MTN apologises for billing fiasco - TechCentral

MTN apologises for billing fiasco

Karel Pienaar

MTN SA MD Karel Pienaar has apologised for the billing system debacle that resulted in thousands of its customers being incorrectly billed.

Pienaar says the last of the problems are being ironed out and says the new billing system, implemented by IBM, positions the company well for future growth.

“I apologise to my customers for putting them through this and have total sympathy and empathy for the suffering they are going through,” Pienaar says.

The billing problems, which affected as many as 600 000 MTN customers, happened mainly between September and December 2009, he says. “For many of the customers, it wouldn’t have been material and we would have corrected it before they even noticed.”

The upgrade was the first time MTN had replaced its billing system since it began operating 16 years ago. “We didn’t just replace the wholesale billing system, but also the billing system components that are integrated into the network, all the switches in the network which send real-time information to the billing gateways,” Pienaar says.

He likens the upgrade to performing open-heart surgery. “It goes to the core of the organisation. There’s lot of spaghetti connecting everything.”

Without getting too technical, the main problems were related to duplicate data that were being fed into the billing system.

“For short periods we had duplicated CDRs (call detail records) going into the billing system, and the checking was not sophisticated enough to pick up all the duplicates,” he says.

The result was MTN began issuing duplicate bills to some of its contract subscribers. “We’ve now put in an extensive bit of software in front of the billing system to look for these duplicates.”

Despite the problems, Pienaar says the new billing system positions the company well for the future, allowing it to launch new products and services, “especially in the smartphone era we’re moving into now”.

The new system will also allow MTN’s call centre agents to serve customers better, he says.

The billing system upgrade comes at the same time that MTN is investing heavily in new network infrastructure. It has spent R12bn in the past two years modernising its network, with another R4,5bn allocated for 2010. “[These upgrades] also caused some network issues, especially in the first half of last year, but in the past six months our network quality has improved dramatically.

“Our core network is now ready for LTE, for the mass deployment of data,” Pienaar says. LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, is the fourth-generation cellular technology that will begin to replace third-generation networks in the next few years.

Pienaar doesn’t believe the billing problems have resulted in MTN losing significant market share. Call prices have a much bigger impact on churn, he says. “The real damage for me is more the level of frustration we have caused our customers.”  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral


  1. Well, I have since left MTN because if this nonsense. I am now told by MTN that I owe them about R9000! This of course is a spurios invoice,and will be fought to expose the mess that is MTN!

  2. John Baptiste on

    This is simply not good enough – The problem should not have happened, but since it did, MTN should’ve hired more people to man its call centres and billing department to help customers with queries.

    Taking months to help customers deal with billing queries is appalling, so is holding for an hour to reach an agent to help you with a disputed call in the first place.

    It is because of the lack of competition in the country that the likes of MTN can treat their customers with such contempt.

    Anyone planning to switch from Vodacom: as bad as they might be, trust me, MTN is a hundred times worse. Believe me, MTN makes the department of home affairs look compotent by comparison.

  3. I never thought I would move to Vodacom, but I had no choice. MTN says I owe them R8000, that is just insane!

  4. Benzi Kornizer on

    Mr. Pienaar comes too late and with no clean Hands! He knows that MTN actually cheated their loyal customers (like me) with a very sophisticated double billing scam – which I can prove in any COURT!
    Any one of you that would like to join me against MTN, please email me a short email with your normal bill and the overcharged bill you’ve got from MTN for the past 5 months and we will show them – WE ARE NOT SUCKERS!
    My email:

  5. That’s all good and well that they have a new fantastic billing system, blah blah blah! But what about the cock up to their customers’ bills?? Between September – December I was paying WELL over my normal bill of R600 – instead I was being charged R2500+ per month! When I queried this to the incompetent tools at MTN Customer Service they said they would “investigate” the charges – to which they said it was all legit!

    But still – No response to Hello Peter complaints – No response when you contact the customer service department via email and/or telephone. Maybe MTN should look at upgrading their Customer Service Department as well!!

    (MTN – if you read this – how about contacting me, so you can give my money back!!)

  6. Arno van der Walt on

    I am shocked he believes people were not affected. I was hit for R1k and sill have not heard back from the call centre. Shocking!

  7. Well done MTN?!? Wtf does it help me, i still sit with a R10K bill which you keep me responsible for which i never used on my 3G card. What does it help if you upgrade your billing servers now? First go and clean up the mess you caused and rectify the accounts. I have had nothing but trouble from you guys.

    Seriaaaaas, you should upgrade your whole act.

  8. David Rosenstein on

    Hi have been billed 40 times my two year average 3G data usage (- R34K) . This occured in my Dec and Nov bills for 2009. I have recieved poor and shocking feedback from MTN. They have failed to respond to my emails, their call centre staff are mostly unaware of how to help or what the problem could be. On Hello Peter there are plenty of affected individuals – with similar 3G related problems. This appears to be an ongoing problem that has happened before in 2008 I have so far had no recourse from MTN and I am still struggling with this problem. I am currently seeking legal intervention.

  9. My corporate account has been over billed by about R10,000 each month – and no matter how much we query it – NOTHING HAPPENS. How do you receive an R11,000 bill when you are on a 1 gig data top up plan?????

  10. I have taken my complaint to ICASA, but if all fails I will hire a lawyer. There is no way I am paying R9000 for a mess I never caused.

  11. My internet bill went from 400.00 to almost 10 000.00. this is still continuing into April. My question is: even if they do resolve the issue do we get a refund???????

  12. Betsie Eybers on

    Mnr Pienaar,dit help nie net om jammer te se. Daar is ‘n ernsitge probleem by MTN se kliente diens. Ek sukkel al van Januarie af om my 2 rekeninge vir Nov en Des 2009 verduidelik te kry. Ek het net skielik rekeninge gekry vir bedrae sonder enige nommers waarheen gebel is en die roaming bedrae is van Nov af van ongeveer R4 na R22 per minuut. MTN belowe egter net elke keer ‘n konsultant sal my binne 48 uur skakel maar van Jan. wag ek nog steeds. Ene Mnr Murel Britz en die kliente diens afdeling is deeglik bewus van my probleem maar niks word verder gedoen. Groete Betsie Eybers

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