So you have finally made the choice. Out of seemingly hundreds, you had to decide on a mobile network, a device, a package. In all eagerness, you make your way to your service provider. Time to upgrade! But hold on. Are you sure there is nothing that you overlooked? Below are 10 important questions to get answers to before you do your unboxing on YouTube.

Cunning woman unboxing red gift box looking inside. Expression emotion and feelings concept. Studio shot, isolated on pink background

1. What type of package am I getting?

This is probably the first thing you decide on when getting a new contract or upgrade, but it doesn’t hurt to double check before signing any agreements. Always make sure you get the best deal that falls in line with your budget when getting a new mobile service.

2. ‘Open’ line? Top-up line? What are you talking about?

Probably one of the most confusing things at first, but when explained properly will allow you to make the best decision. When people refer to a line being ‘open’ it means that you generally have access to more than the allocated bundles that come with your subscription. This allows high-value users to keep on using a service without having to worry about the hassles of topping up with airtime or data. If you don’t have time to check always check balances and hate being stuck with no airtime or data then this would be for you, with the downside being that you are not always sure what your next bill would be. Whereas a top-up package puts you in complete control of your spending. Any usage outside of your bundled allocation would require you to make an additional purchase, called ‘topping up’. This puts you in firm control and rules out nasty surprises that might occur with having an ‘open’ line.

3. Are there any activation fees?

This is another question that gets overlooked and ends up as a complete shock when consumers receive their first statements. Some service providers do charge an activation fee. For various reasons. So be sure to double check whether your package will request an activation fee. Good news is that many operators have cut down on charging activation fees. This is still largely done when applying at a franchise store or when applying is that many operators have cut down on charging activation fees. This is still largely done when applying at a franchise store or when applying online.

4. What are pro-rata costs and how do they apply?

Ah, the old foe. The reason for so many problems, because of not being explained properly. Pro-rata is a percentage of your package costs that gets calculated based on the day your service is activated.

For example, when you activate your package on the 15th of a specific month. Your monthly subscription is R699 so your pro-rata would be R349.50, right? Um, no not exactly. How it works is like follows: let’s say your device cost is R599 per month and your package is R100 you might pay pro-rata on your package only but get charged for a full month’s device subscription. This differs depending on the mobile operator so always be sure that you know what it entails.

5. What is the cost of insurance and what does it cover?

Be sure to know this and request a copy of the terms and conditions with regards to your device insurance if you do decide to get it from your service provider. Also, important to know is that service providers normally use external insurers so do yourself a favor and check out their online reviews before you get insurance. Service providers normally allow a few days for you to decide. Check out all your options carefully as device insurance is quite costly.

6. Let’s talk about the OBF policy.

This only applies if you took out service with a device, and is not to be confused with the 7-day cool off period (I feel that topic should get its own article). Most mobile networks will have a 7 day Out of Box Failure policy which enables you to take back a faulty device as it may well be a manufacturer fault. In most cases, your device will be replaced immediately, with the same model and color as the faulty device. Operators are very strict with this as their systems will automatically pick up if a device is still within the 7-day period to make sure everything is fine within that time. This gets difficult sometimes especially if the device is bought well ahead as a gift for someone else but these are the chances we take in life. At least there is still the manufacturer warranty which normally is between one and two years.

7. What is the warranty on your device?

This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer so be sure to know exactly what your warranty covers as well as the duration thereof.

8. If there are any extra benefits, do they expire at the end of contract term?

Sometimes a package will have bonus benefits such as free minutes or data over 24 months which would normally not be included. That could form part of a Christmas, Easter, summer, winter, and Black Friday special. What many people do not know is that these benefits will most likely not extend after the 24 month period, which could result in some nasty surprises. Be sure to check with your service provider about the expiry of a deal should you wish to keep your package going after the contract period ends.

9. Speaking of contract terms, what is the cancellation procedure?

Some consumers prefer to go with a service provider merely because of the level of ease with which they can cancel their services. Which is not surprising, seeing that there have been so many issues with regards to cancellations in South Africa.

10. Anything else?

Yes, the small print. Request a copy of your signed agreement and make sure that you are aware of all the small details, from costs of international calls to the penalties you would pay should you want to get out of your contract early.

While there are many other things to consider, these are generally the most pressing questions. Let me if there are others that you can think of in the comments section.

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