Airtel Kenya takes mass marketing via mobile phones too far
February 22, 2012 7 Comments
Even though they do not offer free services, Airtel’s local marketing methods mean that paying subscribers are literally inundated with SMS text messages, and as if this was not effective marketing, Airtel are now calling subscribers and subscribing them (note: there is no opt-in!) to its music service dubbed “Ziki Tunes”.
“Dear Lucky Subscriber” ominous text messages announce to unsuspecting paying customers with the latest exhortation to reply to sign up for a service at a daily or monthly rate. Daily texts from Airtel offer “exciting” music; low rate and free calls (which we don’t mind!); downloadable games (again which some of us don’t mind!); lottery cash draw entries; top up chances to win handsets and tablets, etc
There are also messages that begin “Strictly confidential: A message of high importance is heading towards you! Follow the instructions …!”.
What! Who is their copywriter?
But as if those texts were not enough, consumers are now receiving phone calls from the phone number +254786824711 which on picking runs an automated message subscribing – yes! subscribing the consumer to the music promotion. Again no-opt in allowed.
What Airtel Kenya seem to forget is that theirs is not a FREE service where users are the product. If Airtel was like Google’s Gmail then users would agree that they can be targeted for ads; which indeed they are in a more tasteful manner. Airtel consumers pay their hard earned money for a phone service and do not need to be bothered and spammed by texts and now phone calls. Imagine, you are a young entrepreneur, waiting to hear from that big customer whom you just pitched your product. Now imagine how you feel when you receive a phone call instead from Airtel subscribing you to Ziki! Now imagine that big customer calling you to say that you have the deal, but low and behold instead of the beep to reach your phone they hear some inappropriate music!
Yesterday we called Airtel to complain about these incessant messages and phone calls. We were assured that the complaint was heard and were supposed to be copied on an email to Airtel customer service manager regarding the same. This did not happen and even worse, we received another of those subscription phone calls soon after. Needless to say this morning after receiving yet another call and promptly complaining our complaint has been “logged” and we hope that Airtel take appropriate action.
What if they don’t?
Airtel’s latest non opt-in subscriptions are in contravention of the Consumer Protection Act regarding unsolicited goods and services, which states:
“No supplier shall demand payment or make any representation that suggests that a consumer is required to make payment in respect of any unsolicited goods or services despite their use, receipt, misuse, loss, damage or theft.”
So this means that they cannot automatically subscribe and deduct airtime from phones for these services.
In the meantime, we are searching for a phone app that can act as a spam filter for texts from Airtel Kenya whose promotions will promptly be sent to the trash bin and that’s where they will stay.