Last gripe against Vodacom (overbilling)

Posted on July 14, 2012

I have moaned enough about Vodacom on here, and my last post was around my happy and seamless migration from Vodacom to Cell C. I am delighted with Cell C.

To have more grief from Vodacom was somewhat unexpected.  I just received my last bill from Vodacom. For a little bit of background. I had a 24 month contract from my son on Vodacom (amongst three others), had many issues with Vodacom so cancelled and removed various contracts. This was the last of them, it was a discounted monthly fee contract and the cancellation fee was too high to warrant early termination.

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Oops Vodacom, minor privacy violation occurred (updated, Vodacom response)

Posted on September 02, 2011

Tonight I picked up my Vodacom statement/invoices from the Post Office. A few weeks late, my delay not the post office. Inside were the statement and invoices for the 3 phones I have with Vodacom (all good) and the invoice and itemised billing for one Dear Doctor (name withheld). Oops.

So this (minor?) mistake gives me this (previously unknown to me) person’s name, address, phone number, and details of all the calls they have made in the last month. This most certainly constitutes a privacy breach as well as violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (which is not yet law). It would be interesting to ask the good doctor how he/she feels about their information being disclosed to me.

This also gets me wondering, how often such “incidents” happen and what Vodacom (or any other services provider) does when these mistakes happen. If I tell them the details, will they at least be so kind as to let the good doctor know? Interesting question indeed.  If you have experienced similar incidents in the past, please share. I am curious as to how often this happens. In the 15 years of being a Vodacom customer this is the first time I have experienced this problem, so using some simple (and statistically unsound) extrapolation, 1 / (15*12) = 0.5555%.  I couldn’t find recent stats on how many customers, but found a figure of 1.4million in June 2004. Lets assume this has grown to 2 million by name (could be way more). Apply our disclosure percentage, then we have 11,111 (eleven thousand one hundred and eleven) subscribers information being accidentally disclosed every month. That’s rather scary.

Questions for Vodacom : 

1. What is the real number ?

2. What does Vodacom do when they mess up like this?

Care to provide us with some answers?


Dear Readers,

If this was your information that had been provided to me, what would you want me to do with it?

  1. Destroy the page and tell no-one?
  2. Report it to Vodacom and let them deal with it?
  3. Drop you a call/sms so you could take it up with them?
Please share your thoughts.
Update 3/9/2011 4pm: 
Vodacom picked up on the tweet of this article (@uyspj on the ball as usual) and tried to call me this afternoon. Unfortunately I missed the call and no return number was left. They then communicated via twitter, obtained an email address and we are trying to organise a time to talk on Monday.
The email indicated that this is an isolated incident and that no such incident has been reported before. Glad to see them taking this seriously.
Update 6/9/2011 8:30am: Vodacom responds

Vodacom was in regular contact with me yesterday, I provided the account number of the affected DR and they investigated the circumstances around the issue as well as contacted and apologised to the affected parties (according to them).

Per an email I received this morning, Vodacom explained the cause of the problem as follows :

” The miscellaneous error crept in due to the manual insertion of an Internet tariff brochure to some of our data customers which was a deviation from our normal automated billing run. Because some bills had to be picked out of the process and manually put into envelopes, this is where the problem occurred. Please be assured that this was an isolated incident and that this is certainly not a recurring problem.

We do thank you for alerting us to this particular incident and would like to apologise to you for it, as we will also do with Ms xxxxx (name removed by me).”

This explanation is believable given my original statement that as a Vodacom customer for around 15 years and this is the first incident that happened.  Good to see Vodacom responding so promptly, investigating, coming up with the answers and sharing with the affected parties.

Once again, @uspj is on the ball. I am really impressed by his commitment to customer service and keeping his finger on the pulse, and handling it personally.

How do unused “free minutes” carry forward and get used up

Posted on August 04, 2011
I managed to log in this morning to the Vodacom portal, it has a new section showing me the free minutes and carry overs. It is laid out nicely and gives all the info, but sadly, I don’t have a clue how to read it.
Below is a screen capture of what is reflected on the portal, followed by some thoughts and research on reading it :

Finally got my phone back from Vodacom… Thanks Helena and @UysPJ

Posted on August 03, 2011

My ongoing saga with Vodacom with respect to my faulty phone is now (mostly) resolved. Thanks to Helena and @uyspj.

