MTN investigating agents cutting off emergency call

MTN said it is investigating an incident in which a woman who made an emergency call to 112 was allegedly cut off by a call centre agent.

MTN did not provide details on the case, but it appears to involve a call made by Pamela Green when she saw a woman pushed out of a moving car.

On her Facebook page, Green told the story of how the 10111 call centre told her they couldn’t dispatch an ambulance and she had to call 112.

She pleaded with them to send police, and then called 112.

“For the first 1 and a half minutes of the call I had to listen to a computer explaining that it is a criminal offence to call emergency services if you are not in a real life-and-death emergency,” said Green.

“All this time, this poor lady is screaming in fear for her life, I’m fearing for mine, she is bleeding, I am crying. And MTN South Africa now reminds me that if this is not a real emergency, I will stand to have my cellular services discontinued! (I would like nothing more than to discontinue my services from these money-hungry inhuman ‘service providers’).”

After being put through four operators, Green said she was told once again to hold.

“I do not hold! I scream and swear and lose my mind telling him to get someone to the scene (I have been on this emergency call for 8 minutes) I’m screaming that she is going to die, that whoever did this could potentially be coming back. Human 4 says: ‘Don’t scream at me!’ and puts the phone down.”

With no help from emergency services on the way, Green said an “angel then appeared out of nowhere”.

Lundi [Mhlana], a private security guard from Hlokomelang Security Services, saw them on the side of the road and stopped to help.

MTN responds

MTN’s full statement is below.

This is an update to continuing internal investigation to establish the facts behind an incident in which a woman who made a distress call to the 112 was allegedly cut off by a call centre agent.

In line with its licence obligation MTN is required to provide a toll-free line in this case 112 for emergencies. This service is outsourced to Europe Assistance to ensure that any 112 call originated on the MTN network is routed to the most appropriate emergency service i.e. the police, fire brigade or ambulance services in accordance with the requirements of the caller.

MTN can confirm that the interactive voice response (“IVR”) message that precedes the interaction with the call centre agent lasts approximately 30 seconds, including the request for the caller to press “1” to confirm that the call relates to a real emergency.

According to our records the first call occurred at 12:33 am and the duration was 5 seconds, there was no interaction with the caller on this call. The second call was received by Europe Assistance on the 19 November 2016 at 12:34 am and was answered by a call centre agent. In a quest to gather information, the agent asked probing questions to determine the nature of the incident and placed the caller on hold and called the Supervisor to assist further.

The supervisor took ownership of the call and verified certain information that needed to be provided before transferring the call to the Ekurhuleni Emergency Services as per the normal process. The entire call duration was 5 minutes and 55 seconds.

“Based on the call recordings, the supervisor that transferred the call to the emergency services stayed on the line throughout the call. She managed to keep her composure and remained professional under trying circumstances,” says Ideshini Naidoo, Chief Customer Service Officer at MTN South Africa.

She continues: “Due to high volume of prank calls, the IVR filtering message is necessary to minimise the abuse of the service. Currently 20% of the calls received by 112 are not related to the emergencies which is the core mandate of the 112 function.”

“We are working with the various emergency service providers to finalise our investigation and locate the victim so we can assist. As a caring and responsible corporate citizen, MTN views the abuse of women, children and other vulnerable members of society in a serious light, and through its Foundation, it actively supports initiatives aimed at curbing the scourge of abuse.” Naidoo concludes

Christelle Colman, CEO of Europe Assistance South Africa, says: “As service provider to MTN on its 112 emergency assistance service, we apologise for our role in this incident. Our deepest sympathies go out to the injured person.

We are continuing with our investigation into the incident and will ensure we take all necessary steps to prevent this type of incident from happening in the future. We have begun implementing improvements on various aspects of our service. This includes the processes we follow with emergency response providers including the police and ambulance services and exploring various technologies to make it easier to locate callers.”

Now read: How much Vodacom and MTN know about where you’ve been

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MTN investigating agents cutting off emergency call