Free SMS service not so free

A recent i-Touch television commercial offering cellular services stated that “…we’ll give you one week free and we won’t even charge for the SMSes”.

According to Pauline van Zyl there is black box on the top right corner of the screen with the words “One week free, then R30/month subscription.” throughout the commercial.

Van Zyl complained to the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) that the commercial was misleading, saying that within five days of SMSing FREE to 30123, R37.08 was deducted from her account. This was clearly not in line with the claim that subscribers will get one week free.

i-Touch responded, saying that R30 was erroneously billed to Van Zyl’s cellphone.

“The reason is that on the previous day, a modification was done to its service which caused 56 out 728 new subscribers to be billed. The person responsible for this has been disciplined,” the ASA quotes i-Touch as saying.

“The affected subscribers will be contacted telephonically to arrange for refunds. It would also like to do the same to complainant plus offer a nominal fee of R10 for the calls she made, if permission to contact her is granted.”

The ASA was satisfied that the commercial clearly communicates that the service was a subscription service, and that the billing was done in error. This conclusion is also supported by an associated WASPA report.

The complaint was dismissed and Van Zyl was encouraged to contact i-Touch for a refund.

i-Touch in hot water with WASPA

According to the Wireless Application Service Provider’s Association website, i-Touch is no stranger to complaints.

The WASPA website complaints report archive indicates that i-Touch has been on the wrong side of WASPA rulings over 30 times, stacking up fines ranging between R1 500 and R52 000.00 in the process.

Numerous other WASPs were also found guilty of practices in contravention of the WASPA code of conduct, including Vodacom Service Provider, Sybase 365, Mira Networks, Internal WASP Service of MTN, Integrat, eXactmobile, Clickatell, Cellfind, Buongiorno UK! and Autopage Cellular.

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Free SMS service not so free