Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

A Competition Commission inquiry to understand the cause of high data prices in the country has again been extended, this time to December 31 2019.

The Data Services Market Inquiry, which commenced in September 2017, was previously extended to March 31 2019, from its original completion date of August 31 2018.

“This is to allow for further analysis of extensive evidence gathered by the inquiry, further consultations with key stakeholders and to finalise a report of its investigation,” read a notice by the commission in the Government Gazette on Friday.

Amid numerous complaints about data costs, competition authorities initiated the inquiry “to examine whether there are features or a combination of features in data services markets which prevent, distort or restrict competition”.

The inquiry is expected to make recommendations that will result it a drop in data prices.

The commission has also announced that a preliminary report will be released at the end of April on which it will invite submissions from stakeholders. “It will then engage in further consultations with key stakeholders before completing its assessment,” the gazetted notice read.

However, some of the telecommunications companies have reportedly insisted that data prices in SA are competitive and cannot be lowered.

MTN said in its submission to the inquiry: “SA is an African leader for data and device affordability based on average income affordability, but is hampered by extreme income inequality.”

Meanwhile, the Right2Know campaign submitted that SA was one of the most expensive countries in the world in terms of data.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) said that while SA was not the most expensive in the Southern African Development Community or Brics bloc, a benchmark study found both MTN and Vodacom charged lower prices in some of the other countries in which they operated.

vandermerwep@businesslive.co.za