‘No one answers … then it’s music ad infinitum’

2015-02-24 00:00

WHEN pensioner Ron Kuhn took out contracts for two identical Samsung cellphones ­everything went smoothly for a few months — and then his bills started escalating above the agreed monthly payment.

Kuhn said he had taken out two “Anytime 200” contracts, totalling R584, via debit order for both phones, at Nashua Mobile’s Midlands Mall store last March, just before the company closed and its subscribers were migrated to ­either Altech Autopage, Cell C, MTN or ­Vodacom.

Kuhn received 200 minutes airtime per month and a 150 MB data bundle.

“The monthly statements sent to me by Nashua Mobile on April 1, May 1, June 1 and July 1, were for R584 and this reflected my ­contract,” he said.

However, Kuhn said in August and September additional data charges appeared.

“I objected but still paid the amounts that were on the statements,” he said.

Kuhn said Nashua Mobile advised him in September that MTN was taking over his ­account. “They guaranteed that the contracts I had entered into with Nashua would be honoured by MTN,” Kuhn said.

However, to Kuhn’s dismay his R584 a month debit order continued to climb.

“My monthly mobile cost has rocketed to amounts of in excess of R1 300 per month from November 1 onwards,” he said.

Kuhn said he couldn’t afford the “huge ­charges” and he initially approached Nashua Mobile’s head office, and then MTN repeatedly, via visits to MTN stores, calls to its call centre, e-mail and even a registered letter sent on ­January 15, to get to the bottom of the problem, but without even a response from the company.

“I visited ‘consultants’ at both MTN outlets at the Midlands Mall and achieved no success as they could never get through to their head office in Johannesburg,” he said.

Kuhn said staff told him to dial “808” and then “0” to contact head office at its 24-hour service centre.

“I have attempted to make contact with a head office staff member since December and have never been successful as the option “0” invokes a dialling tone. But no one answers and one then listens to music ad infinitum,” he said.

“I actually can whistle and hum this tune now.”

Kuhn said he had e-mailed MTN’s customer care and legal departments in vain and on two occasions that he reached a switchboard ­operator he left messages for a manager but his calls were not returned.

As a last resort Kuhn stopped payment on the debit order and advised MTN’s legal ­department via e-mail.

“I am hugely frustrated. I would like to ­honour my original contracts but I am not ­going to pay MTN until they resolve this ­expensive problem,” he said.

“I am now considering moving my bank ­account so that MTN can no longer access my monthly pension,” he said.

“I have never dealt with an organisation that has no readily available managers — does MTN head office exist?”

I asked MTN SA to respond to Kuhn’s ­complaint. MTN SA’s chief customer ­experience officer Eddie Moyce said that ­according to the company’s records the latest charges on Kuhn’s account were similar to those before it was moved to MTN.

“This is because Mr Kuhn was not on a top up or capped package, [and] instead has been on MTN Anytime 200 open line. Our records also show that the customer accumulated a bill amounting to R870,97 for the month of January and R785,60 for February,” he said.

“The R1 327,46 bill incurred in December was largely due to a lot of international texts the customer sent.”

Moyce said the company had “amicably ­resolved” the complaint.

“MTN has offered to migrate both lines to a top up package and discontinue the 2GB which has been active since the lines were ­activated. As a gesture of goodwill, MTN will credit the customer’s account for the ­three-month subscription for the 2GB bundles, which amounts to R735.”

Kuhn was happy with the resolution but surprised to learn that part of his problem were the 2GB data bundles, at an additional cost of R245, that were suddenly added to his account on the day he was informed of the takeover.

“MTN has also agreed to cancel the debit order system of payment to that of my having to pay on the receipt of their monthly invoices,” Kuhn said.

“I believe this should be the standard in the industry because it is the cause of much grief,” he said.

Moral of the story: Always ask your cellular network or landline operator to cap your monthly data or “free” call minutes to a pre-set limit so there won’t be any nasty surprises at month end.

And switch to the option of EFT payment or direct deposit for your contract as this will give you control of the monthly payments.

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