Vodacom probed for BMW competition

Vodacom may not only have "infringed" the provisions of the Lotteries Act, but also those of the National Credit Act (NCA) which makes it imperative for a credit provider not to grant credit recklessly or cause consumers to be over-indebted.

Vodacom may not only have "infringed" the provisions of the Lotteries Act, but also those of the National Credit Act (NCA) which makes it imperative for a credit provider not to grant credit recklessly or cause consumers to be over-indebted.

Mpho Thekiso of the National Credit Regulator said it will investigate whether Vodacom has infringed some provisions of the National Credit agreement.

This is after scores of Vodacom subscribers complained that they had fallen into a debt trap playing the Win-a-BMW competition since it started.

Thekiso said they would also investigate whether the advert misled consumers into playing the competition to their detriment.

The NCA states that it is reckless lending to give credit to a consumer who did not generally understand or appreciate the risk, or cost or obligation under the proposed transaction, or that entering into the agreement would make the consumer over-indebted.

But Dot Field of Vodacom said it was very careful to ensure that all customers were aware at all times of the cost of each SMS and customers who spend excessive amounts are, and have been, contacted to make them aware of their spend.

"The vast majority opted to continue participating and pay their accounts," she said.

Since the inception of their win-a-car competition, a handful of consumers have found themselves over-indebted and unable to repay the amount they pledged, hoping to win the BMW up for grabs.

Most players Sowetan spoke to said the competition was a rip-off.

This week Mpudi Maubane of Magareng in Mpumalanga received a Vodacom bill amounting to R8000. This she must repay by the end of the month.

This bill was far more than her monthly salary and repaying it in one go would cripple her budget for years to come, she said.

"I think Vodacom has been taking us for a ride by making us believe we will ultimately win. I doubt if the winners exist as they claim there is one every day."

Maubane said Vodacom knew how to get people hooked by their "misleading competition" which has caused many to fall into a debt trap.

"I'm sure the National Credit Act was trying to curb this when it compelled service providers to assess clients' ability to repay the debt."

She said a message like "Good news. With 350500 entries, you are one of the top players. SMS Yebo and be the top scorer until midnight and win the BMW without a draw", was intoxicating enough to make her believe she would win.

"With 350000 entries already, one wonders how many Vodacom still wanted from me. I am very angry," said Maubane.

There are entrants who have scores far below that of Maubane and they too were rated as top scorers.

But Field said this was not misleading, adding that the percentage rank in which a participant's entries placed them on any given day depends on the number of entries accumulated by participants in the promotional competition on that day.

Hendrikus Wessels, the Cape Town pensioner who ran up a Vodacom bill of R48000, said he was never contacted or made aware of his spending, nor was the spouse of a colleague who has attracted a bill of R14500.

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