Consumers ‘highly unsatisfied’ with Vodacom and others

Vodacom’s handling of Please Call Me and data expiry main contributors to negative sentiment.
Vodacom found wanting in consumer sentiment index. Picture: Moneyweb

South Africans are not satisfied with their mobile network providers, particularly the biggest provider, Vodacom.

The Please Call Me battle between Nkosana Makate and Vodacom as well as the service provider’s attempts to skirt new data regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) when it introduced a fee to rollover data, are the leading reasons why consumers were unhappy.

This is according to the 2019 South African Telecommunications Sentiment Index released on Monday by BrandsEye, which analysed social media posts by consumers about the four major networks over a three-month period from December 2018 to February 2019. Over half a million posts regarding Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom were retrieved from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well as other consumer sentiment sources such as Hellopeter.

The researchers at BrandsEye then took a random sample of close to 55 000 posts that to carry out a sentiment analysis with a 95% confidence level with an overall 0.8% margin of error.  These posts are not only plugged into algorithms and spreadsheets to provide rankings but are also sent to a large community of real people who provided context and evaluated the online mentions.

Overall the barometer found that consumers were “highly dissatisfied” with their mobile service providers with net sentiment scoring -45.3%.

To put this in context, when compared to BrandsEye’s sentiment index for the banking sector, overall sentiment only stood at -7.5%.

Please Call Me 

Negative consumer opinions towards Vodacom were not only the highest out of the big four but outstripped the industry average, placing it at the lowest ranking with net sentiment of -53.5% while on the opposite end Cell C’s -36.9% was highest among the providers in review.

“The Please Call Me case was a key contributor to the negative conversation about Vodacom,” states the index report.

In January Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi criticised Vodacom’s response to allegations that it had failed to honour the Constitutional Court’s order regarding Makate’s compensation for the Please Call Me invention and urged customers to cancel their subscriptions. 

“Direct references to the issue accounted for approximately 36.8% of Vodacom’s overall negative conversation. Excluding this theme, net sentiment towards Vodacom improved by 8.8%, standing at -44.7%,” said the report.

Read: Two different Please Call Me innovations at play

The index explored eight primary themes including network, ethics and reputation, customer service and pricing.

Here, Cell C faired favourably in terms of customer service, products, and ethics or reputation. While Vodacom and MTN vastly outperformed their competitors when it came to network but the disappointed when measured on products and ethics or reputation.

Despite impressing with good network, the two largest service providers did not fare well on the data. While the overall industry sentiment was -71.3%, both Vodacom and MTN’s negative sentiment was higher than the industry average at -79.7 and -78.2 respectively.

Data rollover

The data criteria included items such as affordability, special offers and compensation for lost time or costs as well as the recent Icasa regulations, which protect customers from losing expiring data.

“Telkom’s affordability and Cell C’s compensation gave them an edge in the data battleground,” according to the report while Vodacom’s Summer Gigs promotion which offered free data with every purchase saw it come out on top in the special offers category.

Half of the conversation around the Icasa ruling had to do with Vodacom, this focus was spurred by the fact that it was the only mobile network provider who wanted to charge customers to transfer or rollover expiring data.

“Consumers accused Vodacom of finding loopholes to avoid complying with the spirit of the new regulations,” the study observed. “Consumers also noted that in some instances, these rollover fees actually exceeded the cost of a bundle, therefore deterring consumers from benefiting from the regulations.”

Even when Vodacom backtracked on its plans to introduce fees, and announced that it would reduce its out-of-bundle charges by 70%, it did not do much to subdue the negative customer feedback when Vodacom said the discounts would be accompanied with increases in other tariffs.

Read: Vodacom backs down on data rollover fees – but there’s a catch

One social media user noted: “Dear Vodacom, I don’t care about out-of-bundle fees, I never go out-of-bundle. What I do care about is data rollover fees which is a new brand of f****y aimed at maximising your profits.”

The study also found that one out of 10 consumers threatened to leave their service providers with affordability being the top reason to switch to a new network followed by customer service.

“It is hoped that the findings of this South African Telecommunication Sentiment Index will trigger telecommunication leaders’ interest to dig a bit deeper into the relationship between their companies and their customers,” noted Dr Jeff Yu Jen Chen of the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

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No surprise at all.

The natural consequences of employing CEO’s and senior executives whose “integrity” is… er… elastic.

By the same token, expecting these self-same individuals to self-reflect and change their ways is naive. Leopards don’t change their spots. And snakes remain snakes even after they shed their old skin.

The effective answer is a mass consumer migration to a competitor. This is how Capitec transformed the banking industry.

Ooh… I can think of a few other industries in the financial services world that can do with this disruption too!

There is an eerie and deadly silence from Vodacom and MTN regarding the prices of data. They need to answer a simple question; why is data cheaper in Lesotho when compared to SA?

All we get from them is that they dropped prices. What we want is why Lesotho pays less.

In South Africa in general the mostly ANC supporting populace is always unhappy with everything and always want more for free. Even then they are unhappy.They do not want to work or pay for anything.Africa problem.

In general I would agree with you, but in this case, Vodacom is in the wrong. Clearly their greed is at the core of this problem.


