August 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Airtel Kenya customers lose millions of shillings in new company fraud

The problem which has been running for several days escalated on Friday and Saturday morning, and over a dozen customers interviewed by this website reported losing money.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 13 May 2017 16:00 EAT

An Airtel Kenya shop.

A suspected technical hitch in the billing system used by mobile phone company Airtel Kenya cost customers millions of shillings by deducting funds from the subscribers' accounts for alleged loans on their accounts. In what was seen as continuing case of fraud and declining standards at the Indian-owned company, thousands of customers also received text messages demanding that they pay up loans they did not owe.

The company's billing system, whose problems this website unearthed previously, has been deducting funds from millions of Airtel Kenya customers using the firm's 'Kopa Credit' scheme, often for loans the customers never owed. The problem which has been running for several days escalated on Friday and Saturday morning, and over a dozen customers interviewed by this website reported losing money.

"I had Sh124 in my phone and within no minute, without making call I received a message that the money had been deducted and that I still owed the company Sh76," said a subscriber in Nairobi. Another customer had Sh55 deducted from his account and the company sent him a text demanding Sh45 more, yet he had no outstanding debt on the Kopa scheme.

Under the Kopa scheme, Airtel extends credit lines for subscribers for calling, texting and data usage when they run out of airtime, and the amount of the loan is deducted at their next top up. The company charges 10 percent for credit under the scheme.

Also affected during the last few days was the company's customer care service, with at least a dozen customers informing the Kenya Free Press that their calls to the customer care numbers were not going through. The customers called the firm's customer care telephone numbers but could reach agents to speak to.

Several Airtel Kenya customers vented their anger on social media, and a hashtag accusing the company of fraud trended on Facebook and Twitter. #AirtelNiMwizii trended on both platforms, with several customers sharing their negative experiences about losing money to the firm.

Following complaints from customers and amid reports of employee fraud in the Christmas period, Airtel Kenya was early this year put under regulator investigation by the Communication Authority.

Our efforts to reach the company bore no fruits as telephone calls to its main lines went unanswered.

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