Is There a More Arrogant Company than MultiChoice/DStv?

Have you ever been so angry with a company, so filled with rage, that you could quite easily physically go there and bang some heads together? I have never, ever experienced so much stress and heartache with a company as I have been recently, trying to sort out a simple error on the part of my satellite TV provider.

It is with a sense of deep frustration that I write this article, and I while I believe that my matter could have been easily and urgently resolved, I fear that this is not going to happen. No solution seems to be in sight, and, at the ripe old age of 58, I have considered legal action for the first time in my life.

I’m angry because I feel ripped off and inconvenienced by the silly systems, processes, products, services and especially the people at MultiChoice/DStv – people who are mostly unfriendly, poorly trained, incompetently managed, and don’t seem to display any customer focus in any way. It seems impossible to get a coherent member of staff to solve my problem – I’ve worked through TWELVE of them already.

Let me go back one step: After more than twenty years of loyalty to MultiChoice/DStv, (a cable TV provider that holds a complete monopoly in South Africa,) I have now had enough. I pay a small fortune every month for the privilege of watching about a dozen of my favourite channels that in any event have a knack for repeating all programmes again and again. Quite simply, I have now had enough of dealing with the apathy and indifference of an arrogant organisation. I have now had no signal for 12 days, and am seriously thinking of cancelling my contract and downloading all my entertainment from YouTube and Netflix from now on.

What’s worse, I now understand that the whole crisis began with an internal problem – a systems upgrade that went wrong for me and a whole bunch of other people. The gist of my problem goes like this: After watching all our programmes on one TV, leading to a lot of strife in the family, we eventually decided that it would be good to go to a dual view option, widely advertised and hyped by the company.

So I dutifully bought a second decoder, (which, with the required installation cost me more than R3000.) The official installer, a very helpful young man called Neil from Aerial Excellence, tested everything in my presence, and assured me that with one telephone call to the Multichoice/DStv call centre, my new decoder would be “coupled” to my existing one.

It all seemed simple enough to me, and I don’t think that I was asking for any miracles. I agreed to be invoiced for dual view immediately, and then purchased a new TV for the bedroom. I hooked up everything with great ease, and saw the E-16 error message which reminded me that I needed to contact the call centre.

Up until my first call, my original decoder worked perfectly – as it had for many years. Initially, I tried the impossible self-service commands in their system, but it was all intellectually too confusing for the 15-odd minutes I tried to get the machines to understand what I wanted to do, so I called back and waited for a live human being.

20 minutes later, having dealt with a very friendly and professional young man, Tshepo, at the call centre, the signal came through on my new decoder, and I was relieved that it was all okay now. However, an hour later I switched on the old decoder, and discovered that somewhere in the process, they had disabled it. I was now getting the same E-16 error message on the old decoder which, just a short time before, was working perfectly well.

So I immediately called back again, spoke to another agent, (number 2,) and who, in the space of another 23 minutes, killed BOTH decoder signals, muttering something incoherent about the incompatibility of the decoders. To add insult to injury, she cut me off mid-sentence, and even though I called back immediately and spoke to agent number 3, (Solomon,) begging him to put me through to her, he said it was impossible.

I had to start telling my sorry story all over again. I spoke to him for no more than 5 minutes trying to understand why this was happening – and again got cut off!

Redialling again, it was impossible to get through to Solomon, so I spoke now to my fourth agent, Ntutwe, and I spent another 33 minutes waiting and listening to stupid music while the helpless Ntutwe tried to sort it out. Eventually she came back to me to say I would have no signal for another 24 hours until someone else sorted it out the next morning.

By now I was very frustrated at the utter uselessness of call centre procedures at Multichoice/DStv, and while she did try a rather pathetic attempt to be empathetic, there was no solution forthcoming. I asked her to please answer what I think are simple questions, none of which were adequately answered then, nor since then by a whole lot of other people:

  • Why couldn’t she just turn on both decoders, given that I have paid for dual view? No coherent answer.
  • Well then, why couldn’t she just turn on one decoder – the one that was working perfectly just two short hours ago, and for which, after all, I had paid for? No coherent answer.
  • Did this mean that, since I paid for a specific service, that is, 24 hours a day of 120-odd channels, (most of which are an absolute bore,) then if I don’t get the service, do I get a pro-rata discount? No coherent answer.

I decided the time for dramatic action had now come, so I posted on all social media and, and of course, wrote an email to the “Customer Care” people, asking that this be dealt with with a sense of urgency.

I pointed out that…

  • If one of their official representatives, (at the shop which boldly states it is part of DStv on the front,) made a communication mistake by not pointing out at the point of sale that my old decoder was not compatible with the new…
  • and if the highly experienced technician who installed everything also didn’t mention any potential problems…
  • and if after having spent a lot of money in order to have dual view…
  • and if after spending almost two hours of my time in frustrating conversations with powerless, (and possibly clueless) staff at the call centre who, after all, had taken the actions to shut me out completely for at least 24 hours…
  • then surely they had a responsibility have to sort this out by taking ownership for solving my problem, even if they had to give me a new “compatible" decoder at no cost?

