The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has stated unequivocally that data bundles in South Africa must have a minimum expiry period of three years.
It was speaking at a public hearing on draft regulations that are being proposed for data expiry and out-of-bundle billing.
ICASA published the draft End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations for comment in 2017.
The NCC added it has not tried to enforce the part of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) dealing with prepaid vouchers and credit on data bundles.
This is because the telecommunications industry is regulated by ICASA, and under the Act, the NCC is required to work with the sector regulator.
“Our legislation is about five to six years old now, and our enforcement strategy has always first been one of persuasion,” said the NCC.
“We are aware of the effect of starting a war or fight with industry.”
Fighting a war
The NCC acknowledged that the issue of expiring data needs to be addressed, but it has held engagements – specifically regarding the section in the CPA dealing with prepaid credit – in the past.
“There are a few ways to resolve [the difference in interpretations of the Act between network operators and regulators],” said the NCC.
One way is for the NCC to work with the sector regulator, ICASA in this case, to implement the regulations in its industry. This is the most prudent and effective way, said the NCC.
The other option is to sit in courts.
Participants at the hearing said the matter would end up in court anyway, to which the NCC replied that the statement is indicative of the impossible situation it is presented with.
If it immediately pursued legal action, the industry would have balked and asked why it didn’t open a dialogue first. Now that the dialogue has reached an impasse, it is being told the matter would have gone to court anyway.
The NCC said it accepted a suggestion that it should seek a High Court ruling on this legislation before it is implemented in regulation.