Friday, June 23, 2017

What part of "Do Not Call" is it that MTN doesn't understand?

These are the people at MTN who are personally and collectively responsible for the failure of the company to observe even the most basic adherence to the concept of privacy or an understanding of what "Do Not Call" (for marketing purposes) means. Their names are:
  • PF Nhleko;
  • P Hanratty;
  • S Miller;
  • AF van Biljon;
  • NL Sowazi;
  • A Harper;
  • KP Kalyan;
  • NP Mageza;
  • MLD Marole;
  • AT Mikati;
  • KC Ramon;
  • J van Rooyen; and
  • S Kheradpir
To give you an example of how bad it is, yesterday I had to send the following email:
Dear Rishen, Kaveen and Bridget
You seem to have missed the point. I am assuming deliberately but will give you the benefit of the doubt and put it down to sheer bloody-minded incompetence.
I have *ALWAYS* been on your Do Not Call list. I made it clear when I first obtained my MTN number, and have repeated it every time I have renewed my contract. I have also complained to MTN before about this matter. Many times.
  • July 2011:
  • May 2009:
  • Nov 2007:
  • June 2007:
  • Oct 2006:
  • Aug 2006:
Since your company has known since 2006 that I do not wish to receive marketing communications, the fact that you supplied my name for marketing purposes to a third party is a clear violation of the ECT Act, plus the more recent privacy laws.
So what is it going to take to get MTN and its affiliates, subsidiaries and third party call centres to get the message? You clearly don’t seem to think that the bad publicity from my blog is motivation enough, so what is it going to be?
I also fail to understand why it is so desperately important for MTN to get me to renew my contract. You only offer 24 month contracts, not monthly or annual ones. I have my own phone and I will stick to my monthly renewal until I decide otherwise. I know this makes MTN nervous, and so you should be.
I await a suitable explanation. MTN’s marketing division clearly do not understand the concept of privacy or the desire not to be interrupted during a busy day with trivial and annoying marketing messages.
Looking forward to your reply,
It all started earlier this year when my 24 month MTN contract came up for renewal. I have a working phone, which I bought separately, and I decided to let the contract continue on a month-to-month basis. I told the person who called me that I had no interest in talking to them and they should not call again. I also blocked the number 083-123-7355 on my phone. So they tried calling on a different number 083-011-0100 and leaving voice messages. I called back and told them to take me off their autodial list. I made it very clear that I was not in the mood to be called by their marketing people.
But they persisted. They started calling my land line too. Yesterday they called twice. I found out that the company making these calls uses a bogus number 083-123-7355 for their call centre. You cannot call them on that number. This bunch
of crooksis called CCI SA and they have another call centre number 0861-262-241. When I called this number and complained about unsolicited calls the call centre agent was completely clueless and had no idea how to remove me from their list. Her supervisor, naturally, was "in a meeting".
I call them crooks because they made no attempt whatsoever to comply with the ECT Act, and they are not members of the Direct Marketing Association. That tells me that they are unscrupulous and dishonest and not to be trusted. They called me (twice!) today from 031-830-7200 to apologize and tell me that they have removed me from their call list. I pointed out that my details need to be blocked, so they aren't added again. So much for marketing ethics.
Yesterday I sent them the following email, cc'd to MTN:
Dear CCI
Please confirm that you have removed my contact numbers from your call centre databases and that you will no longer call me for any reason whatsoever on my cell phone number [redacted], or my land line number [redacted]
I should point out that my details have been on the DMASA Do Not Contact database for 12 years or so.
I am sick and tired of being contacted by yourselves on behalf of MTN, who should know better, and who have clearly violated the DMASA’s code of conduct by providing you with my details without my permission, and without informing you of my DMASA Do Not Call status.
Thanks in advance
Donn Edwards
Needless to say I have not had a reply from their email. But I did get a response from Bridget Bhengu, Senior Manager: Public Relations & Internal Communications. She referred the matter to Rishendren Damodaram, who roped in Kaveen Kalicharran, who "manages CCI". Rishen notified their Marketing Department and my name "has been removed from MTN Marketing", whatever that means. Probably not much. Hence my email at the top of this post.
It turns out that MTN are not members of the DMASA.
This would explain their unethical and illegal behaviour. Why am I not surprised?
Update Friday 23 June: I made a mistake in claiming that MTN are not a member of DMASA. They are listed on this page as "MOBILE TELEPHONE NETWORKS (PTY) LTD - SOUTH AFRICA". In spite of that they seem confused about how the Doc Not Call list works. And they seem to be blissfully unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the provisions of the ECT Act. Section 45 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, no 25 of 2002. states the following:
45. (1) Any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to consumers, must provide the consumer—­
(a) with the option to cancel his or her subscription to the mailing list of that person; and
(b) with the identifying particulars of the source from which that person obtained the consumer's personal information, on request of the consumer.
That implies that their call centre agents should be able to mark customers as "Do Not Call" by adding them to a do not call list maintained by the organisation. Clearly MTN doesn't know how to do this correctly. They should also be able to check their data against the DMA list before they hand over the data to third parties (it that is even legal any more). Clearly they failed to do this too. How convenient.
Update Friday 30 June: MTN called again, this time from 087-350-8555. They don't even have the ability to put my name on the do not call list, which is another clear violation of the ECT Act. Listen to the recording.
Update Thursday 10 August: My blocked call log shows that MTN called from 083-123-7355 again on 8th August and again today on the 10th August.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Sunday Independent's Persistent Online Lies

