Telecoms

ICASA publishes second draft regulations to tackle data costs

Read time 2min 40sec
ICASA seeks to reduce data costs in South Africa.
ICASA seeks to reduce data costs in South Africa.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has amended the draft regulations it initially published to address the cost to communicate, particularly with regards to the expiry of data.

In August, ICASA published the first draft of the "End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations 2016", which included new timeframes for the expiry of data bundles and called for consumers to be able to opt-out or opt-in to out-of-bundle pricing on data, voice and SMS services.

Interested parties were invited to comment, and ICASA says it received 20 submissions.

However, in a statement, the regulator says following a consultative process with stakeholders, it has decided to publish second draft regulations for further consultation.

The amended regulations propose further changes to the validity period of data. According to ICASA, all licensees are required to provide prepaid data bundles with a minimum expiry period of three years, save where such prepaid data bundles have been exhausted prior to the expiry of three years.

In the first draft regulations, ICASA laid out validity periods for data, with the shortest being 10 days for bundles between 1MB and 50MB, and the longest being 24 months for 20GB and above.

"The review of the regulations was necessitated by general concerns raised by various stakeholders, including consumer groups and social media campaigns, with regards to data expiry rules, high out-of-bundle rates and rules, and also out-of-bundle voice and SMS rules currently applied by licensees," says ICASA councillor Botlenyana Mokhele.

Other key interventions include:

  • Out of bundle billing - licensees are required to send usage notifications for data depletion to end-users, and the intervals must show 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% service depletion. The notification must be through an SMS, push notification or any other applicable means.
  • Rollover of unused minutes and/or data - where a network provider is required to provide an option to postpaid users to roll over unused monthly data allocation to the next billing period or to transfer the monthly data allocation or a portion thereof to another end-user on the same network.
  • End-users must be given an option to opt-in or opt-out of being charged out-of-bundle data rates to avoid bill shock.

According to the statement, all interested stakeholders have until 3 January to submit their written comments or representations to ICASA for consideration.

ICASA will then hold public hearings on the matter from 7 to 9 February and it is anticipated the final regulations will be promulgated by 31 March, says the regulator.

"We would like to encourage all interested parties to comment on the draft regulations and to actively take part in the ensuing public participation processes," concludes Mokhele.

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