After my previous email to the address displayed on their website, the next morning I received a standard response from Nazia, (agent number 5,) who asked me to send my details of every serial number I could get my hands on. I immediately did so, sent them early in the morning, and waited. By 4:00 pm no response, so I again called the call centre, speaking to agent number 6, the helpless Boitumelo, who, (after me telling her my story for the 6th time now,) promptly put me through to agent number 7, Sobatlatla.

He kept me waiting and then told me in no uncertain term that my account was now in arrears to the tune of more than R1600. I told him this was not so, but, like all bureaucrats in monopolies, he said I should first pay and then he would ensure we’d be reconnected. We could always claim a refund later, he said, but didn’t sound at all convinced.

But he was wrong! I looked at my bank statements for June and July, and lo and behold, I was not in arrears and in fact on 1 June and 1 July two payments of R719 were made to the darned company.

I have, in the past ten days, also dealt with Niven, Bruce, Melicia, Katlego, and Hlubi, which brings the number of people involved in this matter to twelve! Twelve people, all of whom have been unable to give me a signal for almost two weeks now.

Melicia said she was reasonably senior inthe organisation, and promised that everything would be taken care of. Two days later she said that the decoders were incompatible. How can this be if they are two completely independent machines? She suggested we needed to buy yet another decoder for R400 or more. My wife asked if they could at least switch on the original decoder for which, after all, we had paid a whole month’s subscription in advance. Still nothing.

On day twelve, Katlego suggested I take my decoders to the DStv shop to be tested, and I took time off work to do so. Imagine my shock when I discovered that the shop received the same error message, and Matthew, (my thirteenth agent,) looked on the system and said the serial number of my original decoder was not in the system! The same decoder for which I have proof of purchase and have been paying insurance for every month, the same decoder that worked beautifully for a number of years.

Now, to add insult to injury, my August bank statement shows that they have taken R1600 from my account. I am livid, and now no action on my part will seem extreme. I have considered laying a charge of theft at my local police station, and also cancelling my contract. Instead I have made an appointment with my lawyer a few days from now. The relationship has been permanently damaged, and if I can, I will tell millions of other people about their incompetence.

The last two people, Hlubi and Katlego have been very kind, apologetic and patient with my rants, but the bottom line is the problem has not been resolved! After twelve days of no signal, three standard email replies, about four hours altogether on the telephone trying to resolve this with a number of people, an offer to give me two weeks of free viewing when this is resolved, and two hours in the DStv shop, nobody has solved my problem. Full stop.

When is this matter going to be resolved? I have no idea. But my lasting impression is that the people of MultiChoice/DStv are all completely stupid, or incompetent, or just couldn’t be bothered. The managers are cynical and power-hungry, and have forgotten who puts food on their tables at night, and who pays for their annual overseas holidays every year.

Of course. my anger with the company has not been isolated to this particular incident. Some of you may remember that, in spite of literally billions of rand in annual profit, they treat loyal customers rather shabbily. For example, twice in the past few years they forced every single one of their customers to physically go into an inconveniently located shop to swap smart cards – because of THEIR problem with pirate viewers, and/or because the old cards did not have capacity to deal with too much information. (If one didn’t comply, they threatened their good and honest customers that they would cut them off by 31st December in the most recent case.)

Those of you who know me also know that I am a kind and compassionate person, and have never used threats or legal action to get my own way. My whole personality has changed, and I’m amazed I haven’t had a heart attack or physically gone to their offices to beat someone up in my rage.

Uncharacteristically, I have already posted my complaint on, linked it to my Facebook and Twitter pages, and, as you can see, have also put it on my website. I did think that in the spirit of fairness I informed them that I run a small consultancy in customer loyalty and customer management, addressing hundreds of delegates every month in the art of delighting customers. This will become a case study for my seminars, because I feel completely spurned and betrayed by MultiChoice/DStv. It is their choice to avoid these actions.

Do I sue them? Should I cancel everything and start from scratch? Or perhaps I should do what we have done for the whole week – download programmes from the internet so we can at least keep the kids entertained for a couple of hours before bed. Back to Square 1 again. The idea of signing up with Netflix at about one-eighth of the price is starting to be more attractive…

UPDATE: Finally, after all the rigmarole and running around, and fifteen days after the loss of the signal, MultiChoice/DStv sent a suitably knowledgeable technician called Roger to my home to see what he could do. He couldn’t resolve the problem there and then, but the next day my satellite TV was finally up and running. A really nice man who had taken responsibility for the whole sorry affair, Hlubi M, followed up to ensure I was happy, and promised me he would look into the double withdrawal made for this month. I was more relieved than anything else, but I still believe that there is something major wrong with the systems and processes in the company. Sounds like they could do with a good management consultant who specialises in customer management issues. (That would be me!)

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