, which Vodacom knowingly attempts to plant on their customers?”

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman responded to the complaint saying that the company had reviewed the telesales calls and noted that the agent had deviated from the sales script. “On top of this, the agent did not send the documentation to the customer, which is also a violation of procedure. These breaches will result in both disciplinary action for the agent and penalties being levied against the call centre company,” said Boorman.

“I’d like to apologise to Mr Brent for the inconvenience and frustration caused. We are cancelling all of the additional lines and crediting Mr Brent for the amounts charged to him for these lines,” Boorman said.

Boorman said the call centre service was outsourced. “Call scripts are put in place to protect customers and call centre agents. In this instance, the agent said that the phone is free on that particular tariff, meaning that there is no additional fee for the handset. The agent did then later in the call explain that there would be a monthly subscription fee, so it doesn’t appear to be a case of deliberate deception, but the fact remains that it was not explained as per the set script,” Boorman said.

Boorman said the “nil” value on the delivery notes referred to the fact that there was no charge for the phone on the particular tariff.

Brent said he was happy to accept the apology and confirmed that Vodacom had reversed the charges for the unwanted cellphones.

• Send your consumer issues to consumer@3i.co.za

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