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ICASA flexes muscle on out-of-bundle data

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Icasa councillor Botlenyana Mokhele and CEO Willington Ngwepe speaking at the press conference this afternoon. [Pic Brian Ngobese].
Icasa councillor Botlenyana Mokhele and CEO Willington Ngwepe speaking at the press conference this afternoon. [Pic Brian Ngobese].

Telecommunications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), is ready to address concerns about data expiry and out-of-bundle data rules.

This afternoon, ICASA announced the final regulations in respect of the end-user and service subscriber charter.

Speaking at the event, ICASA councillor Botlenyana Mokhele said the end-user and service subscriber charter seeks to protect the rights of consumers by, among others, ensuring that they are provided with sufficient information to make informed decisions as well as "facilitate redress for those consumers who have been unfairly treated by network providers".

South Africans have been vocal about their displeasure in regard to the cost to communicate. The topic of "crazy" mobile data rates gained traction last year when citizens took to social media to complain about high mobile data costs under the banner #DataMustFall.

In August last year, the Competition Commission officially launched an inquiry into the high price of data services in SA.

"The review of the 2016 end-user and subscriber service charter regulations was underpinned by the general concerns about data expiry and out-of-bundle data rules, which are perceived to be prejudicial to consumers, in particular the poor," said Mokhele.

She pointed out that ICASA is looking to develop minimum standards in respect to the provision of data, SMS and voice in line with the Electronic Communications Act.

Today, Makhele said, ICASA is in a position to announce that it has reached the final stage in respect to the review process.

ICASA will publish the final regulations in the government gazette in the next few days.

"In terms of our decision, the authority holds the view that the new regulations will, among others, benefit consumers in regards to issues like usage notifications, rollover of data, transfer of data, and out-of-bundle billing," she said.

As for user notifications, