Looks like the fixed line is finished

Telkom’s offer of a fixed line look alike (FLLA) telephone service to subscribers Colleen Smith, Merle Sawyer and Carol Jones had unintended consequences.

The parastatal is offering subscribers the FLLA – a wireless desktop wi-fi phone – as a result of “decommissioning ageing and legacy technology in some areas” and the switch to new wireless or fibre service.

What Telkom agents don’t tell you is when you accept the offer your landline will be cut immediately.

After Merle Sawyer, of Diep River, logged a complaint about a faulty landline in November last year, Telkom explained they were doing away with landlines because of cable theft and she would get a FLLA within three to four weeks. But it didn’t arrive.

The widowed pensioner contacted Telkom numerous times, but they kept insisting that she had received it.

She visited Blue Route Mall and Kenilworth Centre to find the elusive FLLA, without success, except for a “promise to call you”.

When her grandson called Telkom, they told him the device had been accepted by Marcia Hewitson who had produced her ID and signed for it. “Help me.”

Tardy is not the word for Telkom’s media department or Edelman, their outsourced public relations agency.

After I sent Edelman a reminder, Telkom contacted Ms Sawyer on March 22 and she finally received her FLLA on April 9. Now she wants Telkom to pay her back the R415.71 she was charged for a service she didn’t get.

Insurance broker Colleen Smith, of Kenwyn, is disillusioned with Telkom after 25 years.

“When I received an SMS from Telkom asking if we wanted a free wireless phone, I accepted, as I thought it would be convenient to have a spare phone at home, and I asked the agent who called about delivery details what the catch was and how it would affect my current landline. The woman insisted that there was no catch and my landline would not be affected at all,” Ms Smith said.

“The phone was delivered to my home on Wednesday January 30 even though I gave my office address. That night, family came for dinner and when my granddaughter asked to make a call the line was dead. Next day I called Telkom to log a complaint and was told because I accepted the free FLLA my landline had been cut, the first time I had been told that this would happen. Telkom tricked me and had I known the landline would be cancelled I would never have accepted their offer. I phoned Telkom twice that day and was kept waiting for 26 minutes each time to ask for the line to be reinstated. But I was told it was not possible. I wanted to return the FLLA, but the woman at the Telkom store said that I would have to contact the parastatal. Although she logged a complaint for me, I haven’t heard anything.

“My life has been thrown into turmoil. My partner and I are chronically ill, and we need to be able to communicate with people in case of an emergency without worrying about running out of airtime,” Ms Smith said, adding that when Telkom cut the landline they also severed the connection with her security company.

Ms Smith wrote to Telkom explaining her predicament and asking for the landline to be reconnected, but she hit a brick wall. Telkom did tell her they would not reconnect her landline.

“On March 11, after being on the line with Telkom for 35 minutes and being put through to three different people who each gave me three different stories, I opened the package and connected the phone. It’s not convenient, and since we started using it we have been cut off numerous times due to a low signal, the battery runs down faster than a mobile phone and with load shedding we are disconnected,” Ms Smith said.

“It’s about the deterioration of the cable system, which they are not willing to replace.”

Eighty-year-old Carol Jones’s complaint was almost the same as Merle Sawyer’s. The Fish Hoek woman, who had just lost her husband, said she received a call in December that she would receive a wireless phone. A courier delivered a SIM card early in January, but no phone. Ms Jones kept a record of her dealings with Telkom, and it doesn’t make happy reading, although “a helpful man, Zac, placed a new order for a SIM card and phone device”.

It didn’t arrive, and Ms Jones had been incommunicado, so to speak, for more than a month, when a courier (not a Telkom employee) delivered and connected her device and showed her how to use it.

Ms Jones still had a few queries, so she took the phone to Telkom Longbeach where they were “very efficient” and dealt with everything”.

In response, Telkom sent me a copy of the press release about the FLLA that is on their website.

When pressed, Telkom said Carol Jones had confirmed her FLLA device was working and the issue had been resolved. They said they had difficulty contacting
Ms Sawyer, and as for Colleen Smith, “she initially accepted an offer to upgrade to our FLLA service, but as the old technology is being discontinued, we are unable to offer her previous voice service”.

Telkom refused to explain what went wrong, how they would address these issues in the future, or why their agents don’t say that the landline will be cut as soon as you accept the offer, even before you get the phone.

Telkom said subscribers had a choice: if they accepted the offer, the wireless desktop wi-fi phone would
be free, but “If the customer chooses not to upgrade when the copper service is discontinued they will have to pay a connection fee and for the device”.

“This is a very large project as we are migrating hundreds of thousands of customers. Unfortunately we experienced a few small glitches but are working hard to minimise any frustrations for our customers.”

Obviously not hard enough if the experiences of the three subscribers are any indication.