A Cell C customer told MyBroadband that he has repeatedly run out of mobile data without receiving a final notification of bundle depletion.
ICASA’s regulations compel South African mobile operators to meet certain requirements with regards to data bundle depletion notifications.
These include allowing customers to roll over unused data and providing the option to opt into or out of out-of-bundle (OOB) charges.
Operators must also notify their customers when their data bundle has been depleted by 50%, 80%, and 100%.
The customer in question had a different experience with regards to his Cell C data usage.
The issue affected the customer’s Postpaid Pinnacle 100 contract, which includes 100 minutes of airtime, 100 SMSs and 100MB.
The customer said he routinely purchased an additional data bundle of 3GB at the beginning of every month.
His data was often consumed before the end of the month, but this was not usually a problem as Cell C quickly notified him about the depletion.
This allowed him to purchase a new bundle immediately and avoid paying OOB rates.
These notifications are shown below.
New data depletion notifications
The customer first noted an issue after purchasing a 3GB Anytime data bundle on 6 August 2019.
On 12 August, he received an SMS stating that he had less than 2,456MB remaining, which meant he had consumed about 20% of his bundle.
According to the customer, this was the last data depletion notification he would receive in August.
The customer’s bill for the month then showed that his bundle had been depleted and that he had automatically been charged out-of-bundle rates for data consumption.
In September 2019, the customer received several data depletion notifications for his 3GB bundle – once at 2,456MB (20%), and another at 1,534MB (50%).
The customer ran out of mobile data on 17 September and received no 100% depletion notification, however.
The customer said he was monitoring his data usage and bought an additional 1.5GB bundle, for which he received depletion notifications at 1,225MB (20%) and 291MB (80%), after which he did not receive another notification when his data ran out.
As a result of reaching his monthly spend limit thanks to out-of-bundle data charges, the customer chose to use a portable Wi-Fi router for the rest of the month.
After he had consumed his backup usage allocation for the second time, he decided to set an OOB limit via Cell’s Spend Control feature.
This would cut off his mobile data connection instead of charging him out-of-bundle rates when his data was depleted.
Since he had previously received messages warning of out-of-bundle data consumption, he had never needed to use this.
Cell C responds
After conducting an investigation, Cell C told MyBroadband that according to its data, the data depletion notification messages were sent and no blockages were occurring. It said the notifications should be working as normal.
According to the operator, “less than 1MB” notification SMSs had been sent at 100% depletion, but the customer could not find these anywhere in his SMS inbox.
MyBroadband contacted ICASA for comment on the issue, which reiterated the data depletion notification amendments made to the regulations.
“One of the amendments related to usage notifications where licensees would be required to provide consumers with an option to opt-out of usage depletion notifications for voice, SMS and data services,” ICASA said.
“Where a consumer did not opt-out of usage notifications, a licensee is required to notify that consumer at the intervals of 50%, 80%, and 100% of data usage or depletion,” ICASA stated.
The customer said that he had never opted out of this service, evidenced by the fact that he was still receiving intermittent depletion notifications.