While many smartphone users are eager to complain about data pricing or bundle expiry, few are willing to switch networks or take legitimate action.
A MyBroadband reader and FNB Connect customer, however, was unwilling to stay seated when he was subjected to what he described as unfair bundle depletion.
The user stated that FNB was depleting cellular bundles in contravention of their terms and conditions – and industry standards – and set out to capture proof of this.
He said that FNB promises cellular bundles which expire first will have their value depleted first – but this was not the case.
The discrepancy was first documented by the user when a voice bundle which was set to expire on 31 May 2018 had its value depleted before another voice bundle, due to expire on 18 May.
Following communication with the reader and FNB, the bank told MyBroadband that the order of depletion is “based on the expiry date within a specific bundle type that the customer has”.
“For example, inclusive value/bundles will deplete before recurring once-off and/or rewards bundles,” said FNB at the time.
“Even if these (once-off bundles) expire before the inclusive bundles and where there are more than one recurring bundles, then these (once-off bundles) would be depleted according to the expiry date.”
The user was not satisfied with the reply, however, and lodged a case on the matter with the ombudsman for banking services.
“About two weeks after opening the case, I received a call from FNB saying that they decided to change their mind and will compensate the losses,” said the user.
“They still haven’t directly acknowledged anything regarding their terms and conditions that they are failing to meet, except that they don’t intend to change the billing process until the ICASA ruling.”
The ICASA ruling referred to is the current court battle taking place between cellular network operators and ICASA over the authority’s amended End-User and Subscriber Services Charter.
The amendment deals with new rules for mobile data expiry, out-of-bundle billing, and data transfer – which mobile networks have said they are not opposed to, but require more time before their systems will be ready to implement the required functionality.
Following the compensation, the reader received a letter from FNB on the depletion matter.
“Based on how the current depletion sequence is designed, the complainant was not able to fully utilise his remaining bundles and this resulted in it expiring,” said FNB in the letter.
FNB stated the complainant lost a total of 377 minutes (R358.15) and 1GB (R99.00) as a result.
Terms and conditions
On top of the refund, the user will be reimbursed monthly for the next four months for any expired bundles, stated FNB’s letter – dated August 2018.
The reader stated that at the same time, FNB published a “new, much shorter version of their terms and conditions” on their website.
The new terms and conditions exclude reference to the depletion rules, he added.
MyBroadband spoke to FNB about the new developments, which confirmed it refunded the customer.
A spokesperson added that the terms and conditions on its site were updated at the beginning of 2018, however, “the specific link that the customer was using pointed to the old version”.
“This has been corrected to reflect the latest terms and conditions, which is in line with the current product mechanics,” said FNB.