Background for those who missed it :

  • Got a new HTC desire on contract during late May
  • It worked for +- 10 days then died
  • Took it back to Vodacare, they confirmed it was dead (at very least the battery was stone dead and couldn’t be “boosted”), I asked for replacement under CPA as I thought was my right, they said go back Vodashop
  • Vodashop manager was extremely unhelpful, said CPA doesn’t apply to them, and they don’t represent Vodacom
  • I left the phone at the shop (on the counter and walked out) after laying a complaint with Vodacare against the shop
  • Same day I laid a complaint on Hello Peter
  • Had various interactions with Vodacom people over two months, nothing useful – weeks would go by while they were “waiting for feedback” from someone else

I sent a twitter message to @uyspj (just one) who responded immediately. Thank you Pieter, I really do admire you for interacting with your clients and following through on your actions.

@uyspj had Helena call me the next day, she asked a whole lot of questions, I mailed through what I had and forwarded various SMS’s, Helena then followed up for me.

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Another Vodacom “lost” “free” minute debacle – Now Vodacom 5, Consumer 0

Posted on July 18, 2011
Vodacom vs the consumer

Who's your daddy

When you renew a contract with Vodacom they don’t carry forward accumulated free minutes to the new contract.  Huh?  How can this be? How come nobody told me this before?

I complained on Twitter to @vodacom111 who quickly asked for me details and had a representative call me. I was really impressed at the response rate (that is something you guys are really getting right), it was much quicker than calling the call centre.

I explained the details to the Vodacom representative who seemed to think I had made a mistake and this can’t be right.

Here is what he could determine.  I was carrying forward a few minutes each month, I used them all in May and had none to carry forward to June. That didn’t sound right to me so I asked him to check for me on the details. How many minutes were carried forward from April to May, and how many did I use in May. (The contract was renewed late May).

It took a while, their system is slow, but he got an answer. There were 87 minutes carried forward from April to May. I was allocated 120 more in May. I used 119  in May (not sure that is right, but won’t argue).  That means the 87 (+1) should carry forward to June. The problem is that the system reflects ZERO carried forward to June.  After seeing this the Representative conceded there was a problem. He logged a call on my behalf, made sure I was SMS’d the reference number, and I received the SMS which states my problem will be attended to within a day. Having heard that before (on previously unresolved complaints) I have my doubts, but we will see tomorrow.

Update : Lesley contacted me yesterday (19th July)  lunchtime, read me some numbers, which seemed to be back to a position of saying I didn’t lose any minutes. Hard to get it all over the phone so I asked for the info to be emailed to me. Maybe I did get this all wrong? She agreed, I waited all afternoon, no email. Then at 5:30pm I received this SMS “Good day Mr Justin Regarding the free minute, i logged your request with our (IT) department to assist with information. will give feedback on e-mail after receiving feedback from them. Kind regards, Retentions and Upgrades and Cancellations Admin Team Lesley ####”. Glad to receive the feedback, let’s see whether the email arrives to provide the necessary info.  As of the 24th July, still no feeedback

While this was going on I had another twitter user (Mandy) send me a message. She upgraded mid-month. They zapped her free minutes, then billed her for the calls she made. 500 minutes lost and a big bill to deal with. This happened about 3 months ago and she got nowhere in trying to complain and get it resolved. I mentioned this to my friendly rep, who suggested Mandy also contract @vodacom111. I messaged Mandy suggesting she does. Will keep you posted on her progress if I find more info.

Seems this poor customer services and putting the customer last is rife. I will update this post with any further progress I get from Vodacom, as well as with the info from any other people who have similar stories. If this all sounds too familiar, please share your stories. The more the better, maybe we can get a positive result here, and at least make more people aware of what is going on.

