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Dear people, why are we still complaining about EcoLife?

ecolife-logo2So, everytime we post an article about a new Econet value added service, it’s followed complaints from some readers who apparently feel cheated that Econet ended the EcoLife service. Some even go to the extreme of complaining that Econet owes them Ecolife money. Take yesterday for example when we posted the Econet to provide loans via EcoCash story. One reader commented on Facebook:

Yes but the actual banking services you have to go to the physical bank.My money at Barclays I dont trust Econet what happened to our EcoLife ?

Another took to Twitter:

well they never are clear with their projects e.g ecolife.still need an explanation PLEASE

At the recent announcement of the company’s half year financials a number of journalists complained to the Econet CEO about EcoLife’s short life and the monies that had never been paid out. The CEO explained as best he could how the product worked and why therefore Econet didn’t owe any subscribers Ecolife money.

The life of the product was indeed short quite short; October 2010 to Feb 2012, including the ‘suspended’ period in between when the two companies were fighting in the courts. But the truth is that technically people actually never paid a cent for actual life cover. How the product worked is that Econet encouraged you to buy a certain minimum airtime to qualify for life cover. The airtime was yours to use so you did get the money’s worth in airtime.

It was ‘free’ cover. Yes, free in the operator ‘buy our expensive voice services and we’ll give you this for free’ sense, but free all the same because you do buy on those expensive tariffs anyway.

Here’s an explainer image from back then:

EcoLife - How it Works

That said it clear enough there.

As for how long the cover would last, information publicised then, but which is still available on the Econet website says it clear that it’s one month, unless the subscriber renews.

But all that aside even, when the agreement expired in February 2012, econet had ads in the press telling Ecolife subscribers that if they were due a claim (the death of a subscriber covered) they were entitled to it and could get it as long as they met insurance claim conditions (within 90 days, death certificate etc..). Local papers and even us covered that public notice. How many did follow through to get the insurance is ofcourse another matter, but the fact remains that the notice was made.

The product was retired and this to be expected of any product by any company. For commercial or other reasons, products are retired and customers are made aware so they consider other options. Why people are mad at Econet for this beats us. Traditional insurance companies themselves introduce new products and retire old products for various reasons and they never get such backlash.

Maybe the lesson here for Econet is to communicate better what a product offers. With Ecolife it seems people believed they were paying actual money for life insurance. And maybe also to consider carefully how to handle a fallout with partners; the very public fight with a partner, the switching Ecolife on and off silently and lack of clarity of what was going on, all affected the image of the company negatively and seems people lost some confidence in them.


Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

21 thoughts on “Dear people, why are we still complaining about EcoLife?

  1. Dear writer, once trust is broken you can never regain it. They went out of their way to advertise it, simple courtesy of explaining would have done very well. Econet does not care about it’s subscribers we are tired of half baked service

      1. Kabweza, I am not a lawyer but this promotion was flawed. Firstly after a series of nuisance messages telling me to join, i eventually did. Now here is where I have a problem, to join I was to buy $3 airtime where I would normally had to juice $1 airtime. And mind you there were no $3 juice cards, rather $5 that meant i was spending more that I intended in the name of free cover upto $12 000. what did this mean for ECONET, it meant guaranteed $5 from me and thousands other subscribers againt in the name of free cover of $12000. Now you might agree they do not owe us anything, but there is a term for it. Its called BAD FAITH. They might not owe us anything legally but they rode on our trust to make money. Like I said I am not a lawyer but something about the instant termination and flimsy explanation was not something I expected from my BUDDIE.

        1. Just a clarification, the minimum spend was $3 and it didn’t have to be from one solid recharge card. You could buy a dollar at a time, weeks apart if you wanted.

      2. Mr Kabweza, if i see an ad in the paper saying buy a Samsung Note 3 and get a Galaxy Gear for free, are you saying i am not entitled to complain if the Galaxy Gear does not work, just because I got it for free??? I never subscribed to EcoLife but from the way it was advertised, it was Econet that was offering a service. The fact that subscribers would go on and consume the airtime thus making the cover “free” does not change the fact that they still have the right to complain if they feel that what they were told about the product differs from the deal they got.

        The truth of the matter is that Econet benefited immensely from EcoLife as many people bought more airtime than they would have normally done. I just thought that it was just wrong, broke consumer trust and was a show of bad faith to say that they didn’t owe subscribers anything. No matter what Econet says, this time they got it all wrong. I actually remember at some point Mboweni saying that they did not offer any product but simply offered a platform for TrustCo to offer its own insurance service. I mean really Kabweza, how would you feel if you bought a Chicken Inn 2 piecer, got sick and were told to take your complaint to Irvines or whichever Brazillian company Chicken Inn buys their chicken from?? Yet the product and all promotional materials are in the name of Chicken Inn.

        I believe that EcoLife simply underscores the need for a telecoms regulator with actual teeth lest big companies with the best lawyers on their payroll continue to get away with cold-blooded corporate murder maskati machena kudayi.

