MTN investigating why customer was charged for toll-free calls

An MTN customer recently contacted MyBroadband regarding unusual activity on his contract SIM.

The customer said he owns two contract SIMs and two prepaid SIMs, which are registered on the MTN network.

The subscriber said when he calls his medical aid’s toll-free number using his primary MTN contract SIM, he is billed for the call.

However, when calling from any of the other three SIMs, a voice message is played before the call is connected, stating that the call will be free.

When using a SIM from another mobile operator, the customer is also not billed for the call.

The MTN customer said the mobile operator had been charging him for calls to his toll-free medical aid number for the past 18 months.

Upon contacting MTN’s call centre, agents reportedly said that only calls to network lines – such as the call centre – were free of charge.

Toll-free regulations

Amended number plan regulations published by ICASA in 2016 state that calls to toll-free numbers must be free of charge for the caller, irrespective of the electronic network used in the communication.

This rule applies to all toll-free numbers in the 080 number range.

ICASA also said that operators must maintain zero-rated wholesale termination fees while implementing a billing system of a commercially-negotiated origin rate.

The framework of toll-free calls means that the receiving party pays the mobile network for the cost of the call, and not the caller.

MTN responds

MTN Executive for Corporate Affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said MTN does not charge customers for toll-free numbers, even in instances where an origination fee with another operator has not been finalised.

“These calls have been free of charge to our customers since 24 September 2016, as per ICASA’s Numbering Plan Regulations,” said O’Sullivan.

She said MTN is currently investigating the reader’s case and would be able to provide further feedback once the investigation had concluded.

“There is a possibility that a charging case has not been updated on a specific node,” said O’Sullivan.

She added that if a discrepancy exists which caused this problem, the error would be on MTN’s side and not the toll-free number provider’s – as MTN is responsible for billing the customer.

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MTN investigating why customer was charged for toll-free calls