Interesting. It mean you are happy with the present scamming of these guy.

How much is the cost of production in Lesotho compare to south africa
1, from spectrum licence, 2 real estate,tax,remuneration and so on
cheap countries are cheap for a reason
Vodacom can hire ten employee in nigeria with the same salary of one employee in sa

Vodacom realized they were overcharging some customers. I would call it stealing but lets just say they were taking more money than what they were supposed to, unintentionally. To remedy that they offered us 45GB once off for R150, but to qualify we had to buy another sim card! Really??? They couldn’t just fix their stuff up and credit our account. No, you have to help them help you (Eskom) and be charged additional fees for being stolen from in the first place. This is so South African, so Eskom and ANC/EFF/ BEE you can’t help but think this cannot last…..

It is about time that the rapacious Vodacom and MTN become customer friendly. (Voluntarily or forced)
Last year they were to introduce a system to roll over data for at least a couple of months and, wragtag, they found a way to get around that.
I have a 2 year contract for airtime and they found a way to hit me with a price increase (albeit a small amount, it still stinks. I can cancel the contract, they say, but there are penalties. What a lot of clowns) midway through the contract period!
If ICASA is to be of any use to man or beast, that is the type of behavoiur that needs to be rooted out.

Prepaid is the way to go. Also doesn’t make so seductive to go for the latest expensive phone.
I am quite satisfied with CC customer care. Have been with them for over a decade. Left VC fuming after an exremely bad example of customer care.
I believe the best thing is,to get a cash dual SIM Android phone.
Vodacon and EmptyN don’t sell them, but CC and TM do. Otherwise from online retailers like Loot or Takealot. Some people order them online from overseas, no experience with that. One has to be careful with import duties and guarantee. And stick a prepaid CC SIM on their 66 cts prepaid tariff : 66 cts/min voice to all networks, per sec billing, SMS 15 cts. CC has good data bundles. And a TM SIM Sonke prepaid one in the second slot: Voice 79 cts/min to all networks per sec billing, 29 cts/min to other TM users, per sec billing. 29 cts per SMS, Excellent Freeme data and social media bundles.
CC has roaming agreement with MTN for 3G and LTE data roaming, and TM is switching to roaming with VC where they don’t have coverage. So a Dual SIM phone like that gives you connection to ALL 4 networks. One will never got lost.

Would not go for Samsung, but rather choose a Xiaomi one with at
least 3 Gb RAM and 16 Gb ROM. Good reviews, excellent value for money.
Major brand in Asia, and has a SA representative. Or Huawei.
Unless you have enough moola to splash out on the latest gadget for R 15 to 32 k. Or be stuck in a contract.

We have complained for years but no body listened. Maybe heard but did not listen.

Look, I hate contracts just as much as the next guy. That’s why I am on pre-paid. My bug bear as that I feel the penalty fees for cancelling early is overly burdensome.

Yet, let’s be fair. Every cell contract I have seen allows for the supplier to increase fees from time to time.

You agreed to it. Why then complain when it happens?

We should take more responsibility to what we ACTUALLY agreed to. And not just assume what we THINK we agree to.

It is mandatory for a company who lives with numerous T & C’s to explain each and every clauses intent, the problem is that most people are so happy to receive their shiny new toy and thus merely initial/sign the T & C’s pages – wrong ask them to explain each item before signing or ask them to explain all clauses which could result in a financial loss or the invoking of penalties. After all your signature on the form indicates that you have fully read the T & C’s and more importantly you fully understand the implication.
These cellphone companies hide behind contract law and expose consumers to a whipping of note

I suspect though that quite a few of these “conditions” breach consumer law, for example one of my plans was upgraded supposedly from approval from a call to my partner. Now Vodacom will not release or send me that proof, I must go to a Vodacom shop to hear it. I cannot reverse the contract additional charge over the phone but it can be increased?

If I tried this in my business I would either get laughed off or hauled before the courts. These are the dangers of licenced monopolies with ANC/BEE beneficiaries.

I was waiting for this. I know the law says you can carry over data. WELL NOT ACCORDING TO VODACOM !! If you buy 5MB (to save money) the under-educated rep said that I have to renew with another 5gb before 30 days,or GONE. Someday they will figure it out and realize all the customers they lost.

all SA cell-providers screw clients financially wrt data.But I agree that VC/MN are the worst.Best is prepaid even though it’s not as convenient as contract.When you run out you run out – no hidden charges.Btw, to save data just go to phone ‘settings’ and look for (and tap) ‘restrict background data’ and data usage is reduced to a trickle.PS:Makro sells unlocked phones that can be used on all networks.

Unfortunately the Vodacom leopard can’t change its spots. Dishonesty and sharp practices is part of its DNA. The Please Call Me saga will rumble on until justice prevails. All quiet on that score for the moment.

Imagine if Julius and his EFF followers took up the PCM cause at the time, instead of doing a deal with the Vodacom CEO in December 2018 to behave themselves, before that bogus settlement announcement from Loni Prinsloo at Bloomberg, ably assisted by Byron Kennedy the Vodacom spokesman.

The truth will prevail in the end methinks……

End of comments.





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