Yesterday I woke up to this SMS message from EcoSure:
Your initial premium payment of $1.00 failed. The premium should be paid by 29-Feb-20 to complete your EcoSure Lite registration
I did the stupid thing of ignoring it and just thinking ‘well maybe I was testing something on EcoSure some time ago and I subscribed now they want me to pay.’
An hour later I saw a colleague publish that EcoSure had subscribed Econet customers without their consent and more than that, they had deducted money from their EcoCash wallets, again without consent or at least the pretense of asking for consent.
So the only reason a dollar was not deducted from my EcoCash wallet is that I didn’t have any money in there.
The aggressive push
There is a very evident aggressive push for the market at Cassava especially and at Econet. This is leading to road side agents who are lying about the specifics of the apps they are pushing people to download. They really don’t care because they are paid $5 when they get a person to download the four apps.
Half trained agents are calling people asking for their email passwords. All to get folks to download and register on the Vaya app. The millions of Econet subscribers are being spammed every day. If you opt out of receiving their promotional messages, they only stop coming for a few days and they start coming again.
It feels like we committed a crime by being Econet subscribers. Do they think they have done so much for us that they can send us any message whenever they want, call us at whatever time and ask us for our passwords and then subscribe us to their insurance service unilaterally and take our money?
It’s not a system failure
Econet or Cassava should not even think about taking out big bold newspaper ads blaming a technical glitch for yesterday, the EcoSure incident was not a system error. It would be scary if it were. A system that can randomly start subscribing people to a service? It was a bad judgement call. To be honest, that person should lose their job.
There is this mantra that says it’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than asking for permission. This is one of those silly cliches we quote blindly handed down to us from Silicon Valley. No, it’s not better to ask for forgiveness after taking my money than for you to ask me if I want to buy what you are selling in the first place.
This is criminal
The truth is what happened here is unlawful seizure of property. In other words: theft.
Cassava and Econet inviting stricter regulation
The world over when stuff like what happened yesterday happens, regulators go to rule books and add a few extra pages. That this happened is justification enough that we need to rethink regulation about what happens to our data held by telcos. Just before last year’s election, mobile subscribers got unsolicited messages from ZANU PF. Should such things happen?
The EcoSure incident is worse because someone moved money out of people’s accounts without their knowledge. It wasn’t just money being moved randomly, the money was going to the same company that we have trusted to keep our money. At least three regulators should say something about this:
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) as regulator of banking and similar services should make sure this never happens again. POTRAZ as regulator of telecoms companies should make sure telcos don’t abuse our personal data for their own benefit ever again. The Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) should make sure no insurance company should ever impose itself on Zimbabweans again whether that insurance company has a relationship with a banking institution or not.