Thursday, June 30, 2011
I called Genesis Capital on the same number and they didn't appear to be too interested in helping me. The Marketing Manager wasn't available, and someone else cut me off while trying to put me through to someone else. I have logged a query with FNB about the breach of privacy, but personally I doubt if my bank had anything to do with this database. I have also logged a query with Genesis Capital, but I doubt if these scumbags will respond.
People like this buy databases on the assumption that it is OK to use the information to run a credit check on me and then contact me if the credit check looks promising. What they don't realise is that I have told the credit check companies like TransUnionITC to put my name on their Do Not Call database. So when they call they are already breaking the law. Not that this kind of company has any business ethics to speak of, so that wouldn't bother them much.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Is there no end to the web of deception and deceit practised by Morvec, Opera Telecoms, Go Go Mobile and Oxygen8? Morvec are the guys with a domain and email address in the UK, and a box number in Hong Kong. Go Go Mobile have an 0800 number in South Africa but refuse to divulge their address. Trevor Louw, the "MD" of Opera Interactive is also the "Internal Account and Customer Services Manager" of Oxygen8 Communications with telephone number 011-218-5600. Between the three of them is an unhappy mix-up that has resulted in R70 being deducted from my phone account at MTN without my permission or prior knowledge.
On Wednesday Paul Barrat (Morvec) tried to get me to agree to a "full and final settlement" in exchange for a R100 refund. Today I complained to both Morvec and Trevor Louw that the promised refund had not been provided. They gave some feeble excuse about the refund only being sent on Monday. Clearly they are not taking this matter seriously, since it was promised on Thursday. When I pointed out all the ducking and diving going on, I got a heated and indignant reply from Trevor Louw:
With all due respect – we do not go around looking to pinch an odd R28 here and there – the matter of the fact is there are many south Africans out there who are not affected by this simply because they did not engage in any services. The mere fact that we know what model of handset you use proves that there was interaction between your handsets [sic] and the wap sites that Morvec run that is no co-incidence. We have no time changing dates and times – dates and times are recorded by machines that handle the interaction between your handset and the sites that are being visited. I would really like to think that you are a man of reasonable intellect, you have gone to many lengths to get this sorted – WASPA is the ultimate organization that can see us getting fined a lot of money if compliancy was at stake here, and in this light we take this very seriously especially as opera telecom. In the interim we have afforded you a refund; Morvec has a deadline that they were given by WASPA to respond to your complaint I believe they still are within that time period. In due course you will get your response and WASPA can make an informed decision looking at the evidence that is provided to them.Of course this rant is only partially true, so I have taken the trouble to point out some of the discrepancies:
Had your company had taken my initial complaint seriously and given me the refund I demanded when I called on Friday 10 June, I would not have complained to WASPA. But your company refused the refund, and fobbed me off with a telephone number that doesn’t work. So much for customer service.
Instead, your company continued to bill me, in spite of my email to be added to your Do Not Contact list, and an Unsubscribe request from WASPA. All of these were “processed” by yourselves *before* the deductions of 18, 19 and 21 June.
Your technical information has changed several times:
From Ant Brooks:
According to our system, Morvec removed you from their systems on 2011-06-16 and also indicated that they have blocked your number from any further billing. They also provided us with proof of your subscription, with the following log entry
MSISDN: 27789389XX7 [not my number]
HANDSET: Samsung SGH-J700
DATE: 2011/05/23 00:01
IP ADDRESS: 184.108.40.206
Do these logs seem to have any validity to you? If not then we'll escalate this matter, since that indicates that you may have been subscribed without your consent.
From Morvec to your customer services:
Please see below opt in information and answers below
From Morvec to me:
the below date and time must have got corrupted before they were sent, the actual date and time are as followsOne other point I only noticed while writing this blog post: The last date of 21 June is clearly wrong, because the MTN call centre was able to tell me about the deduction before my lunchtime meeting with the MTN executives, a full 8 hours before I allegedly subscribed.
From you to Doris at MTN:
See response from the SP – I have asked for some screen shots as well, is there any way that you could collate this data with what you may have on your side to see if all makes sense?
