While WhatsApp and instant messaging platforms are by far the most popular medium of text communication in South Africa, SMS is not completely redundant yet.
For example, many game shows including The Voice South Africa ask viewers to vote for their favourite contestant via SMS, with each SMS costing a preset amount.
This is exactly what three Air Mobile (previously Afrihost Mobile) users did when they decided to vote for one of the contestants on the show, but they soon found out that this was not as simple as it seemed.
The Voice South Africa page on the M-Net website instructs viewers how to vote on their favourite contestant, and the Air Mobile customers followed these steps to the letter.
On 24 June, the users contacted MyBroadband after they had followed the steps outlined in the image below and found they were being charged far more than they should have been.
The users had planned to vote up to 100 times each, but they didn’t even make it halfway due to a sharp increase in pricing per SMS after they had sent 23 messages.
The usage history portal on Afrihost’s website showed that the users were charged R1.50 per SMS for the first 23 messages, but R11.50 for each SMS sent after that.
This resulted in a lot of airtime being used before it ran out – around R230 in one case – and the affected users contacted MyBroadband about the phenomenon.
Afrihost told the users that it was unfortunately unable to assist them in recovering their spent airtime or provide any insight into why the SMS charge increased after 23 texts were sent.
It is unclear how this could have affected the total score of votes calculated for the contestants on The Voice South Africa.
The show has since ended, with Tasché Burger claiming victory in the season finale.
The screenshot below was provided by one of the affected customers and shows how the SMS charges changed from R1.50 to R11.50 per message.
MyBroadband spoke to M-Net about the sudden price increase of the voting SMS experience by these users, and the company acknowledged the issue and said it was looking into it.
“We have been made aware of this as well and are investigating the issue,” M-Net said.
M-Net said it would provide more information after it looked into the specific issue mentioned above, but the company did not provide comment by the time of publication.