It’s an established fact that Econet dominates the telecoms industry in Zimbabwe. Actually, it’s almost an unhealthy monopoly that they enjoy and seemingly abuse. Over 97% of the local mobile money market is controlled by Ecocash whilst over 65% of the data market belongs to Econet. You would think that their service provision is top-notch due to that dominance but it’s getting worse by the day. For some years now people have been putting up with Econet’s shortcomings but even a worm will turn. This year it seems a breaking point has been reached.
It’s a stark reality that the vast majority are forced to rely on Ecocash to pay for basic goods and services. Most people receive income via the platform and have no liberty to cash out as that erodes the value of the little they would have received. From as far back as 2017 we have seen incessant instances of system malfunctions or downtimes for the Ecocash platform. Noteworthy cases are July 2017, 3 July 2018, 22 February 2019, 10 March 2019, 2 April 2019, and many other times. The proximity of those 2019 incidents barely a quarter into the year is telling. Money is deducted from people’s accounts as they try to transact – though the intended transactions don’t sail through. There are many reported cases of people whose over-deducted amounts have never been reimbursed.
Yesterday (9 April) I purchased RTGS$1 SMS bundles (that was after several prior trials with the transaction failing to complete). You can imagine my disappointment later finding out that instead of RTGS$1, RTGS$4 had actually been deducted from my wallet. Yesterday many others took to Econet’s Facebook page to complain about similar cases. It has also been noticed that sending the exact same amount of money to the same person but on different occasions can deduct different charges. There is something terribly wrong with the Ecocash platform – I can’t help but feel we are being duped somehow.
Aside from Econet having the highest number of base stations in the country network coverage is increasingly becoming erratic. This is widespread with people in urban areas often struggling to do basic thing such as calls, SMS, let alone connecting to the internet. For rural areas it’s even worse as you can travel for hundreds of kilometres with absolutely no coverage – I witnessed this in the Matabeleland North and South regions. This is a cause for concern as it is possible to experience the aforementioned problems with a cell tower in your vicinity.
Econet used to be very engaging on their social media platforms, always seeing to it they respond to every concern. Lately, things have changed, rather, they now ignore you whether you post a complaint or inbox them. Yesterday after my situation I posted and inboxed but still no response. A visit to their Facebook page shows they are actually going as far as hiding some of the people’s posts. The irony – seeing the posts and messages but choosing to ignore them. Their customer care line is at best just a formality as I haven’t come across someone who can attest to being answered. Customer service is the backbone of a company, it’s its lifeline but Econet has clearly shown utter disregard for customer concerns.
Due to the erratic network coverage, data bundles can expire without being used. There are also a lot of mysterious occurrences where data vanishes. Yo Mix which had now become a haven for those looking to purchase data cheaply is now riddled with issues. The Yo Mix platform has also had its significant share of doldrums with some reporting that the service has been down for weeks now. I recall a ludicrous example where someone purchased a 50 Mb bundle and immediately turned off their phone, upon turning it on again later the first message they got was that the bundle had been depleted. If you try to report your complaint to get answers and assistance you are treated with deaf ears.
All the inconveniences that Econet has caused, all the unreimbursed monies, and so on, are taking a toll on the citizens. Zimbabwe is battling with a whole range of problems and here we are being short-changed by a mobile service provider. It’s even more disappointing that the company executives never bother to hold press conferences to iron out issues. They choose to remain out of the public eye leaving people to wallow in stress & anguish. The current Ecocash woes should be a top priority. People don’t have the luxury to just allow their hard-earned money to be taken away from them like that. Econet must put its house in order as soon as possible. We all understand that Zimbabwe has challenges, we live in it. A little communication on the challenges that Econet is facing would go a long way in customer relations if nothing can be done about the service we are currently getting.