21/05/2011 at 22:01:01
18/06/2011 at 18:43:35
19/06/2011 at 14:09:24
19/06/2011 at 18:27:38
21/06/2011 at 21:20:42
This user has entered into 4 campaigns in the last 3 days by clicking on WAP Banners or Text Adverts. We currently use 31801 and have also recently tested on 42977 for a new agency with seperate advertising campaigns so that we have one agency per code which is easier for me to keep track of results from each agency.
So please don’t tell me that you aren’t changing your minds. And where are all the confirmation SMS messages you are required to send? And where all my replies? There aren’t any.
I can confirm that On 18 and 19 June I displayed ads for “The Mob Club” on Cricinfo, but those URLs are c.admob.com, not mobilewap.oit.co.za, and I received an email from The Mob Club assuring me their ad campaign had nothing to do with the short codes mentioned above. Their short codes are 31927 and 31848. The full URL I recorded on my phone is: http://c.admob.com/c1/4/EkwmvDjF8bEkKw-kMaMDS074DFCA384006D60447277526020d4fd670629663d74205e?uurid=1F70C50F7F91EA49EC0CDB2CB703C45&uut=t&e=%28NEE1RkMzNjBENTY2MCw0NjAwNzA2NSww
This is all clearly documented in my blog post
In the interim you have refunded only the first two deductions, and tried to get me to send a “full and final settlement” for the remaining deduction. Presumably that is to avoid another R100,000 fine like you got for WASPA complaint #6868.
In the meantime I have had a meeting with MTN to try and prevent companies like yours from stealing money from my phone. They are being most helpful.
The initial “subscription” date has changed 4 times
23/05/2011 00:01 on a Samsung phone
23/05/2011 00:01 on a Nokia phone
21/05/2011 15:01:06 on a Nokia phone
21/05/2011 at 22:01:01 on a Nokia Phone
Update 3pm: Amazing how a "refund" payment that could only happen "on Monday" is suddenly sped up when I pointed out they were lying and not treating the matter seriously. I guess they hope this will make me shut up and go away. After all, it has only been two weeks since they ignored my first complaint.
Monday 27th, 4pm: I left a message for Andre Kruger (CEO, Oxygen8 South Africa) at 011-218-5600 to call me. Funny, he hasn't called. The call could have saved him a lot of trouble.
Update Thursday 30th June: Steven Hunt, Director of EMEA, Morvec Limited, writing from his WorkPC at 220.127.116.11 (Bournemouth, UK) sent a long rambling response to my WASPA complaint. I'll have to pick my way through it and respond to WASPA. It contains many inaccuracies and misrepresentations, but I expected nothing less.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
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COMPANY NAME/CONTACT PERSON/TELE/FAX/EMAIL/ADDRESS
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3 SA Business List 30 078 record with 8766 emails Only R50!
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1887 unique email addresses
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12 Travel Agents list 214 records all with emails Only R50!
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This email is not spam, it was manually sent by me, and the sole purpose being to introduce this offer to you with no obligation on your part. I handpicked your company as being one in the industry that would possibly find this offer useful. Your email address was therefore publicly available and it has not been added to any list. We will not contact you again, but if you wish to unsubscribe anyway, just reply with the word “unsubscribe”, and I’ll keep a note in case we land up on your website again.
Cell: 071 273 6004
I hate to burst your greedy little bubble, Mathew, but my email address is not "publicly available" and if you had actually read anything on my web site you would have known that. So you get the "Lousy Spammer of the Month" award, you greedy little lowlife marketer. Try getting some ethics before you look for an honest job. You have just trashed your reputation.
Update: He obviously doesn't know much about email, because this information is included in the email header:
Received: from dsl-243-98-32.telkomadsl.co.za ([18.104.22.168]:59157 helo=GlenPC)
Saturday, June 18, 2011
These telecoms guys have an interesting new definition of the word "permission"; and it violates all ethical norms and codes of conduct. But that never stopped these companies from making a quick buck before.
I have finally figured out how it works, and how they "caught" me before. I remember on the day of the IPL Cricket final going to m.espncricinfo.com, the mobile site for CricInfo, to see what time the match would start. The site was overloaded, and very slow. I vaguely remember clicking on a display ad by mistake. It's an easy enough mistake to make, given how slow the graphics were loading. It was right at the top of the page, and I had scrolled down further already, but the cursor obviously hadn't moved yet. When this advert page appeared, I selected "back" and continued.
