Dear Safaricom, what is Cheza Games Club and why was I subscribed to it without my consent?

Last night, as I was just starting to celebrate Wales’ first ever last 8 qualification in the Euros and crossing my fingers for Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to make it to the quarter finals, something familiar happened. I received this SMS from Safaricom:


This was familiar because some time back I received the same message.

And it arrived at 9PM in the night. 9PM! As much as I don’t have a crush out there, it doesn’t mean that I am comfortable being texted by a network operator at such an hour. My loneliness levels haven’t gotten to such high levels, yet.

The most interesting bit about all this which is something most Safaricom subscribers are likely to be familiar with is that I had been on-boarded to a service I never at any given time subscribed to. What it cost me to subscribe to such a service I had no idea. Luckily for me, my airtime, which then stood at a meagre 49 bob, had not been deducted. Was there any assurance that a deduction won’t happen in the future — after the 3-day trial period that the notification alluded to?

To satisfy my curiosity and probably get some answers explaining my predicament, I did what anyone in my position would do: contact Safaricom’s customer care team.

I sent out this tweet to them:

The response was the obvious. As if no one understood what I had just asked, I was advised to go ahead and unsubscribe from the Cheza Games service. Yeah because I had subscribed in the first place. What sorcery is this?

They repeated just the obvious, as expected

I prodded further:

Then this happened:

Yup, just follow the damn instructions, Chenze

So here I was, a Safaricom subscriber who was worried about a message I had received from my service provider, Safaricom, notifying me that I had been opted into a service I barely knew existed but, wait for it, I was supposed to contact a third party on the same?

I gave up and went back to cheering on Portugal.

As a customer, I only know of Safaricom. Now, unless I consent to using a third party service like those many premium rate services out there by various providers, only Safaricom is answerable to me. That point is not made out of ignorance or anything of that sort.

For instance, in my case, what is that Cheza Games service? Is it a betting service? Safaricom be damned if it is a betting service. On principle, I don’t bet and Sportpesa is something I hear from other people. Why am I subscribed to it against my will? Where does Huawei come in? When did I get into any contractual agreement with Huawei to sign up to Cheza?

I thought I was alone until, in the process of just scrolling through my timeline, I came across this:

Buoyed by this, I decided to take a keen look and see if there were other victims of unscrupulous subscriptions to the same Cheza premium rate service. The results shocked me. Apparently this has been going on since last year. I wasn’t alone.

LOL. Replying to such a premium rate short code results in additional charges, at premium price, if I am not wrong. I guess most people don’t know this. But why should they when they never opted in to this? As if him not having sufficient storage on his device (see the icon on the notification bar) was not enough.

For @lemanxq, this was just getting out of hand

We weren’t alone, there were more:

Don’t mind the English
It looks like guys being texted at ungodly hours is the norm rather than the exception

Some have actually lost money in the process thanks to this Cheza thing:

For this unlucky dude, this is how he started the year — with a Cheza subscription he never authorized!

And these are just tweets. There should be many more who are suffering out there and continue being ignored. The customer care team doesn’t seem bothered every time anyone brings this Cheza thing up.

‘Ah, it’s that? Just unsubscribe, no biggie.’

No, it does not work that way. I should only have to remember to unsubscribe from something I opted into in the first place.

I don’t really care what Cheza is. If I did and wanted in on whatever it offers, I’d subscribe. Someone doesn’t have to do it on my behalf. No Safaricom, I really like you but hatuwezi ishi hivi — this cannot go on. Get your act together!

For the second time in as many weeks, I have taken the time to go ahead and unsubscribe from Cheza Games 21660. I really hope this is the last time.

One more thing, I don’t go around keying in my number in the many scandalous pop ups that result in unintended opt-ins to services like Cheza Games. No, I don’t do that. In fact, such are blocked by default across all browsers I use. So there can only be one place where I was opted in. I think I (and everyone else reading this) know where.

I hope I don’t have to remove all my non-existent hair from my head before I’m heard kwa sababu huku ni kuzoeana vibaya sasa. Over to you Bob Collymore and team.