When buying data bundles, prepaid cellular subscribers in South Africa are given a host of options to choose from.
You can buy monthly bundles, daily bundles, weekly bundles, or bundles that you can only use at certain times of the day.
This raises the question: What happens if you make a mistake? Can you return a bundle for a refund to buy another?
To test what happens when you request a refund on bundle purchases, I bought data bundles from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom and requested refunds immediately afterwards.
Where possible, I tested bundles where the terms and conditions weren’t clear and someone might legitimately make a mistake.
Cell C – No refunds
The USSD menu for Cell C’s 30-day data bundles lists all its normal bundles, as well as 1GB and 2GB “GNite” bundles.
Cell C’s GigaNite bundle data only works in the early hours of the morning.
Subscribers are not prompted with an explanation of what “GNite” is before the purchase is authorised, though they are informed the bundle expires in 30 days.
Upon trying to refund the bundle, Cell C’s support agents informed me they cannot give refunds on data bundles for any reason.
Vodacom – No refunds
I was unable to find a Vodacom bundle where a subscriber might buy something without knowing when it expires or when the data is valid.
I bought a standard 100MB bundle and asked the support agent if I could return it because I wanted to get something else.
Vodacom’s agent made it clear they do not offer refunds on any bundle purchase.
MTN – Refund received
MTN recently listed a “1GB Adhoc Promo Bundle” for R79 on its online portal.
I bought it to see what it was as no details were available anywhere.
It turned out to be a bundle with a 2-week validity, and I was billed R89 for it, not R79.
I immediately contacted a support line and requested a refund without using a byte of the data in the bundle.
MTN provided a reference number and an assurance that the matter was being attended to.
After multiple follow-ups, I was told they can’t perform the refund because I’ve used some of the data already.
I explain that I had no choice as I couldn’t select which of my bundles data was deducted from, and argued that they at least need to refund me the R10 they overbilled me.
The matter was escalated and I received a full refund despite having used some of the bundle.
Under normal circumstances, I am told, MTN would not offer refunds on data bundle purchases.
Telkom – Refund received
Telkom is offering subscribers special deals to reward them for remaining on the network.
One of the deals was a 1GB data bundle for R25, but the SMS promoting the deal did not warn that it was only valid for 7 days.
Upon requesting a refund, and having to follow up when the support staff did not give feedback, we were told the bundle could not be refunded because it was “active”.
Not a byte of data was used, and we had asked previous support agents if they could switch us to another bundle while they investigate the issue – but they could not.
Telkom gave a refund after I requested comment on their refund policies for this article.
It apologised for the service we received and said this was an exceptional circumstance as the promotional offers involve third-party suppliers.
Telkom said it was looking at ways to ensure customers can view the terms and conditions of any promotion on it website, and that bundle refunds must go through an approval process before being implemented.