Cell hotlines hang up

2010-09-25 13:08

Hotline has received an ­increasing number of cellphone-related ­complaints.

Most of the complaints relate to incorrect billing, automatic renewal of contracts, dropped calls and network congestion. Consumers also say they are being charged for handsets they have not received.

Incorrect billing

Paseka Maleka, the spokesperson of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), says consumers with billing ­complaints should follow these ­guidelines:

  • They must complain to the service provider. After an investigation is finalised, the ­outcome must be communicated to the ­consumer within 14 working days.

  • The service to the consumer must not be disconnected during the investigation.

  • A consumer should not be ­required to pay the disputed bill in full, pending the finalisation of the investigation of the complaint.

  • The consumer should be given adequate notice to pay before the service is disconnected.

“Complaints regarding contraventions or non-compliance with the regulations can be lodged with Icasa and can be directed to the Complaints and Compliance Committee for adjudication.

“This may result in the imposition of a penalty in terms of the ­Icasa Act”, said Maleka.

The three major operators – ­Vodacom, MTN and Cell C – said consumers have the right to query incorrect billing.

Danie Swart, Cell C direct sales operations executive, said errors on invoices and statements were usually the result of delayed adjustments to services.

MTN executive of ­customer service Eddie Moyce said the ­operator had upgraded its billing system to make it more accurate.

Automatic renewal of contracts

Bulelwa Hewu, the assistant ­director at the Office of Consumer Protection at the trade and industry department, said service ­providers were required by law to ­remind the consumer in writing – at least 40 business days in ­advance – of the expiry date of the contract and any changes to the terms and conditions.

“If the consumer does not ­respond, the contract can only be renewed on a month-to-month ­basis,” said Hewu.

Dropped calls and network congestions

Icasa’s minimum standard for connectivity failure rate is 3% over a period of six months.

Maleka said Icasa had received a high volume of complaints related to from consumers who experienced a lot of to dropped calls over the past two years.

He said network providers had made a commitment to ­improve their services, and that Icasa was monitoring this.

Swart said dropped calls were caused by, among other things, failure to handover between cellphone ­towers.

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boardman said it had been difficult to obtain in getting approval to install ­additional cellphone towers in communities. has been a constraint.

“It’s very frustrating when we get complaints in a particular area and our plans to improve the ­service are slowed or even stopped by just a minority of residents who ­oppose the erection of new ­towers,” he said.

Late delivery of handsets

While there is no prescribed time frame within which cellphone providers should deliver handsets, Hewu said the turnaround time for the delivery of handsets was ­often determined by the contract that a consumer entered into with the service ­provider.

She said consumers who experienced delays could cancel the agreement on the basis of a breach of the contract by the provider.

  • For any cellphone-related complaints, consumers can contact Icasa at 011 566 3000 and the ­Office of Consumer Protection at the DTI at 0861 843 384

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