Just more than a year after she’d bought a Nokia E72 smartphone for R5 500 from the Nokia outlet at Vodaworld, Joburg, Linda Basson – a Vodacom subscriber – received an SMS informing her it was stolen and had been blacklisted.
Given that the SMS appeared to have been sent by Nashua Mobile, a company Basson has never contracted with, and that the phone was working just fine – not to mention the fact that she’d bought it new from a reputable outlet – she dismissed the message as spam and ignored it.
That was in June.
Soon afterwards her service was suspended, and when Basson questioned this she was told by Vodacom that her E72 had been blacklisted as stolen.
She protested that this wasn’t the case and produced her Nokia Vodaworld receipt, and two days later her service was restored.
All was well until last month, when the phone stopped working again.
That’s when the Basson and her husband, Frans, embarked on their own investigation, which culminated in a letter from Nashua confirming that the handset had indeed been stolen – new, and still in its box – from its West Rand premises.
“We got hold of Nokia Vodaworld and after an argument –they denied all liability, saying they weren’t running the store at the time of the sale – they agreed to replace the phone with a new E72,” Basson said.
Frans feels that his wife ought to have been given a latest model phone to compensate her for the service disruption and the inconvenience of having to deal with the stolen phone issue.
But the big question is, how did a stolen, blacklisted phone come to be sold as new in a prime Nokia outlet?
I asked this question of Nokia SA’s head of communications, Leo McKay.
He said the Nokia Store at Vodaworld was run by Alisom Communications until the end of last year – in other words, at the time Basson bought her phone.
“As Alisom sourced their phones from a number of suppliers, rather than directly from Nokia, we presume that one of these suppliers obtained the device through non-authorised or approved channels,” he said.
Since this year, Nokia SA had transferred the running of the store to 3PLS, which received its stock directly from Nokia, “as large retailers do”.
As such, McKay explained, “we can be sure that the handsets are coming from authorised channels”.
“We are glad Mrs Basson was able to obtain a new device, and believe we have taken the necessary steps in order to prevent a similar case from happening again.”
Basson, and I daresay everyone else who bought Nokias from that Vodaworld store at the time, assumed the phones on sale had been sourced directly from from Nokia.
“Why did Nokia buy phones from third parties and not their own factory?” Basson asked. “It’s absurd, to say the least.”
Which begs the question, how many others unwittingly paid good money for a stolen Nokia last year?
McKay said Nokia SA had discovered only one other such case, similar to Basson’s, also related to the Vodaworld outlet.
Basson argues that signs at the Nokia store are misleading, as consumers will naturally assume that the store is owned and run by Nokia, not a third party.
McKay said franchising was common not only in the telecoms industry, but many others, from restaurants to car dealerships. “This allows the company to focus on its main business.”
Franchising is indeed a successful concept, but stringent head office control over policies and standards in all franchises – especially when it comes to the source of the products sold – is the key to maintaining consumer trust in the brand.