ICASA has announced the first steps it has taken to address the high cost to communicate.
It said the recent publication of the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations is the start of a three-pronged process to address concerns around the price of data services.
ICASA said these are primarily consumer protection regulations aimed at promoting transparency and prohibiting unfair business rules.
The regulations address the following areas:
- Protecting consumers against bill shock by prohibiting the charging of higher out-of-bundle rates without the consumer giving consent to the charges.
- Data transfers between consumers on the same network.
- Consumers must be notified at the various stages of depletion of their data bundles.
A lot has been said about the fact that ICASA backtracked on its requirement that data must not expire for three years, however.
This is an issue on which various stakeholders made representations to the regulator during the consultation process, it said.
“Civil society organisations put forward very persuasive and cogent rationale as to why this requirement will harm the very marginal and poor consumers we are mandated to protect,” said ICASA.
“In the bigger scheme of things, the fact that ICASA has not mandated a three-year expiry period for data bundles is inconsequential in light of the view that this requirement is already imposed on operators in terms of section 63 of the Consumer Protection Act.”
Data prices coming down
Despite the regulation, the question remains: How long will it take for data prices to come down?
ICASA said two processes must unfold before prices can come down.
- ICASA will identify priority markets that are prone to uncompetitive behaviour.
- A market review of priority markets.
The Discussion Document on Priority Markets was published on 16 February 2018 and the consultation process is at an advanced stage.
This process will be concluded by June 2018. The market review will then commence in the second half of the financial year.
Through this process, ICASA will assess the competitiveness of the market, determine whether there is any operator with significant market power, and impose appropriate pro-competitive remedies.
The market review may take approximately eight months to complete, said ICASA.