It turns out that purely by viewing this page, R14 was deducted from my phone account every 3 days until I noticed. I did not have to click any buttons, or agree to any pricing, or even be aware of what they were selling, if anything. Think of it as the virus of Internet display ads.
Last night I decided to retrace my steps, and see what happened. Using the built-in browser on my Nokia phone, I loaded up m.cricinfo.com and selected the "Live" cricket match. In this case it was England vs Sri Lanka. At the top and bottom of the page is a banner ad (from admob.com) that says: "Fun Mobile Videos Click Here". There is no indication of any cost involved before you click, and once you have clicked on the link the web site gets the MSISDN (subscriber) number from the phone. I have no idea whether the privacy geniuses at Nokia or MTN decided to give away my identity online in this fashion, but there you have it: it gets used for fraud without the phone owner's knowledge or explicit permission.
Later on, you might get a message from the robbing party informing you how to cancel your subscription, but by then the first amount has already been deducted. If the MTN network doesn't deliver the SMS, then that's just too bad. On 21st May I got no such message, so Morvec just kept deducting money until 7th June, by which time all my airtime was exhausted.
Last night I got a message after I clicked on the ad, and sent the "STOP" message immediately, but not soon enough for the MTN call centre to tell me today that another R14 had been deducted from my phone. So much for telling Opera not to subscribe me ever again. I guess they just aren't prepared to listen. According to the Morvec email I got:
Your cell number clicked on one of our banners via the mobile Internet and then accepted the terms and conditions [of] our wap page. Your number is automatically passed to us when you click on our Join button by the Mobile Networks.Never mind that there is no "Join button" on the ad to click on.
Scroll down & CLICK THE BUTTON RIGHT NOW & join the FUN!!
Bringing u great Games, Videos and more & great value, wallpapers and Screensavers cost jusr R10, Videos R25, Mobile Games R28! This is a subscription service charged at a minimum of ONLY R14 every 3 days which you can use to buy EXTRA content EVERY TIME - CLICK NOW ....
If billing is unsuccessful, retries for this billing cycle will be retried at discounted amounts and potentially on different days, by joining the service you are providing your explicit permission for this to happen. Cellmates has requested that your mobile number be made available.
By clicking Enter Here you confirm that you are joining the CellMates Club
For HELP please call 0800982175 or email email@example.com - sms STOP to 31927 or 31848 at any time to end
Surely the legitimate, legal and ethical way is to actually have a "Join" button that you would have to click on, that would initiate an SMS message to my phone, which would then require me to send the word "JOIN" to their servers? Of course it would! But these guys aren't ethical or honest enough to do that. They deduct first, dodge questions later, knowing that they can rip off a large section of the public without their knowledge. It would also be great if MTN would allow me to block these deductions, but since they get a cut, why should they bother about minor details such as breaking the law?
We understand your frustration, however, the Go Go Mobile service that you have been charged for is in no way associated with our company and service. We suggest that you contact the provider of the service directly on the 0800 number they have provided.
We do buy advertising through Admob so on some occasions you will see adverts for our service and on other occasions adverts for services unrelated to our company, which is clearly what has happened in this instance. Our service is fully compliant with all regulations - before you join the service it clearly states the price, it displays information on how to unsubscribe and it has our full contact details. If you DO NOT click on the 'Enter Here' button to confirm your subscription you will NEVER be charged by our service.
Please remove any reference to our service from this web page since we are not associated with the service you are complaining about. Please confirm when this will be done.
Update Friday 24th June: That "refund" Paul offered me has still not arrived. And Opera is getting a lot of complaints on HelloPeter too: 233 unhappy customers in the last year. Opera didn't learn from WASPA complaint #6868 where they were fined heavily. I hope they are fined heavily again, because they could go to jail if charged with fraud and theft. Maybe that's why they tried the "full and final settlement" con.
We think it would be far better to remove all references to 'The Mob Club' from your blog, not just strike them out, all you have done is visit our service terms and conditions landing page, you have never been subscribed or billed by our service. Frankly we don't like our service named under a headline of 'stealing money'.Well, [un]Helpdesk, I think the best way you can disassociate yourself from the bad apples of the industry is to stop doing business with the likes of scum like Opera Interactive. Then maybe you won't be so embarassed about who you are. But with a name like "The Mob Club" you clearly have no idea.
Content services use URLs whitelisted by the networks so you may well see many very similar URLs for different services despite the providers behind them having absolutely nothing to do with each other.