On Sunday 23rd April the Sunday Independent published an incorrect and misleading article about the "It's Time" prayer event near Bloemfontein. A million people showed up to pray for the country. Their freelance correspondent Sidwell Guduka wrote a piece that was published in the paper and online. The story was picked up and repeated by numerous other smaller online web sites.
I was not at the event, so I am not able to comment on the overall accuracy of the story, but there was one obvious and glaring inaccuracy that could and should have been fact-checked by the Sunday Independent newsroom. The sentence "He touched down in his private jet just a stone’s throw from the area where the event was held." Angus Buchan doesn't own a jet. How many farmers do?
The Cape Argus went a step further, combining two separate articles into a single mishmash and making out that Angus Buchan is a "bogus pastor".
So I wrote to the Press Council of South Africa to complain about both of them. It seems that Independent Newspapers has withdrawn from this august body, and has its own internal (but useless) complaints procedure. I forwarded two complaints to <> and have only received a reply to one of them from their "Group Ombudman". They clearly don't feel that correcting misleading information is any kind of priority, since after 5 weeks all they have done is publish this apology in the print edition of the Sunday Independent:
In my opinion, the line "This is not the case" doesn't clarify anything. It doesn't make it clear whether he didn't arrive in his private jet (but still has a private jet), or whether he arrived in a private jet belonging to someone else, or whether he arrived at all. Very sloppy writing. Their take is:
"This is not the case" means exactly that: that Buchan didn't arrive by private jet/ doesn't own a private jet/ didn't arrive by aircraft on the farm.
So which is it? They clearly don't know or don't care. But we know he was at the venue, along with a million other people.
My attempts to get in touch with Jovial Rantao, their current Group Ombudsman have largely failed. His landline 011-633-2180 voice mailbox is not set up so you can't leave a message. His emails (with one exception) go unanswered. I eventually called his cell phone number 082-446-6008 and he rambled on about how 5 weeks was a long time to deal with the complaint but there were "circumstances" that caused the delay. He claimed to be "unaware" of the fact that the online article was still not corrected. He claimed that someone else reads the emails to <> but when I challenged him on a mail sent directly to his own mailbox on Tuesday he was "unaware" of it.
Clearly the reputation of innocent parties is not a high priority for a newspaper group that produces 21% of South African print media (by circulation). They may claim that "the unflinching truth" is their quest, but accuracy and clarity of thought are obviously not part of the package.
The irony is that this article appeared right next to the sloppy "apology" they printed. Sad. In the meantime the "Bogus Pastor" accusation has still not been dealt with. It seems that no good deed will go unpunished by lacklustre and sloppy writers.

Update 23rd July 2017: Instead of correcting the online article, IOL just deleted it. So much for journalistic integrity. The Weekend Argus article has still not been corrected or apologized for. Sigh.