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Car deals, protecting your credit identity and resolving ISP disputes

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

15 July 2022 - 15:39
Is your internet service provider driving you mad? Stock photo.
Is your internet service provider driving you mad? Stock photo.
Image: 123RF

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

Is your internet service provider driving you mad? Here’s how to get help

If you’re a client of internet service provider (ISP) Webafrica, the only way you can communicate with the company — about your internet being down or to give notice of cancellation, for example — is to do so via WhatsApp Live Chat. And chances are you will find yourself engaging with a bot.

I’ve communicated — via email — with a few Webafrica clients and they are unhappy with this arrangement, to put it mildly.

Webafrica CEO Sean Nourse told me the company had found that many customers don’t use email or phone calls for support-related queries “and prefer communicating via WhatsApp”.

“There are also a large number of people who do not own an email address, especially in the lower LSM markets. Therefore, we decided to funnel our support agents into working solely on WhatsApp so we can best serve our customers.

“Currently, our average wait time is 16 minutes, with an average response rate of 98% — which is above standard and unheard of in a support environment.”

Their bot serves as a connector between the customer and the agent “to ensure they get faster assistance”, Nourse said.

But after hours, the bot works solo — there’s no chance of connecting with a human.

Nourse conceded that regarding cancellations, the company had a “process fault”.

“We have now corrected that as well as recruited a team dedicated to dealing with cancellations,” he said.

Brett, who had been battling to cancel his Webafrica contract after emigrating in January, told me the Internet Service Providers Association (Ispa) took just 10 days to get a positive result for him — a refund of three months’ debit orders and confirmation of the cancellation of his contract.

Ispa handles about 100 mediation queries every month from consumers needing its help to resolve issues with their ISP.

ISPs are required to provide contact telephone numbers on their websites. Good to know. So if your ISP is driving you bonkers, use Ispa's free mediation service.

The most common issues are:

  • billing disputes (42%);
  • quality of service (24%);
  • contract cancellations (14%); and
  • installation delays (11%).

“We work closely with the representatives nominated by each member to try to assist the consumers who approach us and our members are generally committed to supporting the mediation process,” an Ispa spokesperson said.

“With their support we are able to successfully resolve most of the queries we receive each month.”

About those bots — or “automated response platforms”: Ispa said it doesn’t dictate to its members what platforms they use for customer support, as long as they treat their customers “fairly, reasonably, professionally and in good faith”.

But ISPs are required to provide contact telephone numbers on their websites. Good to know. So if your ISP is driving you bonkers, use Ispa’s free mediation service.

But, Ispa says, first you must have made an effort to resolve the issue directly with your ISP. “We ask for ticket or query reference numbers as part of our process to ensure that the member can reference any previous interactions with their customers.”

It’s your credit identity — so why is it a mystery to you?

The worst way to find out you have been “blacklisted” by a company — correctly named an adverse listing — is when you apply for credit. But that’s exactly how it happens for most people.

You are entitled to one free credit report per year — from each credit bureau — thanks to the National Credit Act. So you could go to a different one — TransUnion, Experian and XDS — for a free credit report every few months.

According to the National Credit Regulator, at the end of December 2021, SA credit bureaus held records of 26.38-million credit-active consumers. Of this total, only 648,280 credit reports were issued. That’s less than 2.5%. Of those, 35,919 lodged disputes about “blacklistings” on their records, with most of those disputes resolved in favour of the complainants.

There’s a good chance you’re “blacklisted” for a prescribed debt — that’s illegal — or you’ve paid up a debt but it’s still reflecting as being in arrears. Or — and this is depressingly common — you’re blacklisted for a debt a fraudster acquired in your name. That’s why you really, really should check your credit record regularly.

If you spot a listing which is unjust, you can lodge a complaint with the bureau concerned and, if it’s not resolved within 30 days, you can complain to the Credit Ombud — it’s a free mediation service.

You can also stay one step ahead of identity fraudsters by signing up for alerts, with TransUnion, for example, for little or no cost. That way you’ll get an SMS or e-mail when someone applies for credit, such as opening a store account or a cellphone contract, in your name.

A signed car dealership OTP is binding on both parties

Zane approached me for help with a situation involving a pricing mistake which a motor dealership wanted him to pay for — after the deal had been concluded.

He was given an offer to purchase (OTP) in mid-June with a Durban dealership. His bank later approved the financing, based on that OTP, and on June 28 the salesperson asked that he forward a signed copy of that OTP, which he did, and the car was sourced in his colour choice.

Then came the curve ball. The salesperson contacted him to say his bank was querying the invoice submitted by the dealership because the amount differed from the quote on which they had based their financing approval. Apparently, while the OTP included a maintenance plan, the price quoted was that of a service plan.

This dealership had gone as far as trying to get the revised amount approved by Zane’s bank without first alerting him to the issue and getting his approval. How appalling

“The salesman told me I would either have to pay R19,000 extra for the maintenance plan or accept a service plan, but I disagreed,” Zane said.

I advised him to insist that the dealership honour the signed agreement, as it’s binding on both parties, and to let me know if they refused.

Consumers don’t get to amend or pull out of such signed contracts; not without being financially penalised by the dealerships.

This dealership had gone as far as trying to get the revised amount approved by Zane’s bank without first alerting him to the issue and getting his approval. How appalling.

Zane came back to me to say: “I stood my ground with the dealership and I have walked away with a six-year/90,000km maintenance plan without paying extra.

“Thank you for affirming what I believe should have been their approach to start with.”

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

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