AN MTN customer contacted me in desperation after the network refused to cancel his cellphone contract claiming that he must first pay up for two mystery accounts that had been opened in his name.
Gerhard Lombaard said his 24-month MTN cellphone contract had expired in January but when he called the company to cancel the contract he was informed about the two additional accounts in his name.
“I have requested them to cancel my existing contract and cancel the fraudulent contracts. This has not been done,” he said.
“I have sent an affidavit from the police confirming that I did not open the contracts but had no response from MTN,” Lombaard said.
“They have been billing me for fraudulent contracts which amount to R5 500 which I reverse every month. When I phone the call centre they say they will contact me back but no one has contacted me,” Lombaard complained.
“MTN say they cannot cancel my contract due to the other two contracts which need to be paid. However, I have never signed these contracts or signed a debit order instructing them to bill me for these contracts and requested them to correct this error on their side,” he said.
Lombaard turned to me in desperation to get to the bottom of the fraudulently opened contracts, a complaint similar to one I resolved with MTN last June for Rustenburg consumer Christine Ferreira, who found that her data bundle account had allegedly been fraudulently upgraded via a cellphone shop in KwaZulu-Natal.
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I asked MTN what had gone wrong and how these accounts might have been fraudulently opened in Lombaard’s name. However, while the company was quick to resolve his complaint it did not respond to questions around how the fraud might have occurred and what it was doing to address the problem. In Ferreira’s case, MTN had advised her to open a case of identity theft with the police, saying that it was also investigating the matter.
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MTN chief customer experience officer Eddie Moyce said the company had deactivated the lines that had been fraudulently opened in Lombaard’s name.
“The customer will be reimbursed all the amounts that have been debited from their accounts, and further debits on this account have since been cancelled. MTN apologises to the customer for any inconvenience caused,” Moyce said.
Lombaard said that MTN had informed him that the contracts had been deactivated and that the debit orders would be cancelled. But he said he would keep a wary eye on his bank account statement to ensure no further debit orders were processed — something we should all do every month as debit order fraud has become a serious problem.
On another note, March 15 was World Consumer Rights Day and the SA National Consumer Union (Sancu) spokesperson Clif Johnston (Correct) has advised businesses to greet customers with a “big smile” and to pay attention to every customer complaint.
“Put up a flag in your shop and welcome your customers with friendly service and products which have value for money. Alert your customers to your hotline or consumer desk numbers and make consumers aware of what you are doing for them,” he said.
Johnston said consumers voted with their feet.
“They will support you if your store is consumer friendly and consumer aware. A survey in the USA showed that a dissatisfied consumer will tell 10 other people of their experience of bad service which is to your detriment. A happy consumer tells it to three other people,” he said.
Johnston advised consumers to shop around to get value for money and to be polite and fair when raising a complaint with a company.
“Be firm and friendly, don’t give up. If you are not satisfied with the store’s response, approach Sancu, an ombudsman or the National Consumer Commission,” he said.