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For a few days now, there has been an uproar on social media after a Safaricom customer took it to Facebook to complain of how the telco deducted more funds from her M-Pesa account than she expected after a friend asked her to buy him data bundles. The complaint calls out Safaricom for “theft” in what the customer terms as the failure for the telco to disclose that she would be required to foot her friend’s outstanding debt.

“Safaricom !!! safaricom !!! am so disappointed in you as a Customer….today a customer asks me to buy him bundles and i buy worth 50/- then you deduct me 275/- from my mpesa account seriously ??? Calling your so called customer care he tells me that its your terms n condition i was deducted since the person i bought bundles for had your unpaid debt ? So is that not stealing from me surely safaricom…how safe is my mpesa cash in my account…where was the agreement for you to deduct me the amount ? This is the worst n poorest service provider have ever dealt with. Have been hearing people complain but you touched me today. Would rather move to another service provided assap….”

Reads the complaint that she posted on Safaricom’s Facebook page

The post soon made its way to Twitter, where it was promptly termed an abuse of monopoly. Rightfully so, some of the comments regarding the post were founded but most showed a complete lack of knowledge.

We decided to run an experiment to find out what exactly happens when one tries to send or buy airtime for another customer with an outstanding Okoa Jahazi loan. So, I borrowed Kes.100 bob airtime and my colleague sent Kes.50 bob airtime through M-Pesa. At this stage, we did not encounter any additional charges and the airtime I received was automatically deducted to offset part of my Okoa Jahazi.

Safaricom Okoa Jahazi Sambaza Experiment

The second instance, we tried buying a data bundle for my number through my colleague’s M-Pesa account and that’s when we got the prompt alerting him that I have an outstanding Okoa Jahazi which will be deducted from his account on top of the cost of the data bundle he’s to purchase or me. From here, one can choose to accept or cancel the process.

Safaricom Okoa Jahazi Sambaza Experiment (2)

So, we did establish that Safaricom does give one the option to accept the additional payment or cancel the process, as highlighted by their response to the complaint on Facebook.

“…On the prompts that you receive in the process of buying the bundles, you are usually notified that the recipient has an Okoa jahazi of a certain amount and advises you that you will be deducted the same. It gives you an option to either go ahead with the purchase and be deducted the whole amount or to cancel. You will only be deducted the amount if you agree to go ahead with the purchase…”

What’s interesting is that the service has been active for the past five years and it is only now that an issue has arisen regarding the same. The service was introduced by Safaricom to streamline the sambaza data process. Anyone with an outstanding Okoa Jahazi debt cannot purchase any other resources until the debt is settled. Thus, people who needed to sambaza data to Okoa Jahazi debtors had to first send airtime to them to clear their debt before buying the data. So Safaricom made the process into one where both deductions were made at the same time.

Whether you view the option to clear someone’s outstanding Okoa Jahazi debt before buying them data bundles as “unethical” or “wrong”, contrary to word doing rounds on social media, the option to offset the debt is not hidden, it’s well included in the payment process.

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