Telesales scams: Why call recordings should always be available

Telesales scams: Why call recordings should always be available

There is something worse than being called by a telesales agent, who badgers you to buy a product or service - not getting that call, and being “signed up” anyway.

Telesales - Consuermwatch
Getty Images, Consumerwatch

I’m talking about someone faking you agreeing to an offer made in a telesales call. Back in 2014, Consumerwatch broke the story of Lizelle Bright who discovered a R349 debit order she knew nothing about on her bank statement, so she did some digging. 

With the help of the Payments Assocation of SA, she discovered that the mandate - the call recording - on which the debit order was based, was a complete fake, featuring an obviously much younger woman, with much higher pitched voice and a different accent, impersonating Lizelle and agreeing to some scheme and to her bank account being debited.

Then last year Consumerwatch featured the case of retired school teacher Gail Lombard of Glen Anil, Durban, a longstanding Edgars accountholder who discovered she’d been paying a monthly club fee for several months and denied ever being consulted about it, much less agreeing to it.

Edcon reversed the deductions, but Gail wanted to hear the alleged consent call, too. What she heard in that recording was a very weird telesales call, in which “she” asks not a single question of agent and her responses are limited to one word at a time: five words in total.

She was adamant it wasn't her, but Edcon insisted it was, and there the matter rested, because those five little “yes” words weren’t enough for a forensic investigation.

An unauthorised monthly deduction  

And so to this week’s case, which also involves Edcon. Jannie Steyl of Pietermaritzburg, whose had an Edgars account for more than 20 years, recently discovered that he’d been paying an insurance policy, the premium of R79 being added to his statement since 2014. 

He asked Edgars Liberty Midlands Mall branch staff to help him get to the bottom of how the deduction came to be, and to cut a long story short, Edcon’s head office sent the recording of a call of Jannie agreeing to the policy to the branch, and off Jannie went to listen to it there.

“When they played it, after three words I said: “That’s not me, it’s a black guy. And Edgars staff listening with me agreed. The telesales agent asked the guy who was supposed to be mdi if he was Mr JG Steyl, and they guy said he was. So the agent asked him to spell his first name, beginning with a J. “He tried to spell Jan with about eight or nine letters, and he still couldn't get it right. I started laughing and didn’t listen to the rest of the conversation.”

So it begs the question - how on earth could the telesales agent possibly have thought he was talking to the real Mr JG Steyl. Accents aside, the man claiming to be him couldn’t even spell his name! 

An Edcon spokesperson told Consumerwatch that Edcon had for the past six years mandated a third party company called Rewards Co, contracted to Hollard, to market various products on behalf of Edcon and Hollard.

So Jannie - Mr Steyl - was called by Rewards Co in March 2014 and offered the Family Provider Plan, but his identity was not verified as it should have been.

It was actually Jannie’s old cellphone number, Edcon said. The man who answered is a Mr Judas - Edcon apparently doesn't know if that’s a surname or first name - who acquired Jannie’s old number, but now that number goes straight to voicemail.

Edcon responds 

Here’s what Edcon says: “The product was incorrectly enrolled onto Mr Steyl's account due to a failure by an agent to follow defined processes and a formal letter of apology will be sent to Mr. Steyl. Hollard and Edcon continuously review sales processes to ensure that call centres provide a service aligned to our policies and procedures and this particular matter will be addressed with Rewards Co to ensure Quality Assurance checks are performed according to pre-defined standards.”

Jannie has been refunded R711 - all the premiums he’s been charged in the past two years. And that agent’s other calls are being reviewed to see if he was unable to do the most basic thing - ensure that the person answering the phone was actually the Edcon accountholder - in any other cases.

“Both Edcon and Hollard would like to reiterate that we take the concerns raised with utmost seriousness and will endeavour to improve our service delivery to our customers.”

 So, if you one of the many millions of South Africans with an Edcon account - check your statements very carefully, and if there’s an add-on, a club fee or insurance premium that you don’t remember authorising, call head office and ask to be sent the call recording proving that you agreed. It’s your right.

Show's Stories