Cuba's Telephone Co. Cons its Users
September 23, 2014
Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba's telephone company monopoly has admitted it is
experiencing problems with its systems and that it is stealing money
Some time ago, I wrote an article for Havana Times that revealed that
Cuba's telecommunications company (ETECSA-CUBACEL) was unable to respond
to the concerns of unsatisfied users and that I was hoping to get some
good news regarding an improvement of its services. Since September 3,
the date in which changes to the company's platform began, these
services, rather than improve, have actually gotten worse.
I was able to confirm this when Igori Moya, a CUBACEL user, alerted me
to the fact that the voice-box service was using up people's credit
without them even using the service. When we did a test using my phone,
it turned out to be true. For every call from a landline in which a user
leaves a message in one's voice-box, the system automatically deducts
sixteen CUC cents from one's balance. This is somewhat contradictory, as
the system is allegedly programmed to deduct credit only when one
listens to one's messages and the connection costs twenty cents the minute.
Faced with this situation, I asked Igori to give me more information
about this. He gave me a detailed description of everything he had done
He told me that, some days before, he had gone to CUBACEL's customer
services office, located at the intersection of Obispo and Habana, Old
Havana, to register a complaint. On that occasion, they were unable to
see him in the office because he arrived after working hours. While he
waited outside, however, one of the employees did confirm that his cell
phone balance showed irregularities and she suggested he return on
Thursday, September 11, so that their supervisor could see to the matter
directly and process his complaint through the proper channels.
When he returned to the office, the supervisor sent his complaint, with
a detailed description of the problem, to three email accounts set up to
address any incidents arising as a result of the changes that began to
made on September 3.
Two days after presenting his complaint at ETECSA's customer services
office, Igori was getting restless: his balance continued to decrease.
On Saturday, September 13, he called the office again to find out
whether the complaint he had made had received any response. They
informed him that none of the three email addresses had yet replied.
Igori then asked if there was any other office that could process his
complaint. They suggested he approach the multi-services center located
in the Focsa building, in Vedado, and to contact the head of
communications for the locality.
When he went there, he was informed that the manager in question was not
at his office. He was seen by the supervisor on duty at the time, who
had no knowledge as to how the voice-box system worked. This was clear
to me when Igori told me that she and the "experts" there claimed that
the system automatically deducts from one's credit when a voice message
is left. Igori then explained to them the service didn't work that way
and used solid arguments to describe what the service was all about. The
reply was that he should address his concerns to the customer services
office located on the intersection of 7th and 28th Streets, Miramar.
A supervisor at the company Vice-President's office heard Igori's story.
She told him he had been given the runaround and informed him that the
customer services office located in Vedado's Focsa building offers the
same services in terms of customer complaints. When she finished
explaining this, she proceeded to do the same thing the employees in the
Obispo office had done. When Igori saw that he had hit the same wall, he
again asked to see a superior. The supervisor replied that their
superiors didn't work on weekends.
On Sunday, September 14, I called Igori again and suggested the two of
us approach the customer services office on 7 and 28, Miramar, to
register a complaint anew, as we (and who knows how many more people)
continued to have problems with the voice-box service. I told him that
higher-ups were almost always at work Monday mornings. He agreed, as his
balance had almost run out because of the problems with the voice-box.
On Monday, September 15, Igori again went to the office in Miramar. I
went with him this time, because the problem affected us both.
At the reception, we were told that customer complaints and suggestions
were received a different day of the week. We replied by demanding to
see an employee who would address our complaints, explaining to them
that our balance continued to be depleted as time passed.
Shortly after this, an employee showed up and took Igori to his office,
in the company of the employee who had received him on Saturday. Once
inside, the employee explained to her superior everything that had
happened and what had been done with the complaint so far – that they
had proceeded as is established for these cases. They tried to calm
Igori down using nonsensical arguments that made him feel even more
mistreated and unsatisfied.
He then asked them to check his call history, so that they too would
become convinced that his cell phone balance showed irregularities.
At that moment, the only registered call was one made on the 13th. He
asked them to look for a more up-to-date balance so they could see the
charges for calls received and the fact they did not match his cell
phone balance. He told them again that the service had been disconnected
without him having made a single call as a result of the malfunctioning
In response, the employee told him that, to receive a call history
report, he had to put 3 CUC (3.30 USD) into his phone balance, something
he felt was a strategy to wriggle out of the situation and a show of
indifference towards the unjust treatment he had received on behalf of
Igori was not willing to budge and the higher-up noticed this. She then
opted to lay the blame on the employees who had seen him at the customer
services office in Old Havana, saying they should have introduced his
complaint into the computer's complaint registry. The employee who had
seen Igori there the previous day said that she hadn't done that either
because that slows down the process. Her superior then instructed her to
introduce the complaint into the system immediately. Then, she asked my
friend when credit had been deducted from his balance the last time in
order to consult with other experts over the phone.
When she was done consulting, she had no choice but to concede that the
system wasn't working properly and she assured my friend that the credit
that had incorrectly been charged him would be reimbursed within 24 hours.
Regrettably, nothing happened within that time.
Two days went by and Igori had not gotten his credit back. Mine also
continued to go down. We decided to take our complaint to an even higher
level. This time around, we presented our complaint at the customer
protection office located on the third floor of the Miramar Trade Center.
There, we were received by David Ramirez, who works for the Customer
Protection Office. We submitted a formal letter of complaint explaining
the seriousness of the matter. At first, Mr. Ramirez questioned us for
having taking the matter to that level. After reading the letter and
finding out what had happened, however, he placed himself entirely at
Immediately, he picked up the phone and called Vivian Falcon Perez, the
supervisor who had received Igor on Monday, September 15. Ramirez
informed us of the problems they'd been having since September 3 and
again acknowledged that the voice-box service was not working properly.
In a little over two hours, our complaint was finally introduced into
the nationwide system that registers customer complaints (something
which hadn't yet been done) and we were assured we would be contacted
over the phone as soon as the voice-box service was working properly and
that all of the balance deducted would be reimbursed.
They committed to reimbursing us the money they had charged us by
mistake as soon as the problems were fixed. They took Igori's letter of
complaint and again asked us to be patient, telling us that the service
would be back to normal within 15 days.
On Monday, September 22, we were reimbursed the balance deduced, but the
voice mail system continues to have problems. During a telephone
conversation with company executive Rubidalia Perez, we were told that
all people affected had received their balance back. We were again told
to be patient; that they were working to fix the problem.
Source: Cuba's Telephone Co. Cons its Users - Havana Times.org -