MTN to appear at ICASA hearing over price increase

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According to ICASA, MTN implemented the price adjustment without prior approval by the regulator.
According to ICASA, MTN implemented the price adjustment without prior approval by the regulator.

South Africa's second biggest mobile operator, MTN, is to appear before the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) for failing to comply with the part of the regulation that requires notifying the authority at least seven days prior to the provision of a charged service.

The regulator says the charge relates to MTN's Social Bundle Amendment - WhatsApp monthly 1GB, a service MTN provided at a revised price of R30 inclusive of value-added tax.

In this case, MTN implemented the price adjustment before the end of seven days without prior approval by ICASA.

ICASA says it has since had engagements with MTN on the matter, with exchange of documents and the subsequent hearing on 30 January.

The matter, which was initiated by the Compliance and Consumer Affairs Division of ICASA, will now be fully heard by the CCC on 4 March at ICASA head office in Centurion.

In its reply to the CCC, MTN stated the early implementation of the amendment was done out of necessity as the company was faced with a choice between breaking the letter of regulation and suffering some more serious harm, says ICASA.

According to the regulations on Standard Terms and Conditions for Individual Licences, any person that contravenes regulations 7, 8, 9 and 10 is liable to a fine not less than R100 000 but not exceeding R5 million or 10% of the licensee's annual turnover - whichever is the greater - for every day or part thereof during which the offence is continued, says ICASA.

"MTN contravened Section 9 (1) of the regulations which states that a licensee may not provide any service for a charge, fee or other compensation, unless a price(s) for the service and other terms and conditions for the provision of such service have been filed with the authority at least seven days prior to the provision of the said service," says ICASA.

The past few years have seen ICASA working tirelessly to bring down the cost of communication through various but aligned regulatory interventions, the regulator says.

It adds that the interventions by ICASA have led to the review of the call termination regulations, the pending implementation of the end-user and subscriber service charter regulations and the mobile broadband market review that is currently under way.

"ICASA feels strongly that the actions and contraventions by MTN effectively undermine the authority's very efforts of reducing the cost of communications in South Africa and the implementation of consumer protection regulations aimed at promoting transparency and prohibiting unfair business rules in the provision of communication services."

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