Numerous mobile subscribers using the “Vodacom Track an Athlete SMS Line” to track Ironman South Africa 2013 athletes did not receive the promised service. The subsequent fight to get a refund proved to be a massive challenge.
The Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa 2013 event took place on 14 April 2013, and the event organisers said that people can to track the athletes from their phones at all stages.
One subscriber who was left without any updates after the “Track an Athlete SMS” system failed requested a refund. What followed showed how challenging it can be to get a refund on an SMS service:
17 April 2013
- Because no service was received, he tried to find out who was responsible for the service. The Ironman South Africa 2013 website stated that the SMS service was “powered by Vodacom”. Vodacom customer support referred him to Cointel who was apparently behind the service.
- The number provided by Vodacom support for Cointel led to Vodacom Business Messaging Solutions. Apparently Cointel has not existed for a few years.
- He then learned that Vodacom Business Messaging Solutions (VBMS) is actually called Always Active Technologies, operating bulk messaging services for Vodacom, and trading under the Vodacom banner.
- VBMS confirmed that they collected the money, but said that a technical fault on the side of Spec-Savers Ironman was to blame for the SMS problems. VBMS said that they were currently investigating the notification problems with Spec-Savers Ironman, and will decide on the refunds strategy in due course.
- A formal complaint is lodged via e-mail to VBMS and Vodacom Support.
23 April 2013
- VBMS replied to follow up e-mails, saying that “All customers affected have been forwarded for analysis. We will advise within due course.”
- Phone call to VBMS support: explanation given on the process which involves analysing the SMS system to figure out which clients are due refunds from which network operators.
9 May 2013
- R15 refunded. No SMS notifying of refund. Refund verified through Vodacom online recharge history website.
4 June 2013
- Received SMS notifying that a the refund had been processed.
- Some people affected by the same problem have received a refund notification SMS, while others have not. One person who has not received the SMS, has no refund reflected on his Vodacom online recharge history website.