Fin24 Scam or jam?

2007-04-04 14:23

Johannesburg - South African consumer champion Peter Cheales - founder of consumer complaints website - says that companies pay a fraction of what they normally would for the chance to clear up customer complaints on his website.

The clarification comes after a story on Johnnic Communications (Johncom) website, claimed that companies need to pay a registration fee of between R13 500 and R60 000 to respond to consumers' complaints.

The author - who goes by the name Creationist - said posted a complaint against the company he/she works for and that it was "devoid of some crucial facts".

After receiving a link via e-mail to the complaint, and a chance to respond, the company found it had to register first as "a company that responds", and that it would have to subscribe for a minimum period of one year at a cost of R13 500.

"This is the lowest category of subscription, and if you are a regular responder you need to take an upgraded package, which can be as much as R60 000 per year."

Get the facts right

Cheales says that the article is "blatantly incorrect", pointing out that many of the 338 companies that are registered to respond are small businesses who would not be registered at those prices: "The cost of registration ranges from being free to an absolute maximum of R12 000 a year, or R1 000 a month, paid by the likes of MTN, Absa, Vodacom and Standard Bank who field around 3 000 consumer complaints or compliments a year," explains Cheales.

Cheales explains that the rates were derived by looking at what companies would ordinarily pay to service complaints and charging a fraction of that.

"Research we've done shows that it would cost around R350 to service a complaint, if you factor in the cost of having people manage the process and a host of other things. With hellopeter, it costs 0.01% of what it would cost to get that feedback in the real world," says Cheales.

Companies the size of MTN or Standard Bank typically get 3 000 complaints and compliments a year; multiplying that figure by R350, the total cost of servicing that comes to over R1m a year. With large corporates paying a maximum of R1 000 a month, the cost of servicing is, quite literally, 0.01% of the cost incurred via the conventional route.

Holes in argument

Creationist said he (or she) had received an e-mail from hellopeter, but Cheales says this service is only available to companies who have registered to respond.

"What could have happened is that someone Creationist knows e-mailed the comment to him or her, as that function is available on the website," says Cheales.

Cheales claims that hellopeter, is the most visited customer service site in South Africa and also on the globe, and ads that in March alone the site registered 9.5m* impressions.

Cheales says that as part of the package, companies are given space to place news flashes on the website. "If there are 9.5m hits as there were in March, you're going to be seen by helluva lot of people.

"We often get immense dissatisfaction from smaller businesses that don't have the right of reply without subscribing. Creationist would have had to pay a small amount, and someone in our office would have sent a quote based on the number of complaints received. For a small company, the cost would not have been more than R300 for the year - not R13 500 to R60 000.

"Creationist could have been referring to a marketing offer on the site, but that was definitely not the cost of subscription."

Says Cheales: "I fight on behalf of consumers... I won't charge them. I will charge the suppliers, but this cost is minimal compared with going the conventional route."

*Hellopeter is not a member of the Online Publishers' Association and as such these statistics have not been verified by Nielsens NetRatings.

  • trevor2s - 2007-08-07 08:53

    I have used Hello Peter to issue good comments to a supplier. All I can say is "what a bunch of crooks", shame on you Hello Peter, Shame on you. I am sick of scammers like yourselves. Scammers and thieves are protected in South Africa - but this one makes me sick.

  • Not good - 2007-08-07 08:53

    In my view, hello Peter is an elaborate extortion scam that is kept going by the endless bitter South Africans who cannot resolve problems on their own. Companies are usually willing to help their clients and customers, but the customers are not always willing to participate in finding a solution. True, it may be that some companies do not offer the best of service, but this is nevertheless irrelevent to the issue at hand - Hello Peter charges the guilty and innocent alike - an extortion scam that is shameful and digraceful. Those contributing to its survival should be named and shamed in public.

  • Qi - 2007-08-07 08:54

    Big companies pay up and get to respond to complaints. Its viable for them. Smaller companies cannot afford this service so the complaints against them goes unanswered. On the plus side, the smaller companies get free publicity. Suddenly, they are known.

  • anti-peter - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I dont think hellopeter is what it used to be. Im registered as a user on their site. While ago they started sending marketing e-mails. When contacting them to unsubscribe from the newsletters, they replied that I need to unsubscribe as a user. I still want to stay a user and asked them to remove me only from the distribution list and again a reply saying it is impossible (IT IS POSSIBLE!). I didnt ask to get the newsletters. What about a few complaints against them

  • Peter fan - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Thanks Peter for supplying a formal forum for the handling of complaints. I have only had positive results using this website. Most probably its the "Not responding" bad service companies who complain. Keep it up

  • Meghan - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Its interesting how everyone who complains about Hello-peter have been onto the site to complain about a company. The reason you went there in the 1st place is to complain and now youre complaining about the platform created for you to do so. Goes to show, people will never be happy, theyll always have something to complain about! You cant please everyone. If youre so upset about the charge Hello-peter gives to companies - WHY oh WHY are you on the site in the first place? You should then go directly to the company! I think Charles idea to create this platform is excellent. Keep up the good work!

