Contract confusion with cellphone network

Annemarie Prehn, of Table View, tried for more than a year to get some sense out of MTN after she signed a contract with MTNChoice50 for R79 a month.

“Since the start of the contract, I have been charged R110.01 or more every month. My first attempt to have it rectified was at the end of July 2015. I was told the difference was for a handset, but I did not order or receive one, this is very clear on my contract. I mailed them monthly for six months with no response since August 14, last year.

“I phoned them in January and in March I reported them on Hello Peter, when Timothy Clouts was very apologetic and asked for a copy of the contract. Although I sent it the next day, I didn’t hear from him, even though I emailed him to ask what was going on,” said Ms Prehn, who tried to contact MTN again in September without much success

“I am absolutely fed up with being completely ignored, and my problem is not being resolved. According to my records, they owe me close to R500. I would like to have the money paid back into my account. I can’t wait for my contract to expire as this is not the only problem I’ve had with them in the last two years and I have been supporting them for about 20 years. I will never deal with MTN again. Please, can you assist.”

After I contacted MTN, they apologised to Ms Prehn for the difficulties she had had.

Their records, they said, show ed they had sent feedback to Ms Prehn on August 16 (a year after she first contacted them).

Ms Prehn has two phones. The first one is on a My MTNChoice 50min contract.

“You are paying for a cellphone (promo fee) as well. The subscription fee on this account is R70.18 (excl VAT) and the promo fee is R25.44 (excl VAT). If you add VAT to these amounts, it works out to R109.01 a month. The second one is on a My MTNChoice 25min contract and you are paying for a cellphone (promo fee) as well.

The subscription fee on this account is R35.09 (excl VAT) and the promo fee is R29.82 (excl VAT). If you add VAT to these amounts, it works out to R73.99 a month,” said MTN in October.

They copied the correspondence to me, and explained that the amounts were due to a recent price increase.

However, when I pointed out to MTN that Ms Prehn did not ask for a handset, even though she made it clear in her letter to them and to me, they said they would investigate again.

A few days later, MTN told me they had managed to obtain copies of Ms Prehn’s contracts and “can confirm there was no device taken: the deal was UYO (use your own) and we have since removed this charge going forward”.

“A credit of R425 has been posted to Ms Prehn’s account for the charge of the device which was erroneously billed,” MTN said.

Ms Prehn confirmed she had received a R425 credit from MTN.

“It is a pity that MTN’s service levels have dropped so low; that we have to contact Off My Trolley to help us. Thank you so much for your assistance. It is really appreciated.”

Pay rise for domestic workers

The new minimum wage increase for domestic workers takes effect from December 1, this year, until November 30 2017.

This means that any domestic employee who works more than 27 hours should be paid not less than R12.42 an hour; R559.09 a week and R2 422.54 a month in major metropolitan areas. It applies to all domestic workers working in the municipalities of Cape Town.

In the other areas the hourly rate is R11.31; R508.93 a week and the monthly rate is R2 205.17. The minimum wages for domestic workers who work 27 ordinary hours a week or less in the Cape Town municipalities should be paid not less than R14.54 an hour, R392.58 a week and R1 701.06 a month.

In the other areas, the hourly rate is R13.53; R360.54 a week and the monthly rate is R1 562.21.

“Since the promulgation of the (sectoral determination) act 14 years ago, the annual minimum wage increase continues to be marginal, which means that these workers will continue to eke out a living in these dire economic times,” said Bernard Reisner of Cape Labour and Industrial Consultants in Gardens, Cape Town.

“Domestic workers don’t have much to celebrate and they will continue to fight for their rights.”

Call Mr Reisner at 021 423 3959 or you can email to get a free copy of the new increases.

Tenant behaviour “better”

Landlords slept easier as rental payment behaviour during the second quarter of 2016 recovered to 85.08 percent of tenants in good standing, hopefully indicating the shock drop to 82.17 percent in the first quarter(Q1) was a seasonal adjustment, said Michelle Dickens, managing director of Tenant Profile Network (TPN).

Stability also returned to the market after two successive interest rate hikes in Q1 with no further rate hikes for Q2: 67.46 percent of tenants were in the paid on time category, while 6.29 percent paid during the ‘grace period’ and 11.33 percent paid late – adding up to a combined 85.08 percent in good standing.

The number of tenants in the grace period was slightly higher than usual, probably due to the April/ May public holidays rather than a deterioration of payment.

Distressingly, just one in two tenants in the exclusive rental segment, above R25 000 a month, will pay on time, although the cash flowing from such high-value rentals only affects 1 percent of the market.

Western Cape tenants continue to overtake the rest of the country at 89.52 percent in good standing.

Buoyed by extremely high demand and constrained by serious scarcity of stock, the TPN Market Strength Index indicates a province which can demand 12.13 percent escalation and still maintain excellent levels of tenant payment performance.

Despite that, property investors in Cape Town are only able to garner a meagre Gross Yield of 7.71 percent – according to the TPN-FNB Gross Yields survey.

The “one size fits all” adage does not apply to the property market. Supply and demand vary in each town and city, coupled with good standing credit assessments of tenant applications – and consequently – the level of vacancies related to each town results in widely shifting rental prices and escalations.

Nationally, the average escalation rate of 2.89 percent indicates just how price-sensitive South African tenants are at the moment.

The winter months bring higher utility usage and tenants are clearly becoming more conscious of their total rental account.

Basic rental is just one component and in many cases, a more negotiable one where overall budgeting is concerned.