A number of MTN subscribers are complaining that they receive a deluge of SMS spam from their mobile operator every day and that it is impossible to unsubscribe from it.
Complaints like these date back over multiple years. There is a lot of advice online about how to unsubscribe from MTN’s marketing SMSes, but none of the methods that worked a few years ago seems to work anymore.
One customer who complained on Hello Peter in June 2019 reported that MTN resolved his problem, but it required the intervention of an MTN customer support agent.
The subscriber said that MTN does not provide any information to allow customers to unsubscribe themselves from marketing SMSes.
A MyBroadband reader recently grew frustrated with the amount of SMS spam she was receiving from MTN and tried to find a way to opt-out.
When she contacted MTN customer care, she was told to block the number that she was receiving unwanted messages from.
The SMS spam wouldn’t always come from the same number, but after some trial-and-error and the help of three different corporate account managers, the issue seemed to be sorted out. For four weeks she did not receive any marketing messages from MTN.
Then MTN started promoting its Mobile Money platform, MTN MoMo.
The subscriber reported that she received at least one message per day to promote MTN MoMo. She couldn’t simply block the number this time, because no sending number is reported. It just says “MoMo” where the sending phone number would usually be.
Replying “STOP” did not help, so she went hunting through the MTN USSD menu.
Opting out for MTN SMS spam doesn’t work
Eventually, she found a submenu containing all of the marketing communications settings. It’s easy to get to if you know where it is, but it was not easy to find.
From *135#, you must select either the Contract Management option or Pre-Paid Service, depending on whether you are on contract or prepaid. Then you select option 6: Change Consent Settings.
Trying to change any of the marketing consent settings doesn’t seem to do anything, though.
There are four marketing communications options listed: competitions, promotions, personalised offers, and direct marketing.
After opting out, the subscriber said she went back into the USSD menu only to find that her settings had not been changed at all.
MyBroadband was able to replicate this subscriber’s experience on our own MTN prepaid SIM.
When you select an option to unsubscribe from one of the types of marketing messages from MTN, a confirmation pops up and assures that you have been unsubscribed.
However, when you go back into the USSD menu, MTN still states that you have opted in to receiving all marketing messages.
No more spam: Protection of Personal Information Act
The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), which came into effect on 1 July 2020, cracks down on direct marketing in South Africa.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, all direct marketing in South Africa should include a way to opt out of receiving further communications from the company sending it out.
With POPIA the restrictions on direct marketing will be even stricter. Companies will have to get consent from consumers before they are allowed to send marketing messages to them.
In the case of companies like MTN, which have an existing relationship with a customer, the rules are slightly different.
They will be allowed to send direct marketing messages if the customer was given a chance to opt out when they opened their account. These messages can only promote similar products or services to what you bought from them initially.
Companies have been given at least a one year grace period within which to comply with POPIA.
MTN conducting a full investigation
MTN said that it is looking into the complaints.
“We have noted [the] customer complaint regarding MoMo marketing subscriptions. We are currently investigating the matter and we will be able to provide findings upon concluding our full investigation,” MTN told MyBroadband.