Searching for service providers on Google isn’t always wise

An illuminated Google logo REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
An illuminated Google logo REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Need a locksmith, appliance repairer or satellite installer?

I need to tell you that Google is not necessarily your friend if you use it to search for one.

That’s because a lot of dubious operators pay Google substantial sums to ensure their business appears among the top results.

And to appear extra-appealing, they often claim to offer a 24/7 service.

For many years, MultiChoice has advised its DStv subscribers to consult its list of accredited installers — published on its website — rather than doing a Google search and taking a chance with whoever that leads them to.

A spokesperson said the advice appeared on the side of decoder boxes. 

“And when we sell a decoder, we also communicate this and offer to allocate an accredited installer,” she said. “This is in the sales people’s scripts.” 

But she conceded that MultiChoice was “unable to confirm” whether its external sales partners provided that key advice.

Suffice to say that Brian Davey of Newlands wasn’t aware of it.

He contacted me recently, having paid R16,850 to a satellite installer, leaving him with an unsettling feeling that he’d been ripped off.

He was right, but he had no idea of the extent of it.

He found “Satellite King” via a Google search, and emailed a request for a technician “to install a new TV, DStv decoder, sound bar and Blu-ray player and connect to internet”.

Note there was no request for the supply of any hardware; they were only in need of an installation service.

Satellite King sent installers who went by the name of Sky Digital Sat and issued that massive invoice in the name of simply “Satellite Repairs”.

I contacted MultiChoice and asked if they would consider contracting one of its accredited installers servicing the Newlands area to go to the Davey’s home and do a professional analysis of that R16,850 job.

The company obliged, impressively quickly, and the resultant report, which was submitted to MultiChoice and then to me, was shocking. That job should have cost about R950!

According to the report, the Daveys’ existing fibreglass satellite dish was in good condition, and still in use, but they were charged for a new dish.

Then this: “The installer insisted on replacing the client’s HDMI cable with a ‘superior’ one, unnecessarily.”

On the plus side, the job was well done, and everything was working as it should.

But the charges for work done (or not done) were sky-high — close to R10,000 for the new fibreglass dish they didn’t get, almost R3,000 for an UDMI receiver, more than R500 for an optical cable, plus another R2,500 in labour and installation.

Even with that unnecessary cable, the accredited installer would have charged just R945 in total, comprising a call-out fee, labour and R120 for that unnecessary cable.

“We were very foolish,” Davey said. “We didn’t do any checks, didn’t ask for a quote, didn’t ask questions; we just paid.”

I managed to track down a man who gave his name just as “Washington” of Digital Sky Sat and insisted that the dish had been replaced.

He undertook to email me “proof”, but didn’t.

MultiChoice confirmed to me that neither Satellite King nor Sky Digital Sat were accredited companies, “unless they are using a different trading name”.

Clearly there are honest, capable installers who choose not to be accredited by MultiChoice.

But here’s why the company advises consumers to opt for an installer on its “accredited” list.

“We have a rigorous process in place which includes reviewing their invoices and scheduling an on-site inspection to assess the work done, and compare it to what was charged.

“And without a signed agreement with an installer, we are unable to implement any consequence management.”

Beware: some installers pass themselves off as accredited installers by using MultiChoice’s logo on their vehicles, adverts and invoices, so always verify whether an installer is accredited or not.

* It’s also risky to search for locksmiths and appliance repairs by putting the type of service you need followed by your area in a Google search.

Rather do your own research on reputable service providers in your area, for example, asking for recommendations on your local WhatsApp groups.

Locksmiths are legally required to be registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) as they render a security service.

So ask a locksmith to produce proof of registration with PSIRA. You can check on PSIRA’s website to verify if a locksmith is registered with them.

Avoid locksmiths who do not provide an address and don’t operate from established business premises. It always pays to be prepared.

When you are in non-crisis mode, locate a locksmith in your area, check to see if they are PSIRA registered, ask them for their rates, and save their details on your phone for when you need them.

With any service provider, always ask for a quote before giving them the go-ahead to start the job.


Email: X (Twitter): @wendyknowler Facebook: wendyknowlerconsumer



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