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Data deals, cellphone insurance and claiming BA credit: Wendy Knowler's 'watch-outs' of the week

07 February 2022 - 14:17
If you’re offered data as part of a cellphone package, make sure you interrogate the terms and conditions. Stock photo.
If you’re offered data as part of a cellphone package, make sure you interrogate the terms and conditions. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/ POP NUKOONRAT

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

Are you paying monthly premiums for an old cellphone insurance policy?

You may have stopped using a handset five years ago, but the policy on it will still be in force and the premiums collected from you via debit order every month, unless you specifically cancelled it.

If you don’t make that call — or send that email — to cancel the insurance on your old phone when you replace it with your new one, it will continue year after year with no notification.

Here’s the thing — in the case of cellphone insurance sold by the networks on behalf of third-party insurers, the premium deductions are not always described on bank statements as “cellphone insurance”.

And if you’ve taken your contract SIM out of your old phone and given the phone to your child or your parents that phone is no longer insured. You are wasting your money.

Alison asked me this week to find out why MTN was still debiting her bank account in the amount of R469 every month, despite her having cancelled her contract in March last year.

“I’ve queried this with MTN via a branch and their customer service department many times, but have had no response. I am at my wits end and do not know what to do — this is a significant amount of money and they continue to debit my account; it’s up to almost R5,000 now.”

I had no trouble getting a response from MTN — Alison did cancel her contract and migrate to prepaid, but she still has two cellphone insurance contracts on two phones and she’s being debited for those two premiums every month because she hasn’t cancelled the policies.

I am sure thousands of people are wasting money every month on cellphone insurance premiums they’ve long forgotten about and could never claim on. What a boon for the insurers!

Alison was urged to call MTN’s Insurance Desk on 083-123-6084 to cancel those policies, or e-mail mtninfo@admyntec.co.za. No word on why none of the MTN people she tried to engage about the ongoing debits bothered to give her the information their media liaison people gave to me. Disgraceful.

Battling to redeem your international British Airways credit?

Trayci of Makhanda (Grahamstown) reached out to me recently to ask for my help in getting British Airways to use the credit they got when their BA flights to London were cancelled just before lockdown in March 2020.

“We can’t even get them to pick up the phone. We went to BA at the airport, but they can’t assist with international flights and there is no e-mail address in sight. Do you have a contact number?”

I advised her to do what my mother did — ask a family member in the UK to call British Airways in the UK and then add my mother to the call. Between the three of them the refund was quickly confirmed.

But Trayci’s husband had success in a different way: via BA’s customer care centre in India!

I’m sharing what he did to help others who may be in this situation.

He went onto the BA website, clicked on contact numbers, and when prompted to choose a region he chose India, and dealt with a very helpful customer service agent who booked them on a flight to London.

They shouldn’t have had to resort to that but hey, whatever works!

The fantastic data deal — for YouTubers only

Telesales agents talk a good talk, playing up the good bits of a contract and playing down the not-so-appealing terms and conditions. And for those who agree to the deal, there’s no piece of paper to read through the call to check exactly what it is they are going to get for their money.

Lisa of Durban’s MTN cellphone contract was about to expire when she got a call from one of MTN’s third party marketing agents last week offering her an attractive new contract.

Or so she thought.

If you’re offered data as part of a cellphone package, make sure you interrogate the terms and conditions. Some of those Gigs will only be available in the dead of night and restricted to certain platforms.

“It was for 10G data and R135 worth of calls. The woman did mention YouTube in the conversation, but she definitely didn’t make it clear that all that data could only be used on YouTube!”

When she complained to MTN she was given the runaround, which is why she contacted me.

Lisa was within her five-business-day cooling off period to cancel a direct marketing deal — that’s when the company initiates the deal, not the consumer — when she contacted MTN. So the network should have immediately cancelled the contract on those grounds alone.

Responding to my media query, MTN said Lisa had been called by a sales agent from the Ignition Group “to proactively offer her the option to upgrade”.

“She was offered the MyMTN Mega Flex package and our investigation has shown that the agent did not clearly explain the contents of the new upgrade to our customer,” MTN said. “Therefore we would like to apologise to her for the inconvenience this may have caused.”

The contract has been cancelled.

So if you’re offered data as part of a cellphone package, make sure you interrogate the terms and conditions. Some of those Gigs will no doubt only be available in the dead of night, and now we know the data is being restricted to certain platforms too.

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


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