Decoder swap drama: How not to be misled

Decoder swap drama: How not to be misled

A misleading telesales script has created all kinds of drama for TV company Multichoice.


The Consumer Protection Act states that when marketing any goods or services, the supplier “must not…express or imply a false, misleading or deceptive representation concerning a material fact to a consumer, or fail to correct an apparent misapprehension…”

That’s just what many Multichoice subscribers have accused the pay TV company’s appointed telesales agents of doing - misleading them.
Multichoice is no longer producing or “supporting” the old SD PVR and DualView decoders, so if they break, they won’t repair or replace them, meaning you’re forced to buy the latest Explora decoder, which retails for around R2000.

The company has appointed a third party, On Air to phone Multichoice customers who still have old decoders and offer them a package deal - a DStv Explora, DStv HD decoder and XtraView installation for R169 per month over 24 months. And the two decoders are linked under one subscription.

The sales script listed Explora’s benefits essentially more space to store more series and movies but it completely left out one very big piece of information that DualView and XtraView are not the same thing. Not even close.
DualView allows subscribers to have one decoder, and one subscription, but watch two different DSTV channels on two different TV sets; each with full PVR capability.

But the Explora can’t offer is DualView technology, so with the deal Multichoice is offering, subscribers get great functionality in the prime “viewing environment”, but when it comes to the second TV, linked to the HD decoder, you can watch a different channel, but you can’t pause, rewind or fast forward; you can’t watch your favourite shows on Catch-Up, you can’t watch Box Office movies, and you can’t record a show.

If you want all that on the second TV, you need to invest in a second Explora. 

Jane and Johan's story

Two East Coasters, Jane Middleborough and Johan Odendaal told me virtually identical stories about their On Air experiences, both claiming they hadn’t been told about the loss of DualView on second TV with the deal on offer.

Both found out only when they new system was installed, and when they objected and asked for their old decoders back On Air told them there’d been no misrepresentation.

Jane, who lives in Hillcrest with her husband and three children, says the On Air consultant who called her didn’t say a word about the fact that she’d lose the PVR functions on her second TV set. So she agreed to the deal, and handed over her old decoder. The lack of PVR functionality on the second set soon became apparent.

“One evening, my husband and I were watching TV in our bedroom. When I wanted to get up to go to the bathroom, I realised I couldn’t pause what we were watching,” she says.
"My first thought was that maybe if I got the remote from the lounge, and I set it to TV 2 we would be able to have the same PVR functions we had before, but that didn't work.
“So I phoned On Air, thinking we may have to by an additional remote to get the same functionality as in the lounge.
“But of course they told me ’No, it doesn’t work like that'.”

What Jane wanted was her old decoder back, but she was told that wasn’t going to happen either - it would be destroyed. 

She was furious on being told that the sales call had been listened to and there was no misrepresentation - she’d got what they said she’d get, they said. 

“I’m told them I wasn't disputing what I received,” Jane says.

The woman kept repeating ‘there’s no misrepresentation’ and I kept saying, 'you are not understanding my complaint. I got what you said I was going to get, but what you didn’t tell me, and shouldn’t told me, was that we’d lose the PVR functions on the second set.  I cannot fast forward, I cannot rewind, I cannot pause, I cannot watch Catch Up and I cannot watch Box Office.
“What they gave me is useless for our family.”

That’s when Jane approached me for help.

'We have taken this up with On Air'

I took up the cases with Multichoice, having heard one of the recordings, and the company came back to me to say that the recordings proved that vital information about the PVR functionality had indeed not been disclosed.

“We sincerely apologise,” Multichoice said. “We have taken this up with On Air and amended their scripts to ensure this is explained to our customers in future.”

And as compensation, they were both given a second Explora decoder - free - to replace the HD one in their XtraView set-up , giving them access to PVR functionality and Catch Up services on both decoders in the home, for just one subscription fee, plus R80 for XtraView.

I wrote up the story in my column in The Times on Monday and since then, I’ve heard from many others, all alleging that they, too, were misled in the same way and they, too, want Multichoice to swap that second HD decoder for an Explora. And if their call recordings back up what they’re saying, they’d be entitled to that.

I’ve told them to email Multichoice and copy me.

So Multichoice is listening to a lot of calls at the moment, and I suspect they’ll have to produce many free Exploras in the coming weeks.
To be clear,  to get full PVR on two or more of your TVs, you need an Explora for each of them. But you’ll pay the same monthly subscription as with your old decoder - which covers two or more Exploras - plus R80 for Xtraview and PVR.

Quite a few people responded to my Times column saying their old decoders were insured by Multichoice, so what happens if they stop working or get stolen?

A Multichoice spokesman said they’d be replaced with a new Explora at no extra cost.

Moral of the story - a call recording really is there for your protection. If you feel you were misled, you have a legal right to demand access to the recording in order to prove your point and get recourse.

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