IN YOUR CORNER
Secrets and lies - they’re all in call recordings
Telesales agents can blatantly lie to potential customers to get them to agree to a deal, but you’ve got recourse
Donald Trump tells lies, but because it’s a bit awkward to say that of your president, some White House reporters have taken to calling his lies “demonstrable falsehoods”.
Hillary Clinton made the word “misspoke” famous when talking about her false claim to have landed in Bosnia under sniper fire in 1996. “If I misspoke,” she said, “that was just a misstatement.”
Call it what you like, it’s not uncommon for telesales agents to blatantly lie to potential customers in order to get them to agree to a deal. And thanks to call recordings, those lies are demonstrable – able to be proved.
Sometimes it’s the script that contains the lies; other times the agent goes rogue to close the deal and score the commission. And when the lie is exposed by the recording, that usually results in the contract being cancelled, but what’s far more satisfying is the consumer demanding from the company what they were falsely promised by that telesales agent – at no extra cost.That’s exactly what happened to some MultiChoice customers a few years ago.
MultiChoice appointed a company called On Air to cold-call its customers still hanging on to their old decoders, and attempt to “help them upgrade” with a supposedly special Explora+HD decoder combo deal. The sales script failed to reveal that DualView and XtraView are worlds apart and that unless they bought two Exploras, they would have vastly reduced functionality on a second set.
And because call recordings proved that the complainants were right about the non-disclosure of the reduced functionality, MultiChoice swapped the HD decoders for Exploras, at no extra cost. And that created a handy precedent for many others to get a second “free” Explora.
Charleen van Eeden of Cape Town’s “give me what you promised” case was even more delicious. Last year she got a call telling her that Vodacom wanted to thank her for her custom with a gift – not one, but three: a cellphone, tablet and gift voucher from Homemark.Naturally she smelt a rat, so she repeatedly asked about the terms, conditions and costs, and was assured that all she had to do was load R110 worth of data on both “gift” devices.
As the call recording later revealed, the salesman had failed to mention that she’d been tied into a 24-month contract.
But rather than accepting a simple cancellation of the contract, Van Eeden insisted that Vodacom honour the claim that she was being rewarded for custom with gifts.
“I don’t see why I should return something which I was told – over and over – was a gift. I was blatantly lied to and my time was wasted, so I feel they must honour what they promised me.”
I agreed with her and put that to Vodacom, which to its credit felt the same. The contract was cancelled, an investigation into the extent of that telesales agent’s lying was launched, and Van Eerden got to keep her three gifts.That case came to mind when I received Elaine Samson’s complaint recently. She was told by an telesales agent with SellDirect, one of Telkom’s marketing agents, that a two-year contract came with a Samsung tablet “roughly the size of an A4 page”.
She agreed to it, but what she got was a tablet half that size – she could tell by the size of the box. And when she tried to return the unused tablet, still in its sealed box, and cancel the deal, she was initially told that she couldn’t because the tablet had been “activated”.
Eventually she managed to get the contract cancelled, but not without a fight.
I had been very keen to take up her case and argue that she had the right to swap the Samsung tablet she got for an A4-sized one at no extra cost, but Samson wanted no more to do with the company by then.So I asked Telkom: “Had Ms Samson insisted on swapping the smaller tablet for the one she was promised in that sales call, how would Telkom have responded?”
No response. I did get this: “Selldirect Marketing acknowledges that a misrepresentation in relation to the size of the device was made which accelerated the dispute.
“Telkom apologises to our customer for the frustration and inconvenience caused and we have addressed our dealer on the matter as well to ensure that this does not occur again.” Telesales calls are a super annoying invasion of privacy for most, but there are two very good advantages to agreeing to a deal over the phone:
The call recording is a record of exactly what was said by both parties in the event of a dispute. You’re entitled to access to the call, so don’t take no for an answer.
You have a five-business day cooling off period in which to cancel for a full refund, for no particular reason – you simply get to change your mind, provided you do so in writing.