Cell C takes ICASA to court over new data expiry rules

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Cell C and its vendors are technically not able to meet the deadline set by ICASA, the mobile operator says.
Cell C and its vendors are technically not able to meet the deadline set by ICASA, the mobile operator says.

Mobile operator Cell C says it has been forced to apply for an urgent interdict against regulator the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) over the timeline of the new data expiry rules.

In a statement issued this morning, Cell C says when ICASA gazetted its end-user and subscriber services charter regulations amendments on 7 May, the regulator provided operators with one month to comply.

Prior to publication, it notes, Cell C advised the regulator that while it was fully committed to complying with the regulations, it was impossible to meet the proposed timeline.

Despite this, ICASA issued the regulations with the one month timeframe still included, while the process leading up to the publication of the regulations took almost 14 months to be concluded, it adds.

"Cell C has on numerous occasions raised this with ICASA and has written to them to ask for an extension. With less than 24 hours until the deadline, Cell C has not had any response from ICASA.

"All of this leaves Cell C no choice but to turn to the courts to intervene as ICASA's failure to respond could have serious consequences for Cell C, the industry and more importantly the consumer. As such, Cell C has reluctantly applied for an urgent interdict at the High Court in a bid to procure a reasonable timeline for implementation of the regulations."

According to Cell C, the end-user and subscriber services charter was developed with the customer in mind, and Cell C is fully committed to implementing the requested changes.

Even before the publication, the mobile operator says, Cell C was compliant with many of the provisions and tried its utmost to meet the unreasonable deadline.

"For example, Cell C has for many years notified customers on the depletion of their data bundles, ensuring that customers are aware of how much data they still have available in-bundle. Cell C also offers data rollover on some of its packages.

"However, to fully implement the necessary changes across its entire product suite, intensive development and numerous system changes will need to be made, followed by rigorous testing before Cell C can offer this to its customers."

It notes that as a result, Cell C and its vendors are technically not able to meet the deadline set by ICASA.

"Cell C's billing and other technical platforms are highly complex and rely on one another to operate effectively, which means that a change in one system often results in changes being required in other systems. Furthermore, changes to the billing system require a cycle of development to ensure rigorous governance and control measures are met. Cell C would be surprised if any of the mobile operators will be fully compliant by Friday's deadline."

To do this effectively, without disrupting the customer and causing unforeseen consequences, Cell C expects it will need at least six months to properly comply, the mobile operator continues.

"Cell C would like to reiterate that it remains fully committed to complying with the requirements and is only asking for a reasonable amount of time to execute these complex changes on its systems to the benefit of customers," it concludes.

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