Cell C Pinnacle contract customers are not allowed to use their package’s included minutes to call certain emergency numbers.
This issue was brought to MyBroadband’s attention by a frustrated Cell C customer on a Pinnacle 2GB TopUp contract.
He discovered he was not able to use his contract’s included voice minutes to dial numbers which started with 086 or 087.
He only became aware of this after he had been involved in an accident and tried to call towing and ambulance services to assist at the scene.
He initially tried to call the South African Police on its toll-free 10111 number from multiple phones.
After repeatedly getting stuck in the call menu, with no answer, he dialled his emergency towing/ambulance service with insurer Santam on 0860 505 911.
This resulted in a voice message which stated that “The number you have dialled does not exist. Please redial carefully or consult directory enquiries”.
Fortunately, he had a softphone installed on his device was able to contact Santam using his own provider.
Afterwards, he tested other emergency service numbers which started with 086 and was presented with the same message.
Examples of numbers which he was unable to call included:
- Arrive Alive Call Center – 086 140 0800
- Crime Stop – 086 001 0111
- Emer-G-Med – 0861007911)
- EssentialMed – 0861707070
- Fidelity ADT – 086 010 0911
- LifeLine – 086 132 2322
- Security Association of South Africa – 086 110 0680
- SJC Security – 086 175 2911
He then contacted Cell C customer service who confirmed that he cannot use his contract’s included minutes to contact special numbers, which included those with the 087 and 086 prefixes.
To make calls to these numbers, he would have to purchase additional airtime, the Cell C agent said.
The customer claimed this requirement could easily lead to loss of life in an emergency.
“When seconds count, it’s not possible to stop for airtime first, nor does everyone have access to softphones / SIP trunks as an alternative,” the customer said.
“The unfortunate reality is that South Africans cannot depend on 10111 in an emergency and as a result private security companies have filled the gap – leading to many people to contacting these private institutions when the worst happens.”
MyBroadband asked Cell C why it was excluding 086 and 087 numbers from voice minutes on its Pinnacle contracts.
Cell C said the Pinnacle product construct does not allow for 086 or 087 numbers to be called using the allocated minutes.
This was outlined in the terms and conditions of the package and the subscriber agreement, including the FAQs on the Cell C website.
These terms state that calls to 086 numbers will not be depleted from inclusive minutes and will be billed for.
“On postpaid the usage charges will be added to the customer’s bill and on TopUp these usage charges will deplete from available airtime,” the Cell C FAQ states.
The operator said it was an industry norm to not allow these numbers in inclusive value on postpaid or hybrid contracts.
Because these numbers are also used by many corporates, it effectively makes it prohibitive if Cell C had to absorb the related interconnect charges.
“It is also worth noting that Cell C has, on application/request, zero-rated a number of critical and emergency numbers that have also been classified as vital social services,” the operator added.
Cell C said a team was investigating how it could resolve the issue relating to these numbers presenting a “number does not exist” message so as to not mislead customers into thinking they had dialled a number incorrectly or that it did not exist.