If you were following my previous post : Vodacom vs the Consumer (Protection Act) – We lose, four nil – for now well, I guess this makes it a good solid Vodacom Five  –  Consumer Nil 

The news today that the consumer commissioner, Mamodupi Mohlala, has looked at the contracts the phone companies are still using and says they are not compliant at all with the CPA is good news. Cell C is closest to compliant but all the service providers need to fix their contracts. This revelation comes as Mohlala prepares to sign consent order agreements this week with the chiefs of each of the companies. If they don’t comply within the agreed timeframes (a few more months) they face fines up to a million Rand. More info here.

Update (4/8/2011) :

Another Vodacom representative from a different department (billings I think he said) contacted me. He explained a few things :

  • My current balance was +-280 minutes
    • this means that if I used none in June and July (which isn’t the case) then there would still have to have been at least 40 carried over from May, which seems to indicate to me that the May carry over had happened.
  • He could not see any lost minutes (and nor could I with the “new” balance)
  • My contract had changed from a per minute to per second billing when I did the upgrade
  • In response to my question on the previous phone calls and discussions and why minutes appeared to have been lost, he did say that sometimes the carryover can take a while to reflect, and that maybe a balance had not been updated on time.
All in all, problem resolved. I am still at a loss as to why it takes so many calls and discussions to resolve a simple matter, and why it is so complicated to have an email showing me the balances, useage and carryover (I still don’t have the email BTW, but it is no longer relevant).

Cancelling a Vodacom contract due to poor signal

Posted on July 15, 2011

In my searching around trying to find out how people are faring with the CPA and getting the cell providers to commit to their obligations under CPA I came across this interesting post in the BlackBerry Forums ( located here.

This applies where you have a genuine case of not being able to get signal in a key location where you need to use the phone/device. It is going to take effort and perseverance on your part, so don’t bother if it isn’t that important to you.  Thanks to Raggie007 for the tips below :

  1. When ever you have signal issues log a call to the call centre 155
  2. Persevere and make sure they don’t just close the call
  3. After the fifth call about poor signal insist on a signal test, this can take up to two weeks even if they do the test the same day
  4. Be there for the test, and take note of the testers mane and cell number if you can get it
  5. Insist that you want a cancellation as by this point you will have had BAD service for 4-5 weeks
  6. Eventually they will cancel but will want the phone back or want to charge you for the phone
This post was dated BEFORE the new CPA came into effect. The CPA should make your case even stronger as you would have a device/service that is not fit for purpose. Goodluck.
Read my previous post on Cellular and CPA here.
If you have a general problem with Vodacom, try tweeting to @vodacom111, he responds quickly and gets someone to call you. Helps a lot.

Vodacom vs the Consumer (Protection Act) – We lose, four nil – for now!

Posted on July 13, 2011

Vodacom and MTN continued their strong financial performance over the last year, and executives from these companies benefited from the higher profits, with the CEOs take home millions as revenues and profits increase in the telecommunications market. Vodacom’s annual report for the year ended 31 March 2011 reveals that CEO Pieter Uys received a total remuneration of R13,190,826 – up from R10,700,571 a year ago. (Article from Mybroadband).

So how are we, the consumer doing? Well, we have a new Consumer Protection Act (CPA) that came into effect from 1st April 2011 to help protect us in our interactions with the big boys who have the money (and lawyers) to make sure they get their way most of the time. Andrew Weeks’s article written back in October, “The Consumer Protection Act and the cellular industry Q&A“, gave me hope that things would change (link here).

Let’s see how things stack up.

Compensation for no service (or service interruption)?

Just a few days ago there was a major outage on the Vodacom network. Customers lost signal in parts of the country (from Cape Town to Johannesburg and inbetween) for most of the day. Many incensed customers let their dissatisfaction be known, thousand of posts appearing on Twitter all day. Pieter Uys, to his credit, ate humble pie and give his apologies on twitter, on Radio, in full page newspaper adverts and in other forums. The question then arose, will customers be compensated, and if so how.

National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said that an apology from Vodacom is not good enough, and that Vodacom should refund their effected subscribers as laid out in the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Mohlala told Radio 702 that if Vodacom’s subscribers can prove loss of income they can claim compensation from Vodacom through the CPA.

