New user regulations from ICASA came into effect at the beginning of March, compelling mobile network operators to change how they handle data, SMS, and voice bundles.
However, in a last-minute change to the End User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations, ICASA explicitly exempted mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and resellers from the new rules.
While earlier versions of the regulations also did not apply to “licence-exempt” service providers, such as resellers, ICASA added the following wording to the Service Charter weeks before it came into force:
“These Regulations do not apply to mobile virtual network operators, resellers and Internet of Things (or machine to machines).”
This means that while the likes of Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom are required to allow subscribers to turn off out-of-bundle (OOB) billing, transfer data, and roll over unused data, other providers may not be.
Examples of cellular providers that are resellers or MVNOs are Afrihost, FNB Connect, me&you Mobile, Mr P Mobile, and Standard Bank.
Big potential for confusion
Concerns have been raised in the industry that ICASA’s exemption of MVNOs and resellers does not have the best interests of consumers at heart.
It will also be confusing to consumers who may expect the regulations to apply to their cellular service provider.
MTN, which provides reseller services to Afrihost, told MyBroadband that it agrees there could be confusion down the line based on how ICASA has written the regulations.
“The regulations apply to all licensed operators. In respect of consumer services, this could create confusion with respect to licence-exempt resellers and MVNOs,” MTN said.
However, MTN clarified that its own compliance controls may remain intact with its resellers.
“A reseller is licence exempt and would not have to comply with the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations with respect to the services they provide to their own customers,” stated MTN.
“However, if the resellers on-sell MTN’s products in their original form, then all the compliance controls would have been implemented on MTN’s products.”
Cell C – No comment
Cell C offers MVNO services to a wide range of partners, including FNB Connect, Standard Bank Mobile, Virgin Mobile, MRP Mobile, me&you Mobile, and Trace Mobile.
Cell C did not respond to requests for comment about ICASA’s regulations.
ICASA – No comment
ICASA did not respond to requests for comment on what its intention was in exempting resellers, MVNOs, and machine-to-machine applications.
FNB – Fully compliant
FNB told MyBroadband that it will comply with ICASA’s regulations, even though it is an MVNO and is not strictly required to.
“In the interest of customers, FNB Connect has proactively complied with the regulations,” FNB said.
“We believe that this will go a long way in enabling FNB customers who are on FNB Connect to stretch their budgets by monitoring how much they spend on data. In addition, we are excited to be offering this benefit free of charge.”