We generally have no problem sharing company details at all, but we've never billed you nor have you ever been a member of our services so have no reason to give out this information especially as your original complaint seems to be evolving, again we have absolutely no involvement in it all other than you navigated to one of our services terms and conditions landing pages via banner ads on the mobile Internet and we would rather be left alone and associations no longer made as there is nothing at all contentious relating to us.
So what would be really fair is for you to remove references to us as there is no reason for us to appear on your blog and then we can all move forward.
We hope you manage to resolve your complaint successfully.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Many of their members don't seem to know what a "Do Not Contact" database is. Never mind the ECT Act or the newer Consumer Protection Act, which allows customers to specify whether they want to receive marketing communications from a given company. See Chapter 2.B.11.1 of the Consumer Protection Act. In particular, I have the right "... to pre-emptively block ..." approaches from a marketer.
So after my incident with the Morvec scam, I decided to write to all members of WASPA asking them to make sure that my number is added to their "Do Not Contact" list. Four of the email addresses supplied in the Full Member database don't work. About half of the respondents added my number to their list. The rest are just confused. Many denied that they were invoicing me anything, without adding me to their DNC list. Some are confused as to what a DNC list is. I have had to send 8 requests to the list of 89 email addresses repeating my request to be added to their DNC list. Why don't they just use the DMA's list, flawed as it is?
Monday, June 13, 2011
Recently Noseweek reported on MTN's efforts to stop a particularly large scale version of this problem, but only because their call centre was overloaded with complaints.
"... MTN call centres and stores had been flooded by thousands of subscribers complaining that they had never requested any content from T Mobile, so the company had decided to undertake an internal audit - which had revealed that the content provider had, in the space of 10 days, sent out debit requests worth more than R500,000."What puzzles me is why MTN would hand over the money in the first place. Did they guarantee payment up front with no questions asked? Are they that stupid?
Last week my airtime suddenly vanished, and when I called MTN to find out why, I was told of two deductions from my account on 5th and 7th June. I had not authorised anyone to deduct anything. The call centre told me the money had been deducted by "Opera Telecom" and when I called them on 083-916-3089 they said they were unable to provide me with a refund. This is a violation of the WASPA code of conduct.
Today I tried a different approach, which seems to be working. I called Opera's other number, 084-194-2222 and asked for the name of the MD. It turns out his name is Trevor Louw but the company got somewhat alarmed when I asked for his ID number. Why did I need that? I explained that I needed it for the case of fraud I planned to file at the police station. I explained that since they had deducted the money from my account, and had refused to provide a refund, I was now taking the matter further.
They told me that they had done the deduction on behalf of Morvec Ltd, a company whose South African landline number 011-461-3294 is out of service, their postal address is in Hong Kong and their email contact address is in the UK. I told Opera that I wasn't prepared to wait for them to get the refund from Morvec (good luck with that) before they pass it on to me. They could refund me today, since they had made the deduction, and then obtain the refund from Morvec later.
Nonetheless it's a start, albeit a pretty feeble one. Vodacom has something similar.
Update 4.30pm: I got to speak to Trevor Louw at Opera Interactive, who vacillated between being smug, officious and helpful. His company does the billing on behalf of scum like Morvec, and Opera's business ethics are such that they do NOT have a Do Not Contact list. Nonetheless he assures me that they are taking my complaint seriously and they are waiting for "proof" from Morvec that I signed up. How do I prove that I didn't sign up, or that I didn't receive anything from them to confirm my subscription?
I have a growing suspicion that they will say that they sent me a message telling me that I should OPT OUT if I don't want to subscribe, which is illegal.
11.3.1. If a subscription service is initiated by entering a customer's mobile number on a web page or WAP site, then a separate confirmation message must be sent to the customer's mobile handset in order to prove that the number entered matches the customer's mobile handset number.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
On Thursday I paid out R300 for bugs in a new module that I could swear I tested thoroughly. I guess not. But I was glad to be able to pay out the money, because they haven't found any problems since. And there are a few happy call centre operators who reported the problems.
I have now got a backlog of bugs to fix, many of them minor but annoying. I doubt if half of them would have come to my attention so soon without the reward. And certainly it gives me more confidence that next time I make changes to the program that I'll be hearing sooner rather than later about anything I overlooked or missed during testing.