The SABC’s “attorneys” recently gave me call, telling me I had to pay my TV licence.
I had considered paying my TV licence that week, but the noisy call centre and its brash agent who phoned me put me off in a matter of seconds.
Agents followed up a few times after that with calls, but I told them they had the wrong number when they asked for me by name, and the calls eventually stopped.
Victory was mine – or so I thought.
While the calls ceased, the SABC unleashed a new barrage of attacks on me, SMS reminders.
The SMS attack
In the weeks that followed the call from the “attorney”, my phone has been flooded with SMSs telling me to pay my TV licence.
They come through almost every day.
Some are worded aggressively, telling me my licence payments is “now OVERDUE” and it must be paid.
Others are more matter-of-fact, stating that the SABC has not received my TV licence payment and I must “please pay TODAY”.
The last group of messages are friendly and encouraging, advising me that I can “conveniently and securely” pay my TV licence at a Shoprite, the Post Office, or online.
Regardless of their tone, all the SMSs were treated with equal disdain and I started to block the numbers that sent them – using my iPhone’s native “block number” functionality.
The SMSs did not slow down as the blocked number list increased, however, and at the time of writing I had blocked 15 numbers which sent TV licence payment SMSs.
Three of the 15 numbers were regular 10-digit cell numbers, with the 082 123 4567 format.
The remainder were much longer, and featured 15 digits – 082 123 4567 89101.
From industry feedback on the matter, MyBroadband understands that the 15-digit numbers are used by service providers to ensure replies to the messages they send are processed accurately.
The five additional digits at the end of the number are used to ensure this, with variances used to track specific companies sending particular messages.
When a users blocks a message and its number, as I did on my smartphone, the message is only blocked when it reaches the handset, though.
The sender does not have have insight into the message being blocked, which means the SABC and its service providers do not know the TV licence SMSs are being blocked – and are therefore not intentionally trying to circumvent the blocks.
As with SMS advertising messages, the correct method to block future communication is by replying STOP.
In the case of debt collection businesses, however, this may not be an option – as users generally cannot opt out of debt notifications.