Most consumers will say it is not easy to resolve cell phone complaints because they do not know where to complain.
After holding for a call centre agent for hours and repeating their stories to a different person every time, most consumers are ready to throw in the towel and just pay up.
With so many cell phones in society, it is logical that there will be some complaints, but then these complaints should at least be resolved instead of driving you up the wall with frustration.
Resolving cell phone complaints
Fortunately, there is a recourse and a set of regulations to protect consumers – it’s called the End-user and Subscriber Services Charter Regulations.
It is administered by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
Icasa agreed with the National Consumer Commission (NCC) to resolve complaints about telecommunications and broadcasting in 2015.
Icasa then established regulations in terms of the Electronic Communications Act to:
- Prescribe minimum standards for electronic communications to you, the end-user,
- Ensure that the quality of service offered is aligned with the prescribed service parameters,
- Protect the rights of end-users in the electronic communicators sector by providing sufficient, information to the end-user to ensure you make an informed decision, ensure the efficient and effective resolution of complaints and facilitate redress to end-users where appropriate.
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Your right to information
When you enter into a cell phone contract or agreement, the sales agent must inform you about the:
- Contract terms and conditions
- Connection fee
- Administrative fees
- Insurance costs
- In- and out-of-bundle rates
- Hardware costs
- Possibility of tariff changes during the contract term
- Rules for early termination of your contract before it expires
- Rules for carry-over of voice minutes and data
- Fair usage policies
- Date and period of invoicing
- How complaints are handled.
The service provider must conduct periodic random checks of points of sale and service outlets to monitor compliance with the information provision requirements at least once a year and report to Icasa how successful it is and what is being done to ensure compliance.
Service providers must also publish a version of the regulations in clear and understandable language on its website and make it available at all its branches.
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Other important regulations
- Service providers must lodge their promotional tariffs with Icasa at least seven days before a promotion starts and later report on it.
- Your service provider must also ensure you get all the information you need in a way you can understand; in clear and simple language that includes the terms and conditions, the duration, your duty when the promotion expires and all fees.
- You can ask for a detailed account that shows exactly what you pay for.
- Service providers must also have a system that enables you to find your account on its system and the cost for this must be the same as for the platform you use.
- If you use prepaid services, the service provider must also be able to give you a report about what you paid for and how you used it.
- You can claim your money back if the service provider’s services were not available, but only for the days that it was in fact not available.
- Service providers must monitor their services continuously and give you notice of seven days if the service will be suspended for upgrades.
- Your service provider must also have a system to resolve complaints and let you know when your complaint is received.
- When you complain about your account, your service cannot be suspended while it is investigated and no legal steps to make you pay are allowed.
- Calls to the complaints line must be free and calls have to be answered within three minutes.
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Where to complain
As cell phone services fall under Icasa, the entity must also handle the complaints.
According to Icasa, you must first complain to your service provider before you can direct your complaint to Icasa.
If your complaint is not resolved, you can insist that it is handled by the head of the complaints centre.
If your complaint is still not resolved, it must be directed to the applicable manager, then to his manager and then to the next until all the ranks have been depleted.
You can only then complain to Icasa.
When you send your complaint to Icasa, you have to give the reference number for the complaint you received from your service provider, and also give the dates when you communicated with the various managers.
You can send your complaint to Icasa by mail, fax, email or telephone or visit one of the offices to submit your complaint in writing.
You should get an acknowledgement that your complaint was received within two days and this will include the name of the official handling your complaint as well as a reference number.
Call Icasa on 011 566 3000 to complain or send email to email@example.com.
The Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman also handles complaints about cell phone accounts.
Call the office on 0860 000 272 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 086 206 1999. Online complaints can be submitted on the website at http://www.cgso.org.za/.
If you want to complain to the Ombudsman, you also have to complain to your service provider first.