Update (25/7/2011) : 7 complaints were received by the Commissioner and forwarded through to Vodacom for comment. Nothing received back yet but this is still under investigation and could result in sanction. Details here  @ Good news indeed for the consumers.


Vodacom vs the consumer

Who's your daddy

Vodacom : No way

Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman said that Section 54 of the Consumer Protection Act does not make provision for a claim for damages such as loss of business or income.

“We will be responding directly to ICASA and the National Consumer Commission with respect to their inquiries on this topic,” said Boorman. (from Mybroadband)


Vodacom 1  Consumer 0

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Vodacom COLOR provides good value prepaid SMS/Data bundles for under 25s

Posted on September 09, 2010

My daughter alerted me to a new R29 Vodacom bundle for Under 25’s. Vodacom COLOR is a free service for Under 25’s. When you sign up you get 15 MMSs, 15 SVSs and 3MB data FREE every 30 days. On top of that your get to buy COLOUR UP add on bundles.

The “COLOR UR FRIENDS” bundle gets you 100 SMS and up to 100 Meg of data to be used for The Grid, Mxit and Facebook mobile. That’s a fairly decent price compared to a standard SMS bundle, you are basically getting your Facebook and Mxit access free for the month. Only one of these bundles can be used each month. The other bundles are for those interested in Games, Music, or early morning cheap calls.

To sign up SMS agent135 to 31118, it’s a free SMS.  (Disclaimer, that is my daughter’s agent code). Once you are signed up you can buy the other bundles (at R29 each).

To read more about the COLOR packages, terms and conditions etc you can go to the website here. Sam can also help with questions and setup, get her on : , facebook or twitter @samw1993 .

Followup on Blackberry Data Useage in South Africa #in

Posted on August 13, 2010

Following up on my post around Blackberry data useage found here.

It has now been a week of monitoring my data useage on my Blackberry Bold 9000. Details around my typical useage can be found in the original post so I won’t repeat those here. Needless to say, I am probably a fairly atypical user and certainly on the higher end of useage.

As mentioned last time, I installed David from the Blackberry Appstore so I could monitor my data useage. In the week that has passed my average has been around just over 10 megabytes of data a day. So this would average out to just over 300-320 megabytes for the month.

Blackberry screen capture

Blackberry screen capture of data useage for a week

A quick peek on MTN and Vodacom’s websites to see how much it would cost for 300 Meg per month. Vodacom has a data useage calculator tool here. I entered 300 Meg and this is the very helpful response I got back :

Helpful vodacom

Helpful vodacom

So back to the 3 easy steps to see if I could get a different answer. Tried a few other options, same result. Vodacom clearly doesn’t want me to buy 300Meg a month. I browsed around the site but still couldn’t find the price. How hard is it to tell your customers what options there are and how much they would be ? I did find the Blackberry BIS service price which was R59 a month (prepaid).  (No link sorry, their website seems to produce session specific links so had to remove it). Try and let me know if you find the data prices quicker than I did.

MTN was a little easier. I quickly found their data options and an “Extended Data 350″ option which gave the required data amount for R209 a month.  That though i then discovered was a complete contract not a bolt on to an existing contract. They have a 300Meg option for the grand price of R149 a month. Not too bad and not too hard to find.

So with some very poor maths and mixing and matching between service providers, it would seem that if I was paying for my data useage on the optimum data contract would cost me R149 a month rather than the Blackberry cost of R59 a month, an additional monthly cost of R90.

Is it any wonder then that people, and particularly teens are going for the Blackberry option? They generally like to use Facebook, Mxit, and are increasingly discovering the joys of a service guaranteed messenger in Blackberry messenger.

I fully expect Blackberry to continue to grow from strength to strength, and really hope that the other providers come out with some kind of competitive option. Increasingly other phones are coming bundled with a small data package, but, 30 Meg of data on an Android device (Bundle with SE X10 Mini) really doesn’t cut it, and can easily be used in an hour at the park.

In summary then, people often ask how good a deal is the Blackberry with unlimited data? Extremely good value for money is the short answer.

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