Mobile operators have been behaving uncompetitively by charging too much for internet connectivity and could face prosecution if they do not drop prices, the Competition Commission said on Monday. 

The commission's final data services market inquiry report has found that current prices exclude many poor and disadvantaged people from participating in the digital economy. It also said operators charge more for data services in SA than they do in other markets where they operate, and they had to commit to cutting prices.

LISTEN | What will this mean for SA? 

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said that data costs are critical to the growth of the economy. Studies have shown a correlation between internet access and economic growth, especially around education and getting more digital businesses started. 

In April a provisional Competition Commission report had accused local mobile operators MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom of overcharging consumers and penalising those with lower incomes the most.

The high cost of data, which critics of the companies say holds the country back in a global economy increasingly dominated by technical innovation, has been the subject of protests in the past.

The final report is the result of a process of public comment since release of the provisional report earlier this year.