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MTN receives most consumer complaints in 2015/16

By Jessica Anne Wood

Mobile network provider MTN comes out with the most complaints lodged against it during the past year with 613 in total, according to the Consumer Goods and Services Ombud (CGSO) annual report for 2015/2016. In total, there were 19 companies that received in excess of ten complaints.

However, the Ombud did make mention of MTN’s strike that its employees embarked on last year. “This resulted in many complainants calling CGSO thinking that they were calling the MTN complaint line,” reveals the CGSO.

Graham de Vries, chief corporate services executive of MTN South Africa, says: “Although 613 is a very small proportion of our subscriber base, MTN will continue to strive to bring this number down year on year. It must be noted that the strike between June and July 2015 contributed towards this number. Had MTN not been a member of the CGSO these customers may not have found redress as they did via the CGSO during the strike as a small team within MTN still continued to service the CGSO during the strike action.”

Furthermore, de Vries highlights that MTN has various contact points through its website, social media, email and call centre to service customer complaints. “MTN will continue to enhance its customer engagement processes to improve customer service.”

Companies with the most complaints

The below list are all of the companies that had more than ten complaints lodged by consumers with the CGSO, and the number of complaints received.

  1.        MTN - 613
  2.        JD Group - 172
  3.        Vodacom - 110
  4.        Shoprite - 109
  5.        Lewis - 106
  6.        Massmart - 63
  7.        Cell–C - 62
  8.        Edcon - 57
  9.        Altech Autopage - 40
  10.    Foschini - 30
  11.    Home Choice - 25
  12.    Mr Price - 19
  13.    Truworths - 18
  14.    Rochester - 18
  15.    Pick n Pay - 14
  16.    Samsung - 12
  17.    UFO - 11
  18.    Multichoice - 11
  19.    Gym Company - 11

CGSO highlights that the number of complaints received against the other network providers, namely Vodacom and Cell C, are incomplete, only reflecting the complaints up to July 2015. This is because the CGSO stopped managing these network providers’ complaints due to their continued refusal to join CGSO.

“The matter has been referred to the NCC for its decision as to whether network providers fall within CGSO’s jurisdiction. CGSO continues, however, to deal with complaints arising from the marketing of cellular equipment by participating retailers,” explains the CGSO.

De Vries adds: “MTN is the only operator who has joined the CGSO. We believe that whilst ICASA has jurisdiction over ECS and ECNS licensees, the supply of devices and certain contractual issues fall squarely within the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act and as a result the Consumer Goods and Services Code is applicable. We have been engaging with the CGSO process and welcome any further opportunity to engage in the dispute resolution process via the CGSO.”

The complaints

According to the CGSO report, cell phone products received the most complaints, totalling 951, followed by services (795) and furniture (523). A breakdown of the complaints reveal that 43% of all complaints last year were related to goods, while 29% related to services, 21% related to agreements, and the remaining complaints related to marketing, disclosure, health and safety, deposits and treatment.

Of the total 3, 495 complaints lodged last year, 2, 192 were closed and 1, 303 are still open. Of the cases that have been resolved, the Ombud fully upheld 869 complaints, while for 258 of the complaints the matter was not upheld. Numerous cases were also dismissed, either because of lack of cooperation from the supplier (130), or from the complainant (74).

The report indicates that the average time to close a case is 57 days, however, there are cases that have been open for more than 120 days (278).

“The number of open cases older than 90 days (249) shows that CGSO is under severe stress, the reasons being its inadequate resources to deal with the caseload and the difficulties experienced in getting some suppliers to cooperate with the process,” explains the CGSO.

The rulings of the CGSO are not binding and it is not eligible to impose sanctions. Where the CGSO believes that it cannot adequately deal with the matter it is referred to the National Consumer Commission (NCC). During 2015, the CGSO referred several cases to the NCC, including “the unilateral price increase of cell phone contracts,” notes the CGSO.

“Where the complaint was not upheld or no cooperation was received, we gave the complainant the NCC’s contact details. In some of these cases, the complainants reported some challenges with having their cases dealt with by the NCC, and both entities are working on ways to ensure consumers access to proper and effective redress,” adds the CGSO.

For more information on the CGSO, click here.

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