Vodacom – What are you thinking?
I want to state upfront that I am a loyal Vodacom customer and have been for the past 5 years. I currently have 4 contract with Vodacom, a Smart L, Smart M, Smart S and 1GB data contract, together costing me about R2000-00 per month.
I ( like many other Vodacom customers) received an email from them advising me that they will be raising their Subscription fees from May 1st on all my contracts.
This did not go down well at all.
There I was , HMS JBT sailing along merrrily until I hit the Vodacom tariff increase iceberg which I never even saw coming.
From my SOS signals and as my mobile communication ship started to sink, I asked myself ( as many of you did) whether Vodacom was allowed to do this under the terms and conditions of their contract with me.
Googled Vodacom terms and conditions.
I finally managed to download the terms and conditions as they appear on the Vodacom website and read through them deliberately and carefully to see where it states that Vodacom can do this.
In my opinion – it doesn’t.
The terms and conditions clearly define the difference between the “Subscription Fees” and other “tariffs and charges” such as VAS etc ,which are variable costs that the consumer may incur, such as extra data usage and voice minutes.
The FIXED costs are the subscription fees and in terms of the contract they are specifically and clearly defined and this (in my opinion) is what forms the basis of the contract between myself and Vodacom.
For “X” Rands per month , I receive “X” minutes; “X” sms’s and “X” Data.
And then, I found clauses 22 and 23 which state (essentially) that the terms of this agreement constitute the whole agreement between the parties and that no amendment or variation to these terms may be implemented without consent of both parties and it must be submitted and agreed to IN WRITING.
Simply put – I do not agree to the changes to this contract.
I went immediately to both the Consumer Commissioner and the Ombud for Consumer Goods and Services , whom I must say , reacted with speed and efficiency.
Last night I received an email from Edlin Naidoo, Executive Client Liason at Vodacom.
In that email he quotes the following clauses from their terms and conditions :
“ADJUSTMENT OF CHARGES
· 6.1 Notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein contained, Vodacom shall have the right, on each anniversary of the effective date of a Service Schedule, by written notice to the Customer, to vary the charges and fees payable by the Customer thereunder, on 1 (one) month’s notice to the Customer, provided that:
· 6.1.1 in the case of Service which are not regulated by a regulatory authority, any increase levied by Vodacom in terms of this clause 6 shall not exceed the latest published Consumer Price Index excluding interest rates on mortgage bonds (“CPI”) as published from time to time by Statistics South Africa, or any other relevant Government Agency on the anniversary date. For the avoidance of doubt, the latest officially published CPI figures immediately preceding the anniversary date will be used in the determination of such increase; and
· 6.1.2 in the case of Services which are regulated by a regulatory authority, any increase levied by Vodacom in terms of this clause 6 shall not exceed those charges and fees lodged with and approved by the regulatory authority.”
Please note that this says “Charges” and not “Subscription Fees”.
Also, the clauses 6.1 – 6.1.2 DO NOT APPEAR AS CLAUSE 6 IN THE CURRENT AVAILABLE VERSION OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS ON THE VODACOM WEBSITE, they appear in Clause 5 and clause 6.1 does not appear at all. I would also suspect that they do not appear on the hard copy of my contract.
I raise this point as why would Vodacom go to all the trouble to specifically define ” Subscription fees” and charges in their contract , only to broadly use the term “charges” in the notification of increase?
In my opinion, my agreement with Vodacom is for them to give my the minutes ,data and sms’s and I give them their subscription fees.
I cannot change those terms if I wish and if I do , you can be sure that Vodacom will be not be accommodating to this and they will throw their terms and conditions back at me.
Well, now it’s my turn.
What to do.
I have replied to Mr Naidoo querying the very clauses’ validity in terms of clause 22 and 23 of their contract and advising him that I do not believe that this increase is legal under the specific terms and conditions that I have available to me ,which are the ONLY T’s and C’s that I can refer to in this case.
I have already seen a plethora of articles and posts about this and the general consensus is that there is little or nothing that could be done here, save asking Vodacom to implement these increases on all NEW contracts , but not on existing agreements.
We , as subscribers can cancel our contracts , yes, but then would be subject to paying the cancellation costs as defined in the terms and conditions of the contract.
We can submit and agree to pay the extra costs when they become effective.
There is one last course of action we can take and I would suggest that every Vodacom client who reads this pass it on to every other Vodacom client they know and get everyone to pass it on.
This action will make Vodacom sit up and take notice.
Vodacom’s business model relies heavily on renewed contracts from their clients. In fact, they know that 80% of their contract clients will not only renew, but upgrade their contract value when they renew.
Vodacom recently declared profits of more than R9 billion…that’s after they have paid everything. R9 billion and where do you think they got that revenue?
From their customers.
And herein lies the Achilles heel or the Iceberg…perhaps, like Titanic, Vodacom believes it’s ship is unsinkable. Well, the iceberg could be the very people that have contributed the most to Vodacom’s success – it’s customers.
Here is the plan.
Everyone that reads this must immediately send Vodacom notification that they will NOT BE RENEWING THEIR CONTRACT UPON EXPIRY. Under their terms and conditions we have the right to do this as we have within our rights as consumers.
We may pay more going forward, but Vodacom will be faced with losing billions in monthly revenue over the next 1-24 months and that may just get them thinking twice about this little increase.
They may decide to go ahead anyway and if they do, then we must equally decide to do the same and cancel our Vodacom contracts as well. We need to stick to our guns here – it is important that we, the customers, teach our suppliers a lesson when it comes to treating us and our money fairly.
Anytime that a global multinational starts taking it’s customers for granted is when it is time for those customers to act , and act with all the power that we have.
Act. Act now.
Send them an email, call the cancellations department , even if your new contract is a few days , weeks or months old and tell them you are giving notice NOW of cancellation of your contract upon expiry.
Now Vodacom, put that in your terms and conditions pipe and smoke it.
And that’s the Joburg Truth.