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Vodacom apologises for airtime glitch

22 August 2017 - 18:05 By Kgaugelo Masweneng And Katharine Child
File photo.
File photo.
Image: iStock

Matriculant Bongani Mthombeni was trying to apply for a bursary to study but couldn't because he ran out of airtime after his Vodacom data disappeared on Monday.

The story of his missed deadline has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook‚ with Mthombeni becoming the face customer frustration with the cellphone service provider.

Vodacom confirmed on Tuesday that an IT glitch lead to the sudden disappearance of customers’ airtime and data balances.

“The issue was caused by a configuration change on our prepaid and top-up billing system that was problematic. We were able to isolate the cause and roll back this process during the course of last night. It impacted top-up and pre-paid customers that were on the network‚" the company said.

Vodacom apologised throughout the day and has returned data to customers.

Because many people had bought extra data when their data ran out‚ spokesperson Byron Kennedy said Vodacom was ensuring all data would have a 30-day expiry window.

Even if customers bought a fortnightly data bundle or an hourly bundle it will last 30 days and then roll over for 30 days to be used after that months data is used.

If they bought a 30-day data bundle this would last the usual 30-day period.

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) was inundated with calls from frustrated customers on Tuesday afternoon and it approached Vodacom saying it didn’t want this to happen again.

The NCC will be engaging with Vodacom further to get to the root causes of the supposed billing glitch.

“We want to satisfy ourselves that there won’t be a recurrence of this problem. As the NCC we realise that there may be consumers who have as a consequence of the data disappearance suffered challenges in other areas‚ and we urge these consumers to come forward and lodge complaints with us so that they can be assisted‚” said spokesperson Trevor Hattingh.

Vodacom confirmed to the commission that it has reimbursed customers affected by Monday’s billing issue.

Vodacom‚ which is SA’s largest network with 39.3 million subscribers by the end of June this year‚ would not say how many customers lost their airtime.

“We are conducting an investigation and will be in a position to determine numbers once this process concludes‚” the company said.

Vodacom would not reveal the total value of the missing data.

On behalf of the Gauteng Black IT Forum‚ Marylin Radebe said that it was unacceptable for a big corporation like Vodacom to make such a business mistake.

“As part of the Information Communication Technology industry we are deeply concerned with this. When you are a big corporation that claims to be the best and on top of its game‚ it is unacceptable that you would do such a thing to customers‚” said Radebe.

“The technological revolution happened so that it may be easy for people to participate in the economy and empower themselves. So if basic things like the data and how they are provided is an issue‚ how will this happen?”

As on September 18 2017 the Competition Commission will conduct a market inquiry into data services in South Africa to ask if data should expire after 30 days.

The Commission is looking to identify areas where customers or consumers may be exploited or excluded.

The EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said a head needs to fall.

"After paying all the data they stole‚ Vodacom must give a coherent explanation of what happened & someone in higher management Must Fall."

- Additional reporting Wendy Knowler