Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

Facing a public backlash over its plans to charge consumers to roll over expiring and unused data, Vodacom said on Monday it was "reviewing" its fees.

With SA’s new data expiry rules set to come into effect at the end of this week, social media users expressed their outrage on Monday after discovering that Vodacom planned to charge fees for its "data bundle rollover service".

From Friday March 1, mobile operators must let customers roll over unused data, according to regulations set by the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

Currently customers typically forfeit any data that remains unused when it expires.

The new rules are aimed at reducing costs for consumers and ultimately boosting the digital economy.

The proposed carry-over charges could undermine those efforts, an analyst said. That "almost ends up defeating the purpose", Mergence Investment Managers portfolio manager Peter Takaendesa said.

"That goes against the spirit of that requirement — it’s the same as buying another bundle. I don’t think it’s the right way of going around it,’’ Takaendesa said. "The trend is to reduce pricing and this is more like increasing it in a way that probably doesn’t sit well with the consumer in this tough environment."

After drawing the ire of Twitter users, Vodacom pulled a page on its website, which showed what it planned to charge consumers. The page showed that to roll over a 1GB data bundle with a validity period of more than one day, for example, Vodacom had planned to charge as much as R49.

A spokesperson for the operator told Business Day on Monday afternoon that Vodacom was "currently reviewing our pricing and will communicate this on the planned launch date" on March 1.

"All Vodacom customers will have the option to extend their data bundle using the rollover service at a set fee depending on the size of the bundle they wish to roll over," the spokesperson said, asking not to be named.

Customers could also roll over data bundles by buying another bundle of the same size and validity period, or could transfer expiring data to friends or family, the person said.

Rival operators MTN and Telkom will not charge customers to roll over unused data, their spokespersons said.

A Cell C spokesperson said the operator did charge customers to roll over data in some instances, and this depended on the amount of data remaining and the extension period.

A customer with a 30-day 1GB bundle that has 763MB remaining, for example, must pay R7.63 to extend it by a day, R15.26 to extend it by a week, or R22.89 to roll it over for 30 days.

"In this instance the customer is saving about 70% of the cost of a new bundle."