Phone SPAM!

Americans may be used to telemarketing, but thanks to Telkom’s monopolistic pricing, it’s been simply uneconomical to do such things in South Africa. This has started to change… My friends don’t seem to get them, but over the last 2 months, I’ve received at least 6 automated phone calls.

They go something like this: Here’s a rough transcript the one I got at 20h46 today, from + (i.e. withheld caller ID):

  • Machine: Hello, do you need cash in a hurry? You’ve been accepted for platinum credit. To find out more, press 9.
  • Me: Arrgh! 9
  • Rings…
  • Salesman: <with a Xhosa accent> Hello…
  • Me: Hi. What can you tell me about this?
  • Salesman: You’ve been selected for ple-tin-ahm credit.
  • Me: Yes, and? who selected me? What is the company called?
  • Salesman: eh… the company is name is ple-tin-ahm
  • Me: Are you sure - is that the name of the company you work for?
  • Salesman: yes, ah, the company name is ple-tin-ahm
  • Me: yes? and? Why are you calling me, why do you think I want your services?
  • Salesman: The comp-pu-ta picked your number.
  • Me: What computer?
  • Salesman: The computa.
  • Me: Where did it get my number from?
  • Salesman: The computa picked it.

etc… round and round we go…

  • Me: Will you please tell your computer never to call me again?
  • Salesman: No, I can’t do that.
  • Me: Can I speak to your boss please?
  • Salesman: No, he’s out right now.
  • Me: Can I leave a message for him to call me?
  • Salesman: No, he’s out right now.


I started getting the feeling that the poor salesman was rigidly sticking to a script…

Eventually, I got hung up on. And I didn’t manage to find out a single bit of information about these bastards. Maybe I should have pretended to buy…

So I phone Vodacom Customer care 111. And after working my way through the IVR menus (no there isn’t an option for abuse anywhere, you just have to keep hitting 0), I sat on hold for half an hour. After 20 minutes, a callback feature was advertised, if I pressed # they’d call me back. I pressed #, repeatedly, but nothing happened… Maybe the bad reception was interfering with the DTMF tone…

While I was sitting on hold, listening to horrific music emanating from my speaker phone, and browsing the web, I came across the WASPA code of conduct. It seemed interesting.

My reasoning is that the telemarketers must be using cell phone networks, or some other commercial gateway, because they could hide their number. AFAIK you can’t hide your number when calling from a Telkom line. That means that Vodacom could actually do something about this. The code of conduct states:

5. Commercial communications

5.1. Sending of commercial communications

5.1.1. All commercial messages must contain a valid originating number and/or the name or identifier of the message originator.

5.1.2. Any message originator must have a facility to allow the recipient to remove his or herself from the message originator’s database, so as not to receive any further messages from that message originator.

5.1.3. Where feasible, persons receiving commercial messages should be able to remove themselves from the database of a message originator using no more than two words, one of which must be ‘STOP’.

5.1.4. Any mechanism for allowing a recipient to remove him or herself from a database must not cost more than one rand.

5.1.5. Upon request of the recipient, the message originator must, within a reasonable period of time, identify the source from which the recipient’s personal information was obtained.

5.1.6. Commercial communications may not be timed to be delivered between 20:00 and 06:00, unless explicitly agreed to by the recipient, or unless delivery during this period forms part of the up-front description of the service.

Hmm. Quite a few violations…

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