Multichoice DSTV evil empire of Muppets

I received a letter from Multichoice (Pty) Ltd’s lawyers today. A physical posted letter, to my street address. They seem to think I owe Multichoice R871.20 and their letter reads: “..your details will be listed on all major credit bureaus”. A convenient way of abusing the underbelly of personal information.

Now, the first thing I’m thinking is.. why are lawyers writing me a letter and not Multichoice? I think I’m a customer of Multichoice. Surely they should have made at least one attempt to communicate with me before running to lawyers. Do they value their customers so little? The lawyers managed to post me a letter. Does DSTV not understand how email or the postal system works? I guess that’s just how monopolies do business. It’s the evil empire way.

What I think happened:

We know DSTV have a monopoly on broadcasting Springbok Rugby. I figure it’s a good idea to get DSTV for the month of November 2010. Just the month of November. I get the DSTV decoder gizmo and connect it all up. I phone their call centre which points me at their website saying I can use their service on a month-to-month basis. I look at their website and see I can pay by credit card. No contracts or debit orders. Cool. So I pay for the month of November with my credit card. I watch 3 rugby games. Happy.

I honestly do not care about any of their other broadcasting. I don’t watch TV. I guess I could have just gone to a bar and watched the rugby there, but I have a 4yo daughter and she’s not that into bars. So I was stuck with the DSTV option.

Since my first (and only) interaction with their pretty buggy website, I’ve had zero communication from Multichoice. No invoices. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing.

Any rational human would have expected the service to end at the end of November.. the month I pre-paid for.

What I suspect the evil DSTV empire thinks happened:

A customer comes to our website and pre-pays for November. We think this implies a 3 month contract. We’ll let their service run for the month they paid for plus two months. Hmm.. yeah, two is a nice number. Not 1 or 3 or 24. Two is good. We don’t need to invoice them or let them know of this creative contract we cooked up.. that would just bother them with things they don’t need to know about. Oh, yeah and.. we don’t want any real contact with out customers so we’ll just automate things and involve lawyers because we don’t give a shit about the quality of relationships we maintain with our customers.

We rock! Evil is cool. Golf again this afternoon?

Enter the Customer Protection Act:

(yeah, I don’t like the word “consumer”)

What Multichoice and DSTV is doing should be illegal.. oh, turns out our legal system agrees: Enter the CPA

No, dear evil empire, you can’t just get creative and pick a number of months you assume an imaginary contract exists.


Ever been billed for that gym or cellphone contract you thought had expired?

Thanks to the new act, automatic contract renewals will be no more. Companies will have to contact you – in writing – between 40 and 80 business days before your contract expires. They have to give you the option to continue your contract, change its terms or cancel it.

Note that the contract will continue on a month-to-month basis until you make your choice.

You will also be able to cancel contracts at any time. No more waiting for the full 24 months to end. If you’re unhappy, give the company 20 days’ notice – in writing – and you’re home free.

I’d very much like Multichoice to show me the contract I signed and the invoices they sent me, or even a statement of my account. Any communication at all would be a good start.

Evil is in fact not cool.

UPDATE: 2011-03-04

DSTV phoned me. They are going to get their lawyers off my back. They confirmed their billing system should work on a month-to-month basis. Seems there is some snag in how they disconnect customers.. they can only disconnect 10k users per day. I’m guessing somebody made some lame assumption about how much data needed to be moved in a signalling band “why would you ever want to disconnect more than 10k people in a day?” Sounds like they will be looking into how this snag relates to the CPA. This is all well and good, but I feel sorry for all the people who have been affected and ended up in fights with DSTV’s dogs of automated debt collection.

4 thoughts on “Multichoice DSTV evil empire of Muppets

  1. Heh, a few months after I cancelled my DSTV I got an invoice for 2 months. I had all my evidence of cancelation as well as my last statement showing that I owed them nothing, so I just sent them an e-mail telling them that I don’t have time to deal with this and if they really want that money they can just talk to my lawyer directly (I provided the contact details in the mail).

    I never heard from them again. I think they just take chances to try to squeeze out as much money as they can from people.

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