The moment Charleen van Eeden of Cape Town heard the words “I’m calling from Vodacom …” on answering a cellphone call, she went into “no thanks” mode.
“I said I wasn’t interested in buying anything and I was really busy and therefore not able to listen to his sales talk, but he stopped me with an assurance that he didn’t want to sell me anything.”
In fact, he said, Vodacom wanted to thank her for her custom with a gift – not one, but three: a cellphone, tablet and gift voucher from Homemark.
Having fallen for a “free gift” sales pitch before, which turned out to be a cellphone contract, Van Eeden went into interrogation mode.
“I asked if there were any terms and conditions attached to this gift and was told that the only condition was that when I receive the products I need to load R110 airtime or data on each device in order to register the SIM card.
“I asked him in about three different ways whether there were any charges and every time responded with, ‘No, it’s a gift’.”
Even so, before ending the call, she said: “So just to confirm, this is a gift from Vodacom for being a valued and long-standing client. I will receive this gift pack with no additional monthly premium or cost”.
When the “gift pack” arrived, Van Eeden called Vodacom’s helpline to find out exactly how to go about buying and activating the airtime.
“I didn’t want to make any mistakes.”
Then came the revelation she’d suspected all along.
“The consultant told me there was no need to purchase the airtime on each device as it was already “loaded”, for which I would be charged a monthly fee, and that the products I’d been given came with a 24-month contract.
“Well, you can imagine my anger!” she said.
“I explained my situation and requested a copy of the recording.”
She knew it would confirm what she was claiming, and that Vodacom would cancel the contract and ask her to return the non-gifts.
And that’s when she wrote to In Your Corner. “I don’t see why I should return something which I was told – over and over – was a gift.
“I was blatantly lied to and my time was wasted, so I feel they must honour what they promised me.
“How many people are they doing this to in the hope that the client will not complain and simply pay the monthly subscription?
“This is not the first time that I have been misled by a Vodacom agent, and it becomes my issue to sort out, when I didn’t approach them in the first place.
“If an agent lies to the consumer either they or the company they are acting on behalf of should take the loss, not the consumer.
“Please let me know if you are able to assist.”
I loved her fighting spirit and her argument worked for me, so I was delighted to take up the case.
I put it to Vodacom that if the call recording backed up Van Eeden’s claim, the contract should be cancelled, and she should be allowed to keep the “gifts”.
And that’s just what happened.
Vodacom listened to that call and took “decisive action” – the agent’s contract was terminated, and the cellphone company began an investigation of the agency involved with a view to unearthing “similar behaviour”.
“Naturally we will take appropriate action when this investigation concludes,” the spokesman said.
“Vodacom does not tolerate any form of misconduct and dishonest behaviour.
“We continue to take a hard line on such practices as this is not consistent with our customer service culture and the service levels we aspire to.
“At the customer’s request, the contract has been cancelled. We have also taken the decision that the customer will get to keep the items that were already delivered to her.”
Dealing with telesales
Telesales calls are a super-annoying invasion of privacy for most, but there are two very good advantages to agreeing to a deal over the phone:
l The call recording is a record of exactly what was said by both parties in the event of a dispute. You’re entitled to access to the call, so don’t take no for an answer;
l You have a five-business day cooling off period in which to cancel for a full refund, for no particular reason – you simply get to change your mind, provided you do so in writing.