Friday, April 11, 2008

Look4Help, Look4Me ducking and diving after getting caught out

These guys are unbelievable. Every time they talk to me they dig their own graves a little deeper. I have been send emails back and forth today, trying to obtain clarification of CellFind's behaviour and response to my enquiries. The last email I got reads as follows:
Dear Mr Edwards
Confirmation: Your wife’s number was added to our internal Do Not Call when you spoke to Carla yesterday. Your number was added this morning after you responded to my initial e-mail.
[Thanks for letting me know. No previous emails or phone calls confirmed this, and no SMS messages have been sent to my phone]
Cellfind notified you/your wife on at least 12 occasions via SMS of the changes. [Earlier in the day you told me that you had only sent 4 messages on 30-11-2007 and 2 on 10-04-2008. I wonder when the other 6 were sent, if at all?] I cannot speak for them but Autopage as a rule notify every customer, every time a new service is added to their account (Also via SMS).

Please tell me what in your view would be adequate:
  • We have added both you and your wife to our exclusion list
  • I’ve also ensured that your details have been added to Autopage and Digicall’s lists
  • We have/will refund you in full
  • We have apologized (All three companies) in person [All the apologies have been conditional, and in private.]
  • The Sales Agent has been fired [How convenient. When? Who?]
  • We have checked our processes to ensure we exclude DMA Do Not Calls to the best of our abilities [How do you do this when there are no ID numbers in your lists and the DMA works with ID numbers?]
  • We have checked our processes to ensure we exclude our own Do Not Calls [Earlier today you admitted that this was not done in November]
  • We have removed the services from your account
  • We have sent you all the information we have available [I am still waiting for replies to numerous questions not addressed here, for a copy of the sales script and the audio recording]
Let me ensure [sic] you that I take this very seriously and even though in our view, we are not in contravention of any law, we have made every effort possible to ensure we don’t have a repeat occurrence and have provided you with as much assistance as humanly possible. So, please let me know what you see as adequate?

Thank you,
Niel Barnard
Chief Executive Officer

Cellfind (PTY) LTD
Tel: 011-8488200
Fax: 011-8488205

Since you ask, Mr Barnard, it would be helpful if you actually stopped ducking and diving and pushing responsibility onto someone else. Autopage did not make the call or send the first 4 SMS messages. Each one of those messages violates the ECT Act, even though you claim you didn't know that I should have been on your list. That was due to your negligence, not mine. Ignorance is no excuse. A thief who gets caught with the stolen goods is still a thief, even if he says "sorry" and gives the goods back.
Secondly, adding someone onto your database without their permission is dishonest, and expecting them to opt out is even more so. In fact it's a bloody cheek, and not the best way to treat your customers. The correct option is "Opt-in", where customers confirm that they WANT the service, rather than being expected to say if they don't, assuming they heard the question.
Thirdly, your call centre first told me that they had obtained the number from Vodacom, and then the story changed later to Autopage. They have yet to confirm that they did, in fact, supply the number. Who am I supposed to believe?
It's all very well to "fire" the person who called my wife, but when are you going to tell me that your company or Digicall made any attempt to contact ALL the people this person subscribed, to make sure they were aware of paying for the service. This could be done by sending an SMS to all the "subscribers", asking them to confirm that they still WANT the service. Clearly this did not happen because we did not receive any messages "several months ago" when the alleged bad apple was "fired".
Either your company is completely incompetent and cavalier in its approach to customer privacy; or you are systematically exploiting loopholes and using convenient excuses to pacify irate customers while you continue to deduct money on a monthly basis from thousands of unsuspecting consumers. I don't know which of the two it is, but neither is a good idea.
If you are genuinely concerned about people being subscribed without their knowledge or permission, then change your business model to an "opt-in" one, and send an SMS to all your existing subscribers asking them to confirm that they still want the service. Also, publish an apology on your web site for the inconvenience caused by your current dodgy practices. Then I'll believe you. Until then, CellFind is the company who got caught with its hands in the cookie jar.

Update Monday 14 th April: Autopage company policy is that they don't give out lists of numbers to anyone. What do you say to that, Mr Barnard? You were very vague about who you got the numbers from.

Update 21 November 2008: It seems that their practices have not changed. Here is an article from the Independent Online web site.

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