Price issue: A shopper walks past a Vodacom shop in Johannesburg. Most mobile operators offer promotions that allow customers to buy small amounts of data for a low price. But the data is often only valid for a few days or even hours. Picture: REUTERS
Price issue: A shopper walks past a Vodacom shop in Johannesburg. Most mobile operators offer promotions that allow customers to buy small amounts of data for a low price. But the data is often only valid for a few days or even hours. Picture: REUTERS

Final regulations on the expiry of data bundles will be in place by the end of October.

These are expected to bring relief to consumers, who have long bemoaned usage limits.

The government is pulling out all the stops to reduce the cost to communicate, pointing out that it is only through legislative means that the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) can ensure reasonable pricing and market structure in the sector.

Network operators have been under intense scrutiny in recent months for allegedly ripping off consumers, especially when it comes to data expiry dates and out-of-bundle billing.

Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said in a response to a question in Parliament from the IFP that the regulator was working on transparency mechanisms to regulate the expiry of data bundles.

Initial interventions, said Cwele, would ensure provisions to guarantee that all segments of data bundles did not automatically expire after 30 days, as is the norm, but had a cascading scale — as had been proposed in Icasa’s draft regulations.

Network operators offer promotions that allow consumers to purchase small amounts of data at low prices. However, the data is often only valid for a few days, and in some cases, for a few hours.

At present, larger purchases of data bundles can only be used within 30 days.

Under Icasa’s proposed regulations, large bundles of between 500MB and 20GB will be valid for between 60 days and 24 months.

Cwele said operators would be required to inform consumers as data got depleted because of its use, and also allow them an option to choose whether to purchase more data bundles as opposed to the usual default to out-of-bundle rates.

In May, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel announced that SA’s high data costs would be investigated by the Competition Commission.

In August, the commission published the terms of reference of the inquiry and called for submissions.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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