Afrihost must pay fine for ADSL network problems

Afrihost has been fined R30,000, with another R50,000 suspended, for the poor quality of service it provided to clients in 2014 and 2015.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) imposed the fine after finding Afrihost contravened its code of conduct.

This was after a complainant appealed ISPA’s ruling on his original complaint that was laid in October 2015.

The complaint said that his Afrihost Business Uncapped ADSL account was not performing as well as advertised.

Afrihost was experiencing network issues at the time, and subsequently announced it was moving away from MTN as its upstream service provider.

Afrihost handed R50,000 suspended fine

In its original ruling, ISPA said Afrihost had contravened a clause in its code of conduct – Clause 8 – and handed down a suspended fine of R50,000.

Clause 8 states that ISPs may only offer service levels that are within their technical and practical abilities.

Since the fine was suspended, Afrihost would only have to pay the fine if was found in breach of the same clause in the following 24 months.

Afrihost told MyBroadband at the time that it planned to appeal the ruling.

Appeal

In the end, it was the complainant who lodged the appeal.

The table below summarises the clauses Afrihost was alleged to have contravened, the original ruling, and the findings of the appeals panel.

Clause Original Ruling Appeal
6 ISPA members must have an Acceptable Use Policy for their Internet access services. This policy must be made available to customers prior to the commencement of any such service agreement and at any time thereafter, on request. No breach Upheld: No breach
7 In their dealings with consumers, other businesses, each other, and ISPA, ISPA members must act fairly, reasonably, professionally and in good faith. In particular, pricing information for services must be clearly and accurately conveyed to customers and potential customers. No breach Overturned: Breach
8 ISPA members may only offer service levels which are reasonably within their technical and practical abilities. Breach Upheld: Breach
9 ISPA members must comply with all compulsory advertising standards and regulations. ASASA must rule Overturned: Breach
28 ISPA members must operate with due regard for established Internet best practices, as set out in the various request for comment documents and as mandated from time to time by established and respected Internet governance structures. Case not made Referred to ISPA ManCom

Sanctions

ISPA’s appeals panel said Afrihost didn’t intentionally mislead or deceive customers.

However, Afrihost failed to meet the standards of Clause 7.

“The panel is also of the view that the member has used exaggeration, innuendo or ambiguity to advertise its Business Uncapped DSL service.”

ISPA said Afrihost should have offered a reasonable refund to affected customers when it became clear it could not fix its services.

ISPA therefore replaced the original sanctions with the following:

  • For the breach of Clause 7: R24,000
  • For the breach of Clause 9: R6,000

Afrihost must also remove all statements that imply its Business Uncapped DSL service has qualities it does not have.

ISPA also instructed Afrihost to highlight the “best effort” clause in its ADSL Terms of Use.

The original adjudicator’s suspended fine of R50,000 remains in effect for 24 months from October 2015.

The full ruling is available on the MyBroadband forum.

Afrihost’s response

Our aim is to work with ISPA, and to be in full compliance at all times, for the benefit of our clients.

We are still in the process of working through the various aspects of the appeal judgement with the relevant teams, and will only be in a position to give further comment once this is complete.

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Afrihost must pay fine for ADSL network problems