Malawian motorists who use smartcards provided by PUMA Energy Malawi Limited were taken by surprise over the weekend when the company announced a sudden change of payment system.
The South African Oil Company said it had stopped administering the smartcard including all payments transferring the task to the National Bank of Malawi.
But what shocked the motorists , the organisations and companies that subscribe to the smartcards was the appalling manner in which the company communicated to them.
PUMA issued a statement through the media advising its smartcard customers that “with effect from 1st February 2013, administration of the smartcard and payments” will no longer be undertaken by them.
“Following this change, on the midnight of 31st January 2013, all active smartcards will be deactivated and blocked to allow this transition to National Bank managed system to take place,” said PUMA in its announcement.
It added: “Effective 1st February 2013, PUMA will no longer receive and process smartcard payments. Instead customers are requested to make payments for smartcards to PUMA’s National Bank account 1000570978 at any nearest National Bank branch. National Bank will receive and process cheques from other banks.”
But motorists reacted to the issue angrily claiming they were ambushed by the company as it did not give them an advance or official notice.
“How can a big company like that which deals with thousands of people sink so low to issue a notice a day after its deadline? This is unprofessionalism of highest order,” complained one customer.
But the drama was not yet over as barely a few hours after the introduction of the new payment process, National Bank of Malawi’s system failed the customers as it could not work for three days.
The development forced the bank to give out cash to some of the stranded motorists particularly those who had travelled from outside Blantyre with the hope of refueling in the commercial city using their smartcards.
One of the motorists confirmed to Nyasa Times to have been given cash to buy fuel to enable him travel back to his destination in Lilongwe after the bank failed to process.
Smartcard customers from Blantyre were punished heavily as they were forced to use personal cash to replenish their vehicle tanks after the bank refused to give them cash but instead told them to just wait until the issue is sorted out.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the National Bank was still struggling to get the new system going.
The company however said corporate customers with POS machines, creating and loading of electronic value to cards will continue in the normal way.
But those who ordinarily load at PUMA loading points will continue doing so until the 10th of February and from the 11th of February, the service will be only done at the following National bank branches; Henderson Street Service Centre in Blantyre, Capital City Service Centre in Lilongwe and Mzuzu Service Centre in Mzuzu. All PUMA loading points will also be open on Sundays from 08:00am to 12:00 noon.
Meanwhile, PUMA is calling on its smartcard customers to present their cards at its head office in Blantyre and regional offices in Lilongwe and Mzuzu, for reactivation and confirmation of transferable balances to National Bank between before the 10th of February, 2013.
Before introducing the smartcards, PUMA was using fuel coupons.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :