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…

Data Auto-Renew: Really In Whose Interest?

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!


Etisalat easyblaze

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.

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. .. the day you
    load enough airtime to cover
    the fee for the particular plan
    you were on, your account
    will be debited automatically. .

    Let us get this correctly.

    if I have not cancelled autorenewal, and have not used the SIM even for ages, the day I load enough credit, I will be debited, and resubscribed?

    No wonder!

    I have this GLO line that stays permanently at home. just for receiving calks. Intermittently, this line would give a message something like

    .. not successful. not enough credit to complete this transaction..

    perhaps, it is trying to resubscribe me to a data plan?

  2. very correct!
    MTN even have the guts to refuse me the freedom of canceling a BB subscription,even when I tried to buy a different data plan,just so I should spend more thru autorenewal.

  3. @EBK, probably. If the etisalat line had been doing that, at least I would have been warned! Sometimes I wonder if they listen to feedbacks at all…or they just play dumb!

  4. I think the auto-renewal feature has two sides to it. It could be beneficial sometimes while I have also experienced the pain of auto-renewal. When I have it on, all I need to do is put enough credit in my phone toward the end of my present subscription and be migrated smoothly into another plan without worrying about my credit being nibbled at should I forget to renew manually.

    It must be said that auto-renewal should be broken the moment the present subscription finishes and there’s not enough credit in the account to resubscribe immediately. I there’s a network that set up there auto-renewal in this way but can’t remember which. Airtel will inform me at each successful subscription that auto-renewal is on and that I should text stopautorenew to 440 to disable it which I think is fair enough, but I didn’t think I’ve experienced the situation being automatically resubscribed to a new plan weeks after the expiration of my last subscription when auto-renewal is on.

  5. ” It must be said that auto-renewal should be broken the moment the present subscription finishes and there’s not enough credit in the account to resubscribe immediately.” Well said Harry. That’s exactly my point.

  6. I had a HORRIBLE experience with Visafone; Apparently, an acquaintance activate a 1 day data plan on my modem in error & unknown to me. The plan duly expired and when I recharged by 10 p.m. in order to activate my data plan, I got a message from Visafone ‘congratulating’ me for activating a one day plan!

    Shocked, I suddenly realised what happened but at 12.00 a.m, they immediately debited my account again (since it was a 24 hr plan)! I calmly waited till 10 p.m and tried using the opt-out code provided on their site to de-activate that plan BUT their system refused, stating that I could not opt out of an current plan!!

    I then called customer service and complained after which they decativated the 24 hr plan from their end. In all this, they had debited my account twice in the space of 2 hours under the guise of auto-renew and then denied my opt-out request.

    I keep saying that we MUST take a closer look at the activities of the mobile networks, there are a lot of sharp practices going on there that must be probed!

  7. The only reason am doing auto renewal for my data plan is to ensure that my unused data is carried over.

    On MTN I dont think MTN will rollover if you dont have credit but I always have credit ready on the phone.

    Renewing a plan when there is no credit on a customers line is totally unprofessional.

  8. Auto-renewal in Nigeria is a con because the system is broken. In theory, when you don’t have enough credit to auto-renew, the agreement is immediately broken and it is up to you to subscribe again.

    The big problem in Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent is that pre-pay is tantamount to network deception. So if anything goes wrong, the network more often than not do not have any proper record for your account, which is why they will “rob” you when your auto-renewal has expired days later and they take your money. Their customer service will tell you some cock and bull story because they don’t have the data to confirm or deny. And you will have hell to get your money back, if you get it back at all.

  9. Quite interesting views here. I have tweeted @etisalat_9ja to read and comment on this piece but they’ve not been forthcoming. Any ideas how this can be escalated so that this practice is stopped? @Mister_Mobility sir, over to you…

  10. @Kayode, don’t even waste your time trying to get them to listen. They are deaf. Incapable of listening and reasoning.

    Just yesterday, I picked up an old etisalat sim trying to load and activate blackberry plan since, I was fed up with my current Glo plan. On loading 500 naira, the money was immediately taken for q data plan I couldn’t remember subscribing to and I was credited with 50Mb data and a text came congratulating me for a successful renewal. You can imagine my frustration. Then to make matters worse, sending STOP by text to 229 as directed by a friend to cancel auto renewal gave a response that I will be contacted via text message. That text message never came in spite of repeated requests. I had to use the code *229*0# supplied by another friend before the auto renewal could be cancelled. Meanwhile, I am saddled with some 50Mb data not needed.

    These guys are insensitive and are out to fleece us.

  11. this auto-renewal is really a con because i was not prepared for it and all i did was to give my younger sister my SIM for her to transfer and they did renewal costing me to refund her

  12. Am also a victim of Auto-renewal rubbish the Networks are doing.All i could say is that, ALL these networks are swindlers when it comes to data plans and the stuffs.Taking away the reminder of a data plan you have paid for in the name of expiration date is something else. How i wish that this can be looked into as someone rightly said above, May God help us in this nation.

  13. Simply forceful con, they know what they r doing….intelligent daylight robbery….this is one of the areas we need NCC….refund won’t even heal this heartbreaking practice….

  14. How can i opt out from this etisalat data plan now, *229*0# is no longer working. I have to stop recharging for the moment.

  15. My etisalat data plan expires in 2 days and I still have 5gb data plan on it what do i need to do to get an auto renewal. Anyone with fast response pls

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