  • imraan - 2007-08-07 08:55

    ive used hellopeter to complain and compliment companies. Companies in South africa usually have poor structures for dealing with complaints. Hellopeter offers a good solution. Also it helps to see what other queries other consumers have had with the company under question.

  • Ben - 2007-08-07 08:55

    We South Africans dont like to complain enough and let by pathetic services from all industries. hello Peter has created a uniue online opportunity in South Africa for Consumers to air out their frustration with all sorts of suppliers. Lets face it people, Service Sucks in this country and everyone complains to the wrong people or the suppliers just dont care. Thank you Peter cheales for a great Consumer Site

  • NotTrue - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Ive seen documentation from hellopeter certainly not free and certainly not that cheap that he is saying. There were many subscribers (companies) at one stage and they all disappeared because of the new fee structure (about a year and a bit ago) Wake up Peter and smell the coffee.

  • service giver - 2007-08-07 08:55

    personally i think that its sounds like a money grabbing game. where the heck do 9.5 million people go to the site in one month.thats more than the most successful porn site ever.3.66 hits every second. i think that cheales is the big winner here. good luck to him 338 companies registered to his site.thats a lot of money.

  • Factfinder - 2007-08-07 08:55

    In his typically arrogant manner, Peter Cheales assumes that the general consumer is ignorant. Hits and page views do not equal users and it would be interesting to find out how many unique visitors view the website each month. Aside from that, how is this website benefiting the consumer in any way? If customers have complaints, they should address them to the offending company and then further to the relevant association or ruling body if necessary. What is hellopeter doing other than providing people with a place to vent (which they can do on any number of blogs or online forums)??? How does the website "fight for the consumer"?

  • Sick of complainers - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Hello Peter are counting on the fact that South African are notorious complainers, and that even though a suppliers may be bad mouthed, true or false, they have no choice but to pay extortion fees to clear their names. Hello Peter is well known to leave false information users have placed on their site, with little to no chance of deleting these false accusations except to pay up. This borders on extortion. Also, I doubt anyone on this page would pay R100, let alone R1000 to clear their names of any false information. As for the comment that the site needs maintaining, I doubt that R4.6 million is needed to maintain any site. Not even our president earns that much.

  • carolann - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I use hellopeter and think it is a great service. What a pity that we as customers do not get companies to respond to our problems without us having to resort to a service such as this. Please Charles, keep up the good work.

  • Fair? - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I went to the site and checked one of the Companies doing car financing. Almost all complaints were from people that didnt pay their monthly dues and then complained that they were not treated fairly - !... And this then marked with bad service from the Company! Surely this can not be fair! Doesnt anyone evaluate who is at fault before a Companies name is dragged through the mud!!????

  • Antimatter - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I think HP is the biggest scam Ive ever seen. Charging companies for the right to respond to people bad mouthing them is extortion plain and simple. I could understand if they charge for a "Premium" type service - auto notifications, unlimited responses etc but a basic response should be free of charge. Ive often wondered if during a bad month HelloPetter staff sit with a YellowPages and thnk of companies to complain about so that they will have to pay to respond. Theres something very unethical here. Plus if theyre really getting those numbers then advertisers should be flocking to them. Heck, even running GoogleAds would pay for the site on its own.

  • Kobus - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I agree with the fact that this is a scam, a BIG SCAM. If you publish something about someone, you should give that person a chance to respond/defend himself, not making/force money. This is his whole purpose “TO MAKE LOTS OF MONEY" with distortion. I receive his junk regularly. The expectation suggested to keep a customer happy is impossible and would cost a lot. He knows that and uses this to pull in more so-called unhappy people. Who determine if this person is a legitimist complainant? Only him? No jury, magistrate deciding by listening to evidence at all. I read his one article in which he described what the company he run into should have done to please him (ridiculous) and then I worked out what the real cost would have been to keep him happy. It was one and a halve time the cost of the product/service supplied. Reasonable? No pay first and you can reason back? I hope my business do not end up on his site!

  • David - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Whilst the provision of a forum to complain is commendable the barrier to reply is extortion. A (free) posting was made by a member of the public regarding our company’s service that was devoid of fact and bordering on criminally libelous however we refuse to pay HelloPeter to correct this person’s stupidity. If the same complaint had been sent to the press we would be able to respond to the publisher without the requirement that we pay the newspaper to note our feedback. This begs the question, if Hellopeter publishes content devoid of fact, should we not rather spend our money on lawyers to sue HelloPeter the publisher?

