So he had no choice but to wait for the police to arrive and then explain his position. The messages threatened that fraud charges would be laid "to appear in civil/criminal court".

Terrified, the pensioner negotiated to pay off R100 a month; he's already paid three instalments.

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The chatline, owned by Uvongo-based Social Network, provides payment details at the beginning of each recorded call.

It offers a R100 "naughty special" payable within 72 hours, by phoning back "at any time for the banking details".

The alternative is being charged R1.65 per second, with a minimum 10- minute charge.

But it wasn't having to pay for a service he didn't get to enjoy that bothered him.

And well it shouldn't; being hard of hearing is hardly a sound defence for not paying a chatline bill.

No, it was the bullying conduct of those running the service that upset him. A day or so after the 73-year-old widower made his brief call to Hot Live Girls - he'd spotted the number in a classified newspaper ad - he received a call from the supplier demanding immediate payment of a whopping R1560 for services rendered.

When he said he couldn't afford to pay, he was given the option of paying a portion upfront and the balance later.

So although Mr X rang off after just two minutes, he was charged the minimum rate of R990.

The balance, R570, is charged for admin and tracing fees.

Mr X, meanwhile, said he'd not heard the cost details provided at the time.

"I don't hear so well; I didn't hear the per- second business," said Mr X. The messages warned him that if he didn't make payment, "a Section 205 may be applied for" and that "national databases like Rica, banks, et cetera may be contacted".