Cellphone companies ring big changes in small print, so don’t snooze or you’ll lose

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s 'Watch-outs of the week'

27 August 2021 - 15:31 By wendy knowler
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Want to know your rights? Keep up with consumer journalist Wendy Knowler's tips.
Want to know your rights? Keep up with consumer journalist Wendy Knowler's tips.
Image: Daniil Peshkov/ 123rf.com

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

Cellphone package adverts — comparing apples with pears

Remember when all cellphone contracts were for 24 months? That’s not the case any more, but I’m pretty sure many people, especially those who’ve taken out many cellphone contracts over the years, assume they’re all still for a standard 24 months. Not so — now the service providers are offering 30- and 36-month contracts as well.

Upgrading your cellphone? Check the fine print for the contract length because it may have changed.
Upgrading your cellphone? Check the fine print for the contract length because it may have changed.
Image: @Clint_ZA, Twitter

Here’s the thing: it’s not unusual for a range of contract lengths to be advertised on the same page. What’s misleading is the monthly-amounts-payable feature in large font, but the contract duration in relatively tiny font, and printed sideways, making them even easier to miss, as in PMx30 or PMx36.

So when signing a contract, make no assumptions about the contract period, especially if you’ve chosen a particularly nice-to-have smartphone. It’s very likely you’re committing to paying that monthly amount for three years, not two.

Kulula ticket credit: use or lose

When Comair went into business rescue last May, those with “unflown” British Airways and Kulula tickets for flights from March 14 to November 30 were given the option of becoming a creditor or retaining the value of their tickets in what Comair called a “travel bank account”.

Time is now running out for those who banked their ticket value — it must be used for travel before the end of November this year.

“This cannot be extended as creditors and other interested and affected parties have accepted the business rescue plan,” a Comair spokesperson told TimesLIVE this week.

Despite Comair choosing to suspend its services on July 5 until September 1 as a response to the adjusted level 4 lockdown which restricted travel in and out of Gauteng, Comair says its “travel bank” customers have had the opportunity to use the value of their tickets since December “and can still do so from September 1 until 30 November”.

Tickets for Kulula flights between June 28 and August 31 this year will remain valid until the end of August 2022 and no change of booking fee or fare difference will be charged.

Watch out: there’s no excuse for not renewing your car licence

Despite warnings there would be no further extensions to the August 31 grace period in which to renew driver’s licences which expired between March 26 and December 31 2020, transport minister Fikile Mbalula on Friday announced an extension to March 2022.

There is said to be a backlog of nearly 800,000 expired licences, thanks to lockdown disruptions. But while the latest grace period extension applies to learners’ licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits, it does not apply to car licences.

If you want to skip the queues, one option is the cars.co.za vehicle licence renewal service. There will only be a R199 admin and delivery charge, but your new car licence will be delivered to you a few days later.

Responding to the minister’s announcement on Friday morning, Discovery Insure CEO Anton Ossip said the company’s policyholders would be recognised as legally licensed if they had to claim, provided they had a legal licence, albeit expired.

“We encourage our clients to plan around the anticipated delays and to renew their licence as early as possible before expiry,” he said.

Earlier in the week, when the August 31 deadline was still in place, the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) said not having a valid licence did not necessarily mean any motor claim a motorist submitted would be rejected.

Since 2007 the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance has ruled that insurers should not refuse to entertain the claim if the driver’s licence or licence disc has expired, the association said. In the interests of fairness, “insurers would need to demonstrate prejudice because of the failure to be in possession of a valid licence, therefore materiality is a critical factor for consideration”.

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away

Since 2015 car-tracking company Cartrack has made much of its Recovery Warranty R150,000 cashback, “a first in the country”.

“We’re so confident we’ll recover your vehicle, we’ll put our money where our mouth is and give you up to R150,000 if we don’t.”

But many people have been tripped up by the Ts and Cs of that warranty after the company failed to recover their stolen vehicles.

In Tshepiso’s case, his bakkie was stolen in early April and the company got back to him to say they’d found its tracking device on the side of the road.

“I was advised to lodge a claim on their warranty and I duly submitted all my documents, but after several follow-ups I was told that my claim was rejected because I had not tested the device. But it was in a perfect working condition, hence the notifications I got,” he told me this week.

One of the warranty’s key conditions is that the consumer must have tested the tracking device at least once a quarter, and I suspect that’s the one which many forget about.

The warranty, which pays out the book value of the unrecovered car, up to R150,000, also only applies for three years from installation, and the claim must be submitted within 30 days of the car having been stolen.

So if you have a Cartrack contract and you took it out less than three years ago, make a diary note to test the device every three months to be eligible for that warranty claim.

CONTACT WENDY: E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za; Twitter: @wendyknowler; Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now