Telkom unclaimed funds
  • Some former Telkom customers received account statements this week for long-cancelled landlines.
  • The statements are confusing, but have a clue on the second page: the phrase "unclaimed refunds".
  • It may look like a scam – especially because Telkom's call centre doesn't know about it – but that is genuinely money Telkom owes former users.
  • There are some 50,000 people who have free money waiting for them, Telkom says.
  • The long-delayed statements are just a result of the way the company deals with unclaimed account balances.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The PDF invoice from "Telkom" looks a lot like the starting point of a scam.

"Charges for September 2020", reads one line, before giving a rand amount for "service fees" – and then reflecting a zero balance due.

Several customers who received such statements this week assumed it was a scam because they had not had any relationship with Telkom for years. Those who phoned the company's call centre were not disabused of this notion, because frontline staff could provide no further information.

But the documents are legit, Telkom confirmed, and reflects some of the roughly 50,000 unclaimed refunds waiting for its former landline customers. It just so happens that they receive notifications of these funds after three years, because of how Telkom accounts for such money.

The only hint to that is the phrase "unclaimed refunds" on the second page of the invoice, though that is quickly confused again by a claim on the same page that the rand amount is for "[c]harges for Sep".

The confusing statements actually serve as credit notes, said Telkom group communications executive Mooketsi Mocumi, for those who have cancelled landlines but never claimed outstanding credit on their accounts.

After three years that credit is reclassified as unclaimed. When that happens, movement on the customer account – a debit to zero it out when the money is transferred to a holding account – triggers a statement to be sent out, as long as the email adress on record is still right.

"Should the customer want to claim their refund, a refund request must be logged with proof of banking details for Telkom to process the refund request," said Mocumi.

Telkom says it tries to contact customers with credit in their accounts, but often finds that people are wary to provide their bank account details – because they fear being scammed.

Account queries can be lodged via Telkom's call centre on 10210.

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