South Africans regularly sign up to contracts for cellular products, from the latest smartphones to fixed-LTE packages for a home Internet connection.
These contracts tend to span anywhere from 12-36 months, and users are charged a monthly fee which they can then budget into their monthly spending.
This cost is often presumed by consumers to be fixed throughout the duration of their contract.
However, numerous MyBroadband readers have reported that their monthly fee is higher than what they originally committed to paying.
Price increases on ongoing contracts are allowed in the terms of most mobile contracts, provided the operators give notice to the customer.
One example of this was reported by a Cell C user who had signed up to a 20GB + 20GB LTE data contract.
This package was originally marketed as a R299 per month deal, which ended up being billed at R306.61 when extra features such as an additional SIM card were taken into account.
However, the reader recently noticed that they are now being billed R324.99 per month instead.
They claimed not to have received any communication from Cell C regarding this increase in their monthly cost.
Other MyBroadband forum users have also reported that they have noticed their monthly contracts increase in price in recent months.
MyBroadband spoke with South Africa’s leading mobile networks about increased monthly pricing during the duration of a contract’s lifespan.
A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that its contracts include a stipulation that requires it to notify customers at least 20 business days before any changes are made to their contract prices.
“Commercial rationale for tariff changes can cover a wide range of factors, including inflationary impacts, electricity and fuel prices, ensuring tariffs are competitively positioned in the market, exchange rates etc,” said Vodacom.
Vodacom also confirmed that it applied a below-inflation increase in tariffs on certain contracts in February 2019 – adding that at the same time, it also announced a substantial cut in out-of-bundle prices.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive of corporate affairs at MTN, said that while MTN tries to avoid increasing the monthly pricing of contracts, it has needed to do this in the past.
“In May 2019, we announced that we were updating our subscription prices for contract (post-paid) customers. The increment was a result of sustained inflationary pressures and increased input costs which become unavoidable.”
She added that MTN had not increased its subscription prices for 4 years prior to this change, citing an effort to shield MTN customers from mid-contract changes as the reason for this.
“The subscriber agreement that customers sign when taking out a contract, along with the terms and conditions on the website, are clear that MTN can amend its charges from time to time, provided we give customers 20 working days’ notice by SMS,” O’Sullivan added.
“However, as noted, this is something we do try and avoid.”
Cell C told MyBroadband that it does implement an annual price increase to its contracts.
“This is to cater for increases in operating costs, in order to continue to provide our customers with the quality service they expect from Cell C,” said a Cell C spokesperson.
Cell C added that it communicates this to users a month in advance, and customers are made aware of the fact that it increases its prices annually in Cell C’s Terms and Conditions.
A Telkom spokesperson told MyBroadband that the network had not increased its mobile contract prices for years.
“When price changes may be necessary, for instance due to inflation, or the VAT adjustment from 14 to 15%, we always communicate these changes to customers according to the terms and conditions,” Telkom added.