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South Africa’s regulator responds to call for data price cuts

South Africa’s regulator, ICASA, has published end user and subscriber service charter regulations as the start of a three-pronged process to address concerns about the cost of data services. The regulations aim to protect consumers against bill shock by prohibiting the charging of higher out of bundle rates by licensees without the consumer specifically giving consent to such charges, and require all operators allow for data transfer between consumers on the same network, which “will go a long way to facilitate the inclusion of poor and marginal consumers in the digital economy”. There is also a requirement that consumers be notified at various stages of depletion of their bundles to not only to protect them against bill shock, but also to promote awareness of patterns of their data consumption. And operators will also have to roll-over data bundles credited to consumers with every recharge (or top up). But as ICASA says: “Having outlined the rationale and benefit of the regulations, the critical question still remains – how long will it take for data prices to come down and what are ICASA’s next steps in this regard? There is no doubt that the kind of backlash we have received following the announcement of the regulations is a reflection of the understandable frustration by many (probably all) South Africans that data prices must come down.” Pragmatically, it says, there are two key processes that must unfold before prices can come down. The first is underway, under which ICASA will identify the relevant priority markets that are prone to uncompetitive behaviour. The second is a market review (or reviews) in specific markets, which will commence in the second half of the financial year. “Without pre-empting the process, it goes without saying that the market/s to be prioritised for review will be those deemed critical in the broadband/data services value chain.” Read more

  • Monday, 21 May 2018

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