Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...
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 Watch 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 ad while holidaying in Joburg 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 ad 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 ad.
He was referred to the website www.dstv mobile.com for coverage details but maintains these do not clearly state the true position.
Which is: coverage is restricted to the major cities around SA. 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 Watch.
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 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 Watch 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 Joburg 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.
Peter, who give a damn what credetials Wendy has, as long as shes helping people out.
Clive Dallas, wrote
We have a vodacom cellphone contract that has intermittant cover in the Tollgate area in Durban.What can we do about it. Any suggestions please. ob
any 1 to help I struggle with vodacom in katlehong magagula park my mother stay there ho ho network bad bad
@ Anonymous: Clearly you are Wendy........
Peter please remember to take your pills tomorrow morning.
Just remember what the X-files taught us: Trust No-One!
I would like to know what qualifications Wendy Knowler has- does she have any authority at all to be asking these questions- is she the Consumer council? Is she an Attorney? NO I dont think so? SO why should these compnies respond to her- just go to a consumer council for help- not a journalist looking for sensationalism!!
Beware of the 8ta data bundle special. The bundles never connect but get depleted. I wrote to them, they send a technician but the problem was never resolved until the expiry date of 31 January 2012. The first report was made around 18 December. I have asked for a refund. The normal purchased bundles do work.
This is due to AA, BEE and all that sh!t! Nobody knows what they are actually supposed to do.
I am moving to Johannesburg this month and I am shopping for an operator. Narrowing down to Voda and MTN since they have the largest network in SA. Anyone can advise which operator s better?
Mr B, wrote
I tested out 8ta's coverage at my home with prepaid data, before signing up for the 10GB promo 2 year contract. Worked fine at first, but now the signal strength has dropped substantially, even though I'm within the official coverage area!
I sympathise with Edwardine Naude. Incompetence of Cell C employees due to poor or not training is one of the things that makes Cell C's customer service poor. I am a customer of Cell and a victim to poor customer service. On the issue of Multichoice, I haven't had a problem with all Multchoice representatives having to validate with me the issue of coverage many times when I bought it. I wonder what happened in the case of Neil Ross. Maybe it was holiday fever on his part and he did not tell them that he lives in Langebaa most of the time.
very very true.
Yup, agree to check coverage before I buy any data device from now forth. i have also noticed that the BIS or Blackberry Internet Service from Vodacom suddenly went from being alright to downright pathetic. To me, it looks as if they have reduced bandwidth or cant cope with demand. The bottom line is that I am not getting what I am paying for. R350 for a BB bold with BIS is alot of money for a dysfunctional network.!!
Erm, so you can't "drift"? What is the point of having the thing at home, guy?
Unfortunately it is not always useful to view coverage maps as they are often incorrect. Point and case, I apparently have excellent DSTV mobile coverage at my home. However in reality I have hardly any coverage and I had to create my own external antenna and connect it onto the Driftas antenna before I could get it to work.
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