EcoCash agents have been warned to refrain from side deal activities to create an artificial parallel market and capitalise on desperate customers during the current cash crisis in the country.
This comes in the wake of investigations this week by Post Business in Mutare that revealed that some EcoCash agents were hoarding cash and side dealing, charging 10 percent commission on desperate customers in need of large amounts of cash.
Money was also being disbursed to the agents’ cronies, with members of the public being told that there was no cash. At one agent behind Stanbic Bank, this reporter was told by one of the ladies manning the EcoCash shop that there was no cash, yet another resident was made to transact and received $100.
Econet Wireless on Tuesday said it would not tolerate illegal activities by its agents and urged consumers to report any such cases immediately.
Econet Wireless executive assistant to Group chief executive officer, Mr Lovemore Nyatsine, said although Econet was not yet aware of any cases of side dealings the company would promptly look into the matter.
He said customers should only be charged displayed tariffs regardless of the cash limitations
EcoCash agents have strict operating guidelines that they are expected to adhere to and naturally we will take measures to protect our customers from any such practices if they are brought to our attention. All agents sign contracts which have clear penalties for any activities which are illegal. On the whole, EcoCash is guided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe regulations,” said Mr Nyatsine.
The current cash withdrawal limits by banks fuelled by liquidity constraints in the country have not spared the mobile money transfer sector. A survey in Mutare on Tuesday revealed that several mobile money transfer operators were not providing cash-out transactions to customers, while a few could only provide a maximum of between $50 and $100.
Several agents that used to rake in commissions of $20 to $40 a day were only making a paltry $7 due to the cash constraints. Mr Nyatsine urged customers to blow the whistle on any relevant information which would be followed upon.
“EcoCash tariffs are displayed at every agent outlet so that customers are aware of tariffs they obtain at any given time. Our tariffs are banded so are the applicable commission payable to agents. We have trained our agents to deal with customers with professionalism and integrity.
In addition to the training, EcoCash holds quarterly agent forums to reinforce compliance issues and product knowledge. Customers can contact EcoCash on the toll free number 114 or 111 for any tip-offs,” he said.
On the fate of the mobile money transfer sector in the wake of the cash challenges, Mr Nyatsine said the agents should continue to operate as normal as they were not spared from the current under-performance of the economy like any financial institution. He added that EcoCash would continue to operate within the policy guidelines pronounced by the regulator, RBZ.
Zimbabwe Progressive Airtime Vendors Association chairman, Mr Godspower Hamandishe, said as an association they encouraged accountability and fair dealing.
“When cash shortages emerge as in this case black markets are bound to surface. Traders will capitalise on consumers and create artificial shortages to create demand and rip-off people in the process. However, as an association we are discouraging our members in the mobile money transfer sector to adhere to the mobile money code of conduct,” said Mr Hamandishe.