Some MTN, Vodacom stores remain open during lockdown

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Some MTN and Vodacom stores will be operating during the COVID-19 lockdown, while Cell C and Telkom have decided to close shop for the duration.

SA’s leading mobile carriers say the telecommunications industry has been designated an essential service and they are taking this responsibility seriously.

MTN says its focus is on giving customers all the support they need to stay connected during the lockdown, while also protecting its employees.

MTN SA executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan explains: “We will keep less than 20% of our stores open across all provinces during the lockdown and trading hours will be limited to no later than 17h00 daily.

“Our intention with keeping these stores open is to offer urgent support to ensure our customers’ connectivity during the lockdown period. We will support our customers with device faults and provide support for SIM-swaps, for when devices have been lost, stolen or damaged. In addition, customers can receive technical support for modem and phone set-ups.”

Moreover, she says strict hygiene protocols, already in MTN stores, will remain and will be supplemented with additional actions, including the clearing of non-essential items (such as phones on display) to limit the number of items than can be touched in the store.

“We will also be switching off our in-store biometrics,” she says.

The telco is limiting the number of employees and customers in a store at any time, to ensure it can maintain social distancing protocols.

“We will also be placing social distancing barrier markings within the store, and staff will not be required to handle customer credit cards.”

Similarly, Vodacom says 139 of its stores will remain open during lockdown.

The company says it is in full support of the measures announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 and help to flatten the curve of infections in South Africa.

“While we are all feeling anxious about the health and wellness of loved ones, family, colleagues and members of our community, we cannot ignore that government has called upon us to act in support of ensuring our community remains connected during this time of lockdown,” says Jorge Mendes, chief officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit.

“In line with government’s regulations, certain Vodacom stores will trade with limited working hours and strict procedures to ensure our customers stay connected. The limited trading stores will only supply goods and execute services that are deemed essential, such as data, airtime, repairs and SIM-swaps.”

However, smaller operators Cell C and Telkom have decided to close shop during this time.

Cell C says a decision has been made to close the Cell C branded stores, but the situation will be monitored and assessed on a needs basis.

“One of the factors that influenced the decision to close the retail outlets was the ability to courier stock to the stores. Customers can still purchase airtime via the major retail outlets (for example, Shoprite, Pick n Pay, etc) that are selling food and essential items, as well as filling stations and informal and spaza shops in communities.

“Other ways that customers can buy Cell C’s products and services is via the Cell C app (for Android and Apple devices), Cell C Web site, ATMs as well as banking apps and Internet banking platforms. Cell C has seen an increase in customers using the Cell C app in recent days, which is one of the behaviour shifts the customer-first mobile operator is monitoring during this unprecedented time.”

Like Cell C, Telkom says it wholeheartedly supports the lockdown.

Serame Taukobong, CEO of Telkom’s consumer division, says there is no doubt this is the best tool to flatten the curve and save lives.

“In response, all Telkom stores will be closed for the duration of the lockdown as regulated by government. However, our customers are able to get their services such as airtime top-up or data and LTE bundles through the Telkom Web site or app, and the retail outlets that will remain open. MiFi routers that enable connectivity for multiple people and devices can be purchased at retail stores.”

He notes call centres will remain open, but with fewer agents primarily working from home.

“These are extraordinary times; we therefore request customers to be patient during this period and we will prioritise any critical failures. We remain steadfast in ensuring our connectivity services remain up throughout, and as such, all essential and necessary services will be running, managed and where needed, improvements made to them.”

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