By Bekezela Phakathi for Business Live
Data network operators will soon be required to give subscribers the option to roll over their unused data.
According to the final End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations announced by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on Thursday, this is to ensure consumers do not lose unused data, as is currently the practice. The regulations are expected to bring relief to consumers, who have long bemoaned usage limits.
The government is pulling out all the stops to reduce the cost of communicating, saying it is only through legislative means that it can ensure reasonable pricing and market structure in the sector.
Network operators have been under intense scrutiny in recent months for allegedly ripping off consumers, especially when it comes to data expiry dates and out-of-bundle billing.
Icasa said the new regulations would be published in the Government Gazette in the next few days. In terms of the regulations, all licensees will be required to send usage depletion notifications to consumers when their usage is at 50%, 80% and 100% depletion levels. The regulator said this will enable consumers to monitor their usage and control spend on communication services.
Furthermore, all licensees will be required to provide an option for consumers to transfer data to other users on the same network. Operators are no longer allowed to charge consumers out-of-bundle rates — without the consumers’ specific prior consent — for data when their ascribed data has run out. This, according to Icasa, will ensure consumers are not defaulted to out-of-bundle data charges, which are significantly higher than in-bundle charges.
“The End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations seek to protect the rights of consumers by, among other things, ensuring they are provided with sufficient information that will assist them in making informed decisions, as well as facilitate redress for those consumers who have been unfairly treated by network providers,” said Icasa councillor Botlenyana Mokhele
“It is a well-known reality that South African citizens are concerned about the money they spend every month on their consumption of data services.
“While the authority acknowledges the concern with regard to the perceived high cost of data and high out-of-bundle rates, it is important to note that the review of the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations of 2016 does not seek to directly or indirectly regulate the price of data services. Our objective is to develop minimum standards in respect of the provision of data, SMS and voice services in line with Section 69 of the Electronic Communications Act of 2005.”