A scam directed apparently against the cell phone service provider Claro has caught some of its customers with blocked phones. La Nacion reported the case of Jessica Zamora who bought her phone several months ago and found it useless recently.
When she tried to check back with the store that sold it to her, she found it closed. Claro officials say an individual bought 1,000 phones for resale but did not keep up the payments, so the phones were blocked.
Edgar del Valle of Claro’s legal department said that the individual had represented himself as buying the phone in a bloc for a corporation. But instead, he sold them to customers at stores.
The blocking of the phones was all per contract if the “corporation” did not keep up its payments, which happened. The lawyers says that the company was astounded when they cut off service to find that they had stuck their foot into a public relations bear trap.
Eduardo Castellon of the regulating agency SUTEL says there is nothing his agency can do for irate customers because the scam was directed at Claro. He says customers should have verified the origin of the phones.
The best he could suggest was that customers file a criminal complaint through the courts. (Another alternative is to file with Consumer Protection from the Economy Ministry.)
But it is unlikely that the customers would know the name of the fraud artist since the phones were sold in stores. It is unreasonable that buyers from a fixed outlet would play detective. They had every reason to believe the phones were legitimate.
Del Valle suggests that the affected customers go to a licensed Claro store and take out a plan with the company to get their phones switched on. But he defended the company’s right to block the service because the phones belong to Claro.
Commentary: Frankly, the attitude of both SUTEL and Claro makes no sense to us. It seems that Claro should have checked the credentials of the man claiming to represent a corporation. They have resources to do so.
A more reasonable tactic, public relations-wise, would be to turn the phones back on for a limited number of months and swallow the loss caused by the firm’s gullibility. Otherwise, we can guarantee that 1,000 persons will never buy another Claro service as long as they live.