The great cell phone rip off

The great cell phone rip off…

You’ve seen the news, read the Sunday times and it would appear we can look forward to some reduced mobile phone call rates in South Africa. About time, we need to understand the international visitor to South Africa, the holiday maker who has travelled from Europe on a long haul flight, does not want to pay more for accommodation, a beer, a pizza and last of all, for calls from his mobile phone.

I doubt if I am alone in wondering why the cell phone companies are the biggest advertisers; why they can take pages and pages of media space, sponsor every sport event as they compete for market share amongst the gullible consumer. Yes, sorry South Africa but we are gullible, with a low education rate by world standards; a poor education system; less than 15% of the population as registered tax payers; unemployment at more than 25%; a rural population with no access to, never mind a poor level of education and an historic social history lacking third world civilization….one does not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that the average African is gullible and could well be fooled by the complex cell phone contractual options; how they work; which one to choose.

It was just the other day when I discovered after some six years of dealing with Vodacom that the minutes I physically purchase each month, in my case five hundred of them are used on a “newest first” principle and that those not used are removed after five months, it being irrelevant that the twenty four month signed contract is still active. My logic is that if I bought them; paid for them in good faith and provided my contract is still active, I can surely use them at my pleasure. Not according top Vodacom, it is THEIR POLICY to expire them, this, aside from being morally unjust, is surely illegal?

So, to Vodacom; MTN and cell C…it’s called come-uppance, whilst I do find state intervention in business reprehensible and feel it smacks of socialism and communism I also firmly believe that we must have got to this position through some form of collusion which is even worse. If I read the states opinion, or rather that of the ICASA, it would appear the committee appointed to investigate this has done their job and have made every attempt to resolve the position to find some compromise. As I write, no final decision appears to have been made, the cell phone operators have refused to comment and perhaps this is just positioning on the part of ICASA but, if so, great, well done guys…the great cell phone rip off is now over and we can go forward into Christmas and welcome the tourists to South Africa for the 2010 world cup.

Alan Hawkins – CEO

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