This is how Ecocash is prejudicing unwary clients of their remittances via WorldRemit, as it happened to me:
1. On 13 May 2021 a sender remits USD to me.
2. A WorldRemit transaction alert (minus the usual reference #) pops up on my mobile; it says the USD “has arrived via WorldRemit into your mobile money account”.
3. Hot on the heels of that alert and without any prior arrangement or opening of an FCA account with Ecocash, an Ecocash message pops up on my mobile to notify of the WorldRemit money in my FCA account complete with an option for me to covert the USD into ZWL!
4. I decide no I want the hard cash and look for an Econet Shop. I go to Herbert Chitepo and the Guard Alert guards at the gate (thanks to Covid-19 they seem veritable latter-day Econet receptionists) say there is no cash and it would be a waste of my time to even try to get inside. I am off to the Livingstone Avenue branch and the story is the same including a ‘helpful’ additional, “RBZ has not delivered any USD to us this week and we are not sure when they will”.
5. I go back home frustrated but wonder why it should be like when I have received remittances via other channels before!
6. The next day, to get around Ecocash, armed with some transaction reference number I imagined was the WorldRemit number and had gleaned from the Ecocash message, I am at OK Marimba Bureau de Change. The woman there calmly tells me WorldRemit numbers are not like that! Feeling a bit hot under the collar, I head back to Herbert Chitepo Econet Shop. At the gate the guards ask me what my business was – if I wanted cash there wasn’t any. I tell them I had issues with my FCA account and they let me in.
7. At the counter, I ask to have my WorldRemit transactions delinked from my Ecocash account and why Ecocash would arrogate to themselves the right to create an FCA account for me and to make that WorldRemit-Ecocash link without my consent. The lady there then says it was the sender’s prerogative to choose Ecocash as the destination of the remittance in Zimbabwe and I should tell them to not choose Ecocash the next time and also that the issue of automatic FCA account creation was covered in the Ts & Cs of Ecocash [In my research there is no reference to FCAs in the Ts and Cs]. I ask the sender to verify the options they chose when they made the transaction and ensure that they don’t use Ecocash the next time but the sender says there was not such an option. I then ask her why they don’t seem to have cash when the remittance was effected. She says no it was only the day before that they didn’t have cash but ‘now’ they have it! I said OK, give me my cash. She then turns around and says but I could only get my USD with 2% off!
8. In desperation I accept. In the mechanics of ‘cashing out’ I lose 2% of my cash!
9. If I had chosen to covert my USD to ZWL, they would have done so at the auction rate, held onto my USD and converted it at the higher street rate and made off with the arbitrage difference!
10. The question is: How many of the millions of hapless Ecocash customers are being turned victim by their service provider in this manner? And how much have they been prejudiced of, which at the end of the day, Ecocash reports as profits? To the best of my knowledge, one gets all the USD sent via WorldRemit without any extra charge because all transaction costs would have been borne by the sender. Ecocash is therefore double dipping on both the charges already met by the sender as WorldRemit agent, and the spurious unilateral charges they subsequently levy on the unwitting customer!
11. By this gimmick, Ecocash is soiling the good image of WorldRemit (and/or even other money transfer companies) on the local market.
12. I think the Police, RBZ and Ministry of Finance must take a serious look at the operations of Ecocash in this regard.
13. Please send this to as many groups as possible to warn potential victims of this apparent scam.
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