Why I’ve left MTN
So I’ve been shopping around in a non-serious fashion in the last few months trying to figure out how best to leave MTN and how get the best deal for me. I don’t like MTN since I became an “irate“, as I might call such a customer in the ISP industry. MTN’s Customer-Service Call Centre had rarely been helpful or knowledgeable on their own systems. The final straw however was when their systems let me screw myself over and Customer Service was as helpful as a dead redshirt:
I had a billing issue where, admittedly, it started of my own fault. MTN has a feature where you can call in to find out the amount owing on your account. Only, as Murphy would have it, this amount was not the amount owing on the account but the last amount that was billed.
So one month my account was about R900. I called the number, mis-heard R500, paid the amount I thought I should: R500. 15 days later MTN suspended my account. No wrong done, right? Wrong.
First off, I received no notification of any kind. An sms would make the most sense, especially since it would cost MTN almost no resources: “Your account xyz is in arrears by R400. Please contact blah blah blah”. They could phone me, they could email me, something, but nothing of the sort happened. Suspend without Prejudice. Thats the best way to get the customer’s attention!
Now, not only could I not make calls and sms’s, I could not receive calls or sms’s. Further, I could not even call MTN’s toll free phone number. I had to use someone else’s phone to get to the bottom of the problem. After two days of haggling I finally found a lady kind enough to re-enable the account. Ten days later my salary goes in, I call the same number and hear a number close to “R900″. I think to myself maybe I should double-check juuuust in case I mis-heard. I call again, I hear the same number again. Right. Pay the R900. Fifteen days later, my phone is suspended AGAIN. WTH?
Remember what I mentioned earlier?: “this amount was not the amount owing on the account but the last amount that was billed.” So, in spite of the fact that the voice prompt specifically says “Press 3 for Balance Due; [Presses 3] ; The Total Outstanding Balance is; Nine; hundred; and; #whatever ; Rands; and; #whatever; cents”, I actually owed them R900 plus the R400 that I’d paid short the previous month. No, I do not know if MTN has fixed this. I no longer care. Since I figured this out I started waiting for paper statements to see how much was actually due. Interestingly, their paper statements were also wrong. Only they had the opposite problem: “This invoice: R1300″ in spite of the fact that on the next page it says opening balance “R400″, closing balance “R1300″. Pah! Is it fixed? Again, I don’t care.
I let them know I wasn’t renewing the contract and I’ve now already ported my number away to Virgin Mobile. Because I want to keep my number and port it elsewhere, the store said I could not put “unsatisfactory service” as the reason for ending the contract but that it should simply say “porting”. Apparently by putting anything else there they might not “notice” that I want it ported. WTF.
What next? (without MTN)
In my research I’ve found that contract “deals” are most popular. Typically, you can get a R8000 phone for R800 per month over 24 months with R500-odd worth of airtime per month. This amounts to you paying R19 200 over a 24-month period for a phone worth R8000 which will be obsolete within 12 months. You will get some airtime every month so you might feel its not a complete loss. However you should also remember that it costs the cellular companies nothing when you make those phone calls. Profit.
There’s a better way
There are much cheaper contracts, contracts for between R50 and R200 which include cheapish phones – phones that work damned well as a phone but won’t let you play games on the train. Most of these contracts actually give you the same airtime value (sometimes more!) as what you are paying. So for R100 you might get R100 worth of airtime plus some free sms’s, and a cheapish phone. The best deals I’ve seen recently have all been for the Samsung STAR, an understated but good cell phone, available from a number of retailers for between R100 and R200 per month. In most cases the deals have included the full amount of airtime. Virgin Mobile has probably the best example here: The cost is R199 per month which includes R200 in airtime and 1000 sms’s (yes, you read that right – one thousand!).
Virginal Service All the Way!
Another reason I’ve gone with Virgin Mobile is a little something no other service provider does: A “mixed” Contract/Prepaid facility. I get R200 in airtime however, if I go over that, the extra just gets added to my invoice. With MTN this could go sky high without the option of a limit! With Virgin, because I asked, it has a limit of R300. However, I can still add prepaid airtime (with cellphone banking, nogal). No other service provider lets you do this!
Remember that R8000 cell phone I mentioned earlier? My plan is to get the Samsung STAR and spend less than R300 per month. I’ll have saved enough money to actually go and buy a more expensive phone (or laptop) with the cash I’ll have saved! Of course, if you actually use that R800-worth of phone calls, I guess the best available deal is where you spend the R19200 anyway. Maybe at least with a more critical view on your choices you’ll save yourself a good amount of money in future. Good luck in your search for your best deal!