        1. . I just thought that it was just wrong, broke consumer trust and was a show of bad faith to say that they didn’t owe subscribers anything.

          But they didn’t say that. When their agreement with their partner came to a close in February 2012 they did, via the public notice, encourage people whose claims were due to come and claim.

          Also, when they temporarily terminated the agreement in 2011, they advised the subscribers that they had migrated all data to manual system (or something like that) so they could honour claims that were due.

          1. Kabweza for me it is as simple as the statement “the more airtime you use the more cover you get”. this means, where I would ordinarily have limited my voice calls to my preferred affordable levels i deliberately did not because I was made to believe I was investing in more life cover. For me it was more like “buy life cover and get free calls” (and yes I know they did not say that but hope you get the picture). So when the life cover is removed surely you cannot just stand on a rock and tell me ‘you enjoyed your airtime’s worth so that’s that’. I am not sure if you deliberately ignored the guy who said that they rode on our trust to make money, which I think is another valid point. It was never a free service. unless of course the calls we made were charged at cost with no profit. instead, if Econet for example were making a profit of 15c per $1 of voice call, they basically were saying for your first $3 every month we will deposit 45c (or probably less) in a life cover account for you. This is the same as the concept of buying mobile fones on contract and getting “free” minutes per month.

            Bottom line – there must have been more appropriate communication than “The airtime was yours to use so you did get the money’s worth in airtime”. Please tell the guy, without the carrot he dangled, i had no other real business for using all that extra airtime and eventually lost the value.

            1. Fair point on “buy life cover and get free calls”. People did use more airtime just to get the cover.

              Part of my point is that they did honour the claims of those whose claims were. If any claimed that is. Say for example you ‘bought’ life insurance (using your interpretation here) and in May 2011 you were covered. When the problems started in June, that didn’t at all mean your cover was gone. Econet advised publicly that they had all data handy to honour any claims due.
              I’m sure this remained the case until February 2012 when they effectively ended the service. When they did end the service, the also made a public announcement and advised that all claims due before the end of the service – 17 Feb – would be honoured.

              So they never failed or indicated they would not honour claims that were due. It’s just that the service itself came to an end. i.e. beyond 17 Feb, the service didn’t exist anymore.

              Is it therefore that they didn’t communicate enough when their partner problem started started in June 2011?

              1. granted that basic insurance concepts apply. i am not privy to the actual situations regarding the ecolife claims and their success rate, i was responding more to the statement that implied people should not talk about the cover since they enjoyed their airtime/credit already.
                Personally, the last communication I received as a ‘policy holder’ (i.e. not through mass media) was an sms telling me they were facing some challenges but my value would be preserved and realised when they resumed.
                I agree though to a greater extent that the only people who should be speaking out are those who were entitled to claims during the service period and they did not get the payment. The rest of us were actually covered during the period but we were fortunate not to ever need the cover.
                now let me go and google the meaning of the phrase “once bitten twice shy”……….

            2. But you did get your cover and made your free calls, even when the service terminated which could be claimed. You were no longer required to subscribe for the free cover after that.

              1. Unless you know a way? This was an assurance policy, where one’s relatives were paid out based on their death. How many of your relatives knew that you had subscribed?

  2. There is effectively a contract that econet is renegating from here, get a smart lawyer and you can sue them big time…its all written in print what they promised people. The fact that they discontinued the product is their problem. This way these companies will know what to promise before they flight the adds. Econet has contracts with everyone that subscribed and you people out there you are owed money, just come together and go after this goliath! which used to be david

  3. As others have said you cannot promise a free addon and not deliver it, otherwise I can say get a free TV when you buy this Stove. Even if the promotion is legal in so much as there was small print about it expiring after X time it gave people a bad perception of what you as a company are prepared to do with financials, people need trust before they can use such a service and EcoLife and other Econet actions in the past have left a bad taste in people’s mouths, that said EcoCash and EcoSave are popular enough to be building trust back.

    1. As others have said you cannot promise a free addon and not deliver it, otherwise I can say get a free TV when you buy this Stove.

      But what exactly did they not deliver??

  4. I dont get it either. Its a product which simply flopped: something that, by the way, regularly happens with paid products too. Quiet unfortunate, yes, but it doesnt seem to me like a scheme that was designed from the word go to swindle people out of their hard earned cash. Nope, it never was. Just an unfortunate flop.

  5. We may beat about the technical legalities all day long but one day Econet will wake up and realize that the public trust they took for granted is all gone
    and they will wonder where they got it all wrong. A simple walk down
    the path today reveals almost everyone has something to complain about
    Econet. All these cries cannot be for no reason – pane hutsi pane moto!

  6. Well said L.S.M. Thanks for the clear explanation. I too was an Ecolife subscriber & whilst it was unfortunate that the product failed, I took it much like any insurance product i.e. car or home insurance. If I ensure my car for a year and make no claims within that year, what happens when it’s renewal time? The analogy may be a bit off but we might as well go to all the insurance companies and claim all those contributions we did not make use of. Ecolife was free, but for every other product we actually pay.

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