Life is sweet again for prize winner

Nadia Niewoudt said that her brother, 33, a Type 1 diabetic, entered a competition run by Roche Diagnostics in 2005 where he won a lifetime’s supply of sugar testers.

“We have been receiving the strips regularly as required but mid-year Roche told us he would no longer get the strips. In October he received a registered letter from Roche that included an attachment: Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act (No 72 of 2008), which indicated that pharmaceutical companies would no longer be able to supply free samples of medication,” the Bellville resident said.

Ms Nieuwoudt said the test strips cost between R400 and R600 a month and a lifelong supply (30 years with a 5% increase a year) can total more than R339 000.

A substantial sum in any language. “I hope you will assist us,” Ms Niewoudt said.

It didn’t take too long and Ms Niewoudt said Roche had contacted her and told her that “the attachment had been sent to her in error” but her brother would continue getting the strips.

“The medical department apologised for sending that notice to us. It was a mistake and they will be sending my brother test strips every month. Thank you for your assistance.”

A few minutes after Ms Niewoudt told me the good news, Corine Verwey, head of Regulatory, Quality and Compliance, Roche Diabetes Care Management Centre, Johannesburg, said: “We contacted the customer and apologised to him for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

So, short and sweet. However, there was no explanation of what led to the “mistake”.

But Ms Verwey did warn me that in terms of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, I would have to get “written legal consent from the customer to publish his personal details and health status”.

It’s no shame to tell people that you are a diabetic. In any event, I wasn’t going to name him. However, by writing to me his sister gave her tacit permission.

But POPI has not yet been fully promulgated: only sections of it are now law. President Jacob Zuma is still applying his mind and it will probably be a while before the full bill will come in to force.

Roche Diabetes Care South Africa had told the Niewoudts they had received their complaint about the discontinuation of the supply of free blood glucose strips to winners participating in the Once in a Lifetime promotion of 2005.

“The letter was distributed to you in error, without internal sign-off. Roche Diabetes Care will honour the supply of the free blood glucose strips as offered in the ‘Once in a Lifetime’ promotion held in 2005 to all the winners of this specific consumer campaign. We apologise for the error and any inconvenience caused by the communication you have received,” Roche said.

“However, the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act (No 72 of 2008), which came into force on June 1 (2017), prohibits the sampling of medicines, medical devices and IVDs to pharmacists, medical practitioners, dentists, veterinarians, practitioners, nurses or other persons registered under the Health Professions Act, 1974 (Act No. 56 of 1974), or any professional or person authorised to use the device.”

So why didn’t Roche tell me that in the first place?

Lateral thinking needed

If call centre agents or the bank’s consultants used a bit of lateral thinking they could have saved Colin Nathan a bit of grief.

The Sarepta resident applied for a loan on his FNB bond account but when he called them they said he had completed the wrong application form even though they sent it to him. He then reapplied through the FNB Cape Gate branch with the correct documentation. But FNB told him that his request had been denied as he was under debt review, with no other explanation or how to change his status.

“In 2009 I was placed under debt review and in 2012 I withdrew from the process after I had paid my bond and the arrears. My bond account is up to date with an excess amount and since 2012 I have made several attempts to remove my debt review flag or Risk 4 profile without success.

“FNB didn’t respond to the various reference numbers allocated to my debt review process although they confirmed receiving the documents but nothing has been done to change my status. I am so frustrated at the way FNB home loans is treating me as a long-standing client. Hopefully you can help me resolve this problem,” Mr Nathan said.

Calvin Ndlovu, head of collections at FNB Home Loans, confirmed that Mr Nathan applied for prepaid funds but the request could not be approved because of his debt review status.

“According to the National Credit Act (NCA) consumers can only officially withdraw from debt review by obtaining a court order which declares they are no longer over-indebted. Following this process, the individual’s debt counsellor has to issue a formal notification of the withdrawal to credit providers. We have contacted Mr Nathan’s debt counsellor who will assist him in getting the necessary documentation to withdraw from debt review,” Mr Ndlovu said.

Data-saving tips

South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) has issued four tips to help you save data these holidays.

Know your usage pattern. With this in mind, be honest with yourself and accept how much data you are likely to consume over December. And then add some. If you’re a prepaid user, don’t skimp on those initial mobile data recharges because you’ll pay more per megabyte if you keep recharging in small amounts during the month.

If you’re a parent, December’s the month for out-of-school children to really ramp up their mobile data usage. You can restrict app usage to certain hours of the day and turn off in-app purchasing.

Downloading your mobile network’s usage app, opting to receive SMS data usage updates and downloading special data-saving apps will all help you remain on top of data usage.

Switch your settings to any available free wi-fi networks and you’ll be amazed at how this will stretch your mobile data allowance.

Wi-fi really comes into its own while mobile contract customers are roaming abroad.