Always get it in writing, and double-check everything

In these tough economic times, everyone is looking for a deal – a way to cut down on costs as much as possible. File photo

In these tough economic times, everyone is looking for a deal – a way to cut down on costs as much as possible. File photo

Published Jul 6, 2024


By: Nicola Mawson

IN THESE tough economic times, everyone is looking for a deal – a way to cut down on costs as much as possible.

While salaries are showing a partial recovery from a year ago, according to BankservAfrica’s Take-home Pay Index for May, the latest available indicates that salaries, taking into account inflation, gained 4.5% year-over-year.

Yet, In the past 18-24 months, the average household budget in South Africa has been under immense pressure arising from escalating inflation, a sharp upward trend in interest rates, and nominal wage increases failing to keep up with average inflation since 2021, the clearing house says.

It’s no surprise that I also decided to cut costs and looked into another ISP, Webafrica, to provide services. R275 a month adds up quickly. What I didn’t do, however, is read the reviews on social media sites as well as HelloPeter.

On – renamed from Twitter after billionaire Elon Musk bought it – there are complaints about slow resolutions to issues, an inability to contact the company through any other medium apart from WhatsApp, difficulty cancelling, and having to repeat yourself when dealing with the customer service agent on WhatsApp.

I had several issues when I tried to move ISPa. First, I had to wait for the line to be released. That was no problem when the agent told me 24 to 48 hours. I can survive for that amount of time. Then it was 72 hours because Vuma apparently was changing systems. This would have affected me anyway, because the fibre into my home is run by Vuma.

After five days, I was told the internet was on. But it wasn’t. I had to configure the router that should have come preconfigured. It should have been a simple matter of plug and play. It wasn’t. Again, there was an issue and I had to trouble-shoot several times before Webafrica believed me that the problem was on their end, and a technician from Vumatel called. Anyway, that one I fixed myself.

Then, much back and forth ensued, and I finally had limited connectivity. Limited because I couldn’t access film editing software because I couldn't log into it. I also couldn’t download a particular company’s annual report. It’s embarrassing when you must ask the PR to send you the document as an attachment – thankfully, I know her. This issue fixed itself like magic after I told the person on the end of the chat I was a journalist.

It also turned out that I needed to have a geek come out and sort out the home network that connects everything to a Linux server. (Linux because it doesn’t need powering down, unlike Windows, which is a boon given rolling blackouts.)

By now, I was ready to cancel. Small issue, I hadn’t been told about the cancellation fee of almost R1 000, nor that I would have to send the router back at my own expense.

Webafrica, to their credit, stepped up after hearing my story and compensated me for issues caused on their side. Spokesperson Greg Wright had an in-depth look at my experience and explained that there was an initial miscommunication from Webafrica’s sales team, which “created a ripple effect through your entire journey with us”.

One of the issues was that the sales agent was in their first month of employment, said Wright. “We don’t take these mistakes lightly. The agent has been notified and further training will be carried out to rectify this behaviour.”

Wright concedes that, while agents were sympathetic regarding my issue, “they could have done more to ensure your problems were escalated and were given higher priority considering the length of time that passed and the number of interactions that took place”.

Webafrica used WhatsApp or live chat through the website to not only keep a complete log, but also cut down on costs, enabling the company to offer very competitive pricing, says Wright.

Webafrica, he says, uses an algorithm to automatically pick chats where there are serious issues, such as those with large volumes and interaction demeanour among others. These are then flagged for a specialist team to resolve.

Complaints about billing issues, Wright says, generally come down to outstanding amounts, or when people don’t return a router.

Reviews on Hellopeter, says Wright, are somewhat deceptive as all major ISPs are rated poorly on Hellopeter because the complaint site charges a fee to respond to their own customers.

“Please check Webafrica’s score on Trustpilot (highest rated ISP in South Africa) and Google Reviews (4.4 stars from about 50 000 reviews) and you’ll see a more accurate representation of how our over 200 000 customers feel about our service. In effect, if an ISP were to respond on Hellopeter it would drive up the cost to support considerably. This cost would have to be passed on to customers via the pricing charged to them,” says Wright.

“We pride ourselves on offering our customers excellent service. Your feedback helps us to attain this goal by continuously improving. Please feel free to give feedback to us and we promise to listen with an objective mindset,” says Wright.

Bottom line: do your homework, ask others about their experience – even if on Facebook – and ask all the questions, especially the ones that seem silly. Read the terms and conditions. Don’t assume. And be persistent until you get the service you are paying for.