How to swat auto subscriptions & why overseas orders are arriving so slowly

Watch outs of the week

19 June 2020 - 13:17 By wendy knowler
Here's how to stop people virtually nicking cash from your cellphone. File picture
Here's how to stop people virtually nicking cash from your cellphone. File picture
Image: Bruce Gorton

In this new weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Wishing online purchase would arrive from overseas?

I’ve had quite a few complaints from people who have ordered goods from massive international online retailer Wish during lockdown, but haven’t received them.

Gillian Hemphill of Johannesburg placed several Wish orders in the past three months - totalling about R1,000 - but received none.

“I am most disappointed and disgusted with their service. They are all too quick to take the money out of one’s account," she said.

I know Wish uses the postal service rather than courier services because many people have complained to me about being made to pay the Post Office’s “customs clearance fee” on each purchase.

Back in February, the Post Office warned that mail from China would be delayed as flights out of that country had been stopped by the coronavirus lockdown.

The latest news from the Post Office is that under lockdown level 3, they can receive and send parcels, but only to and from countries that allow items to go in and out “and to which we can find transport connections”.

Wish parcels are arriving, a spokesman said, “but space on the aircraft is limited and flights are not regular”.

“As a result, delivery times are more unpredictable for mail coming into and leaving South Africa. The Post Office continues to seek transport connections to more countries as borders are reopened for goods, and would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during these difficult times.”

So, don’t despair - you should get your order, eventually.

However, you’d do well to support local online retailers instead for a while yet, but only after first checking  their current customer reviews.

Orders are also taking a lot longer to be delivered within our borders, given the massive surge in orders as South Africans embrace e-commerce in record numbers.

How to swat those Wasps

Rogue Wasp (Wireless Application Service Provider) subscriptions via cellphone have been a problem for decades. People are “auto subscribed” to content - everything from horoscopes and gaming to porn - at a daily or weekly rate, which drains their pre-paid spend or loads their bills.

Despite the industry and cellphone companies denouncing the practice and introducing all manner of measures to curb the practice for years the unwanted and unauthorised “sign ups” continue.

A colleague received this SMS on Thursday: “Congrats, you subscribed to Hot Black S…ts matter! R5/day. Billing will start in 3 days or SMS Stop to…”

She immediately forwarded it to me with the comment: “OMG, what do I do?”

She’s a Vodacom subscriber, so I told her to send that Stop SMS, take a screenshot of it, and then send an SMS with the words “STOP ALL” to 31050 to check if she was unknowingly subscribed to - and paying for - other Wasp services and to stop them too.

Turns out she was subscribed to three others.

Vodacom subscribers can block their number from being subscribed to Wasp services by visiting a branch and filling out a form.

The other networks also provide their subscribers with various means to stop Wasps:

Cell C: Dial *133*1# to block content billing

MTN: Dial *136*5#, then the following options, when prompted, in this order: 2, 2, 2, 1.

Telkom Mobile: To block all content service subscriptions, go to the Telkom app, then navigate to Login > My product > Manage > Protect Your Mobile Number, and set it to ON.

Don’t fall for the fake phone directory scam

Not a single day goes by that I don’t receive an email from someone who fell for this awful “directory” scam.

A call is made to a business - listed in bold in one of Telkom’s many official phone directories across the land - from someone who pretends they are calling about that listing and asks for an email address so they can confirm the listing. An email is then sent, from a address, asking the company to sign that the listing is still correct. The person signs without reading the small print, which reveals that the approach has nothing to do with Telkom, and the signature commits the business to paying a subscription, upfront, for a listing in an utterly useless, obscure online business directory for a year.

Then comes the demand for around R9,500. If payment isn’t made, the harassment escalates.

I know about a few receptionists who took out loans to pay the demanded sum. They feared they would lose their jobs because they signed the document without reading the tiny print terms and conditions.

If ever there was a case to illustrate how vital it is that you take time to read the small print before signing or agreeing to anything, this is it. Yes, it’s a schlep, but by not protecting yourself by making sure you know what you are committing  to, you’re potentially creating much more schlep for yourself later.

GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via e-mail: or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.