  • Customer Focused - 2007-08-07 08:55

    As a customer focussed business we realise that we sometimes get it wrong and make every effort to recover the customers goodwill in such a case. However we occasionally bump into customers that are on a mission to get something for nothing. They will lie steal and cheat in this endeavour. gives these customers from hell, the opportunity to appear legitimate and the company is guilty until proven innocent

  • NotHappy - 2007-08-07 08:55

    We have had an experience on HP where a "user" found OUR affiliate partner on OUR own site through a banner or link; went to their site, got a price, came back to us and tried to pit us against our own selling agent. We informed him that the price was a good price, after all, it was our own affiliate -our prices would be the same. He proceeded with emails demanding why we had not REDUCED our price to less than theirs – an impossible demand as we would sell the product through the agent. He then put a falsified claim in HP. We sent the correct information, with copies of emails to HP - these evil scammers replied that the only way to clear our name was to pay up. We did not reply to this extortion demand, but posted the correct information instead - HP deleted it and BANNED our email address from submitting to their forum - the false post is still on their forum but we have received an application from HP to "receive a quotation" since then.

  • JASH - 2007-08-07 08:55

    hp-publish some stats-ie. page impressions, responses by companies and succes and failure rate. maybe very reserve the right to publish the complainants details.

  • Yogi - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Its about time people were named and shamed and the overheads need to be covered. Glad that somebody is doing something at last. The price is a small one to pay if you want to have your say.

  • Ant K - 2007-08-07 08:55

    So companies who wish to respond to complaints have to pay to do so. I wonder if those who receive accolades are also charged to have them posted!!

  • squirrel - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I am a twice-a-day reader of hellopeter and find it invaluable in determining which companies I will support (or not). Surely, R1000 a month for a big company is nothing for this service.

  • Gorgeouschic2006 - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I feel that once you subscribe as a user you are not forced in any way to read their marketing news. But personally, from experience, i know once you register as a user, they bombard your inbox with marketing news etc. Peter Oh Peter.. enough of you now!

  • Kosie - 2007-08-07 08:55

    No wonder I never got a reply from the company that I had a problems with!!!! Im done with hellopeter. Thanks

  • Anti hellopetrus - 2007-08-07 08:55

    It would seem that hellopeter is a typical tool of extortion. So people can go and bad mouth a company, who then need to pay to clear their name.

  • Frid - 2007-08-07 08:55 is the next best thing to Carte Blanche. Why do you complain? Youve probably never been badly handled by a South African company. We need more institutions like this, especially in a country where the consumer does not know their rights, and constantly gets treated like dirt. Expose them Peter, all of them!!!!

  • senor neek - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Whether Peter Cheales is extorting money from large companies or not, the point is that the website works. This is particularly the case with MTN. The only joy I have ever received (in 4+ yrs) with MTN customer services is after complaining to hello peter. I was referred to the site by one of mtns PR companies, who admitted to me that mtns call centre was "shocking" and that the best course of action was hello peter...

  • Peeved - 2007-08-07 08:55

    Cheales is a cheat. Companies that are not registered with him - Big corporates - are harrased to subscribe. He has jurnolist friends and abuses them to promote his business. All postings are screened by his team and not accurate. Easy to complain online but the real story is never told. Very one sided.

  • PC Supplier - 2007-08-07 08:55

    We had this discussion a few months back: The problem with Hello Peter is that anyone can place false information about a company on their site, and HelloPeter will not remove it without receiving payment first - extortion. I can go and say my competitor XYZ is doing anything I make up - Hello Peter will not confirm, check or remove the comment - this is a fact.

  • Hellopeter supporter - 2007-08-07 08:55

    if it wasnt for hellopeter,the big guns wouldnt listen to the consumer.ive had a multitude of issues solved by hellopeter,because its so open and transparent and companies know that they need to fix problems when it gets to be so openly available.i believe its the best thing thats happened to consumers and Creationist wants it closed down so no one can openly see how his company is fairing in the service delivery department.

  • PC Supplier - 2007-08-07 08:55

    In addition to the comment I sent, i would like to also say that HelloPeter do not allow any negative publicity about themselves on their own site - my experience shows that they delete all complaints about HelloPeter.

  • Gerry - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I guess we are all in it for a fast buck. However it was pretty obvious that something was rotten by the very conciliatory way HP dealt with the big nasties. He is clearly just an advertising front. Goodbye Peter dot com

  • Dawn - 2007-08-07 08:55

    I used comments on hellopeter to decide what make of fridge to buy /or avoid. What I read on the site confirmed what personal friends had said. Having posted a complaint about PnP I got only their standard formay reply. Maybe there should be a small charge for posting a complaint; a fee to be notified that a complaint has been lodged against you is not unreasonable.

  • william - 2007-08-07 08:55

    If companies are unable to answer consumer complaints on their so called hotlines, where else can a person go to get some sort of reply. It is strange that the minute one uses hellopeter you get a reply within a day. I think we need a website like this. If it costs companies too much to reply why dont they spend more money on getting responsible people to work on their hotlines and give a reply in a reasonable amount of time. If Cheales is doing well, good for him, at least someone listens to our complaints against these big stores and companies who couldnt care.

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