Consumer Commission working to prevent “out-of-bundle” surprises

2015-12-09 10:17
Mobile technologies can save lives. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Mobile technologies can save lives. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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CONSUMERS continue to be caught with high “out-of-bundle” data charges that rack up exorbitant cellphone bills but there may be some good news on the horizon as the National Consumer Commission is working on solutions.

I regularly receive complaints regarding cellphone networks’ high data charges and recently received one from Karabo Tladi whose usually R100 a month Vodacom contract for two gigabytes of data shot up to R6 970 in November.

Tladi said Vodacom debited his bank account for the full amount and he battled through the month trying to balance his budget.

“I immediately logged a call to object. I have not had any joy regarding this matter as I am told they are working on the matter and my call being updated, instead of being given a refund or proof that I have used that amount of data,” he said.

Tladi said he did not change his data usage habits and could not understand why the monthly charge was so high as he had not received the bill or proof of data consumption.

“I am planning on closing this account with Vodacom as they don’t care about their customers [and] only care about making money out of them,” he said.

I asked Vodacom to respond to Tladi’s complaint.

Vodacom spokesperson Tshepo Radome said Tladi had exceeded his monthly two gigabyte data allocation and had been billed R1 per megabyte for out-of- bundle data charges which had “ramped up the higher-than-usual bill”.

“We regret that the customer did not obtain their data report when they requested it. I can, however, confirm that we have now provided the customer [with] their data report,” said Ramodibe.

Ramodibe said the bill is accurate, however, Vodacom has agreed to a 50% discount as a “once-off gesture of goodwill”.

Ramodibe said the customer has been advised to activate cellphone notifications to alert him when his data has run out and to switch to an option that will help him to better manage his usage.

He added that customers can manage their data by logging in to My Vodacom on, by activating daily e-mail notifications or by downloading a free Vodacom application to keep track of account balances.

SA National Consumer Union spokesperson Clif Johnston said the union continues to receive a high number of complaints about bill shock across the three major cellphone networks.

“Service providers should stop profiteering from outrageous out-of-bundle data rates,” he said.

“If they can afford to offer, for example, MTN’s 2GB bundle at rates equivalent to six cents per MB, then there is surely no justification for charging 16 times more (R0,99c per MB) for out-of-bundle data. Not every service provider does this and we urge consumers to shop around,” he said.

Johnston added that Afrihost’s starter package costs around six cents per megabyte which rose to 10c per MB for out-of-bundle data, showing that costs can be reduced.

Johnston added that the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) circulated draft revised service charter regulations on October 21, which if implemented, although not banning excessive rates, would ease the situation by requiring service providers to inform customers of out-of-bundle tariffs.

National Consumer Commission spokesperson Trevor Hattingh said the regulator has received similar complaints which it has referred to Icasa and it has also found that the technology to set account limits is flawed.

“According to network providers, out-of-bundle billing is limitless. They informed the NCC that they do not currently have effective technology in place which will cut data connections when a consumer reaches the bundle limit and notify the consumer that he/she is about to exhaust the bundle and will henceforth be charged out-of-bundle rates,” said Hattingh.

“The NCC has established that call limits that are requested by consumers on their accounts are not guaranteed. Network operators say that this is stated in contract terms and conditions, and consumers are informed upfront that the technology used is flawed,” said Hattingh.

Hattingh added that the issue of data rates is part of the commission’s current investigation into mobile network operator contract terms and conditions and that it is meeting with Icasa later this week to discuss possible solutions to the high out-of-bundle rates that networks are charging.

“The NCC earlier this year met with MTN, Vodacom and Cell C on the issue of call and data limits. The companies indicated to us that they are willing to develop a technology that will automatically implement call and data limiting to protect out-of-bundle contract consumers,” said Hattingh.

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Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  consumer

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