Make no assumptions about coverage
before you pay for a device that is dependent on some form of coverage – a 3G device or a hand-held TV – make very sure that the area in which you intend to use it has the necessary coverage.
Barely a week goes by without someone complaining to Consumer Talk that they’ve ended up with a device, and in some cases a contract to go with it, that they can’t use because of lack of coverage.
Neil Ross of Langebaan in the Western Cape was seduced by the Walka TV advert while holidaying in Johannesburg, and bought one from a Game store.
But his visions of watching cricket while on family outings fizzled when he got back to Langebaan and found he had no coverage at all.
When he complained to Multichoice, he was told that the advert stated “terms and conditions apply” and that at the bottom of the screen the words “Check for DVB-H coverage” appeared at some point during the advert.
He was referred to the website www.dstvmobile.com for coverage details, but maintains these do not clearly state the true position.
Which is: coverage is restricted to the major cities where DStv is licensed to offer this mobile TV service: Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Rustenburg, Mbombela, Polokwane, Bloemfontein and PE.
And the signal can sometimes be patchy in parts of those major cities.
The fact that different technology and coverage areas applied to DStv’s mobile offering was not specifically revealed in the DStv advert or by the retailer’s salesman, Ross says.
And it’s not included in the DStv Mobile website’s FAQ either.
“I am now sitting with a non-functioning piece of equipment,” Ross told Consumer Talk.
Responding, a DStv Mobile spokesman said the product’s advertising “carries a clause which states that select coverage is available”, but that the product came with a year’s warranty and Ross should return it.
A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from Edwardine Naude, who lives in Milnerton and travels frequently to the towns of Vredenburg, Malmesbury, Springbok and Upington.
She took out a contract with Cell C in Century City last August, having been assured by a store employee that the network had coverage in those areas. (She’d previously had no coverage problems with another network.)
But Naude soon discovered that she had no coverage in those areas. “I’m alone on the road, and if I was to be in an emergency situation, I wouldn’t be able to call for assistance,” she said.
When she returned to the store, another employee looked up the signal coverage in those areas and confirmed the problem.
Given that the phone, and the contract, were not “fit for purpose”, Naude told Cell C she wished to cancel the contract in terms of the Consumer Protection Act.
Staff at that Cell C store initially agreed, and she duly returned the phone, in its box, and filled out the paperwork.
Then she was told that “the supplier” would not accept a broken box.
Naude insisted she’d handed everything back in perfect condition, but despite her many calls to the network’s call centre, her contract remained in force.
“One call centre agent told me if I cancelled my contract early, I’d have to pay a penalty, but why should I have to pay for a service they can’t provide – and I no longer have the phone!” Naude said.
Consumer Talk took up the case with Cell C and the contract was then cancelled without penalty.
“The store consultant was new at the time and has since left the post,” a spokesman said.
As I was writing this, I received an e-mail from someone who has two data contracts with a network.
A few weeks ago, he moved from Sydenham in Johannesburg to an area of Germiston where that network apparently has little to no 3G signal.
I’ll be investigating the case, but it’s a tricky one, as clearly there were no coverage problems in the area he would have supplied as his address at the time the contracts were taken out.
Bottom line – don’t assume that there’ll be coverage in any particular area.
Ask specific questions about the areas you are likely to use the device in, and if there is no disclosure about lack of coverage, you’ll be in a strong position to back out of the deal down the line if you find you were misled in this respect.