In a bid to make life easy for customers/ subscribers/ clients (you get the gist) AND also help themselves keep making money (obviously), businesses come up with several ways of keeping those customers patronising their services. This thinking is what informed features like “direct debit” for PayTV and “Auto-Renewal” for data plans by Telcos. A day your service isn’t active is to them revenue loss!
This write-up though is on the Data Auto-Renewal feature by Nigeria’s Telcos especially as applicable to Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services (EMTS) aka Etisalat. A look up at the company’s internet service FAQs section reveals the following:
Question: What does auto renewal of my data bundle mean ?
- Each plan has 30 days validity
- At the end of the 30 days, your plan is auto-renewed, provided you have enough balance to pay for the data.
- Upon successful auto-renewal, the unused data balance from the previous month is automatically rolled over.
- In other words, the unused balance is added to the auto-renewed balance and the total balance will be valid for 30 days.
- Also, if you purchase another data plan before your current bundle expires, it rolls over the existing balance of the current bundle.
Just for comparison sake, I headed over to MTN Nigeria’s website (Couldn’t find the relevant information on Airtel Nigeria or Globacom’s websites) and found the following written about Auto-Renewal on their data bundles page:
“This allows you to enjoy un-interrupted data access on your phone or tablet. Your active data bundle will be automatically renewed at the end of the validity period. In case you exhaust your data bundle before the validity date, you will receive a notification advising you to activate a new data plan or continue at pay as you go rate (5k/sec).”
The second bulleted point from above says, “At the end of the 30 days, your plan is auto-renewed, provided you have enough balance to pay for the data.” Now, from my simple understanding of the English Language (& logic), it could be inferred that, “…if you do not have sufficient balance at the end of the 30 days, your plan will not be auto-renewed.” As at today, the way Etisalat data auto-renewal works is that if you don’t “opt-out” of the auto-renewal feature, the day you load enough airtime to cover the fee for the particular plan you were on, your account will be debited automatically. In my own case, about 4 weeks after the expiration of the 500MB plan I tried out then. Please, what is “auto-renew” in this scenerio?!! The annoying thing is that I was planning on activating a Night+Weekend plan which costs more and would have translated to more revenue for the company. In the end, they’ve only succeeded in shooting themselves in the foot as the N2,000 difference have since gone to a competitor’s coffers for a night time data plan.
Now, I quoted MTN Nigeria above even though I can’t remember if their auto-renew feature operates the same way as Etisalat’s but I doubt this – I would have noticed.
My advice for EMTS (and other Nigeria Telcos) is this: don’t force things down the throat of the subscribers (and don’t tell me I have the option of opting out – each and every time my data plan expires!), give me the right to manually renew my data and other service plans if you are bent on maintaining the status quo. You might have lost just N2,000 today but it is the same thinking that will make you loose N2 million or billion tomorrow!
If interested, you might want to look up this piece, Are automatic renewals a deceptive practice?. It focuses on how 23 US states alleged that the automatic renewal method by Time Inc. altered a long-standing industry practice of subscriptions being renewed at the end of a subscription period only if the customer affirmatively requested a renewal. In 2006, Time Inc. agreed to refund $4.3 million to more than 108,000 eligible consumers who made payments for magazine subscriptions that were automatically renewed between 1998 and May of 2004.