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Cell C comes to #DataMustFall party

Read time 3min 30sec
Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson.
Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson.

Heeding the call by the Competition Commission for South Africa’s leading mobile operators to slash data prices, Cell C today announced a free lifeline data package.

In a statement this morning, SA’s third biggest mobile operator says it is pleased to announce that, following constructive discussions with the Competition Commission, the mobile operator’s voluntary offer to contribute to the commission’s quest for greater digital participation and connection has been finalised.

In December, the competition watchdog, in its Data Services Market Inquiry, recommended SA’s biggest operators – Vodacom and MTN – reduce their mobile data pricing by half.

However, Cell C was not cited for anti-competitive behaviour by the authorities.

Both MTN and Vodacom recently announced significant reductions in their data prices.

Telkom has since reached a settlement with the Competition Commission to reduce the price of the telco’s IP Connect products.

Says Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson: “The company’s voluntary offer is in line with Cell C’s commitment to digital inclusion, central to the objectives of the Data Services Market Inquiry recommendations. It was encouraging that there is alignment with the commission and Cell C’s drive for a social compact on data prices.

“The commission’s recommendations on data price cuts have resulted in industry prices now falling to levels that Cell C has been offering since 2018 and the company is happy to have concluded an agreement in these circumstances,” Craigie Stevenson adds.

Cell C chief legal officer Zahir Williams says the context of the agreement is based on Cell C’s social responsibility to ensure lower income consumers have access to essential communication services through the provision of free daily lifeline data and the zero-rating of essential government and educational services.

“It is important to keep in mind that the inquiry did not find any evidence that Cell C had contravened the Competition Act, rather that certain industry-wide measures would improve access by lower income consumers,” Williams said.

Cell C will, by 1 May, launch a free lifeline package capped at 250KB per day at a bundle size determined by Cell C, accessible to the Cell C prepaid customer base, the operator says.

In this regard, it adds, Cell C will further enhance its lifeline package to allow for direct messaging to another Cell C customer via the Cell C app (and portal).

In addition, the package, to be filed with ICASA under the End User Services and Subscriber Charter Regulations, includes delivery conversion to SMS (ie, SMS delivery fall-back) for customers who are not on the app; five free SMSes per customer per day (Cell C to Cell C); seven free ‘Call Me’ per day (across network and currently available); and free basics (Internet.org) access, says the company.

It explains users can access the lifeline bundle via a USSD string, Cell C app or portal, pointing out that when the request is received the system will check if the customer qualifies.

“If the customer qualifies, the lifeline bundle is activated and the customer will receive an SMS confirmation. When the bundle is completely depleted, or if it is not and expires at 00h00, the system will send the customer a depletion or expiry message. Customers will be able to access their balances on the app, portal and via USSD (short code),” says Cell C.

Craigie Stevenson adds: “We are passionate about delivering innovative service offerings as demonstrated by our customer-first approach. We will continue to help our customers and communities stay connected, informed and safe. I believe we will all emerge from this difficult and unpredictable period having strengthened our resilience as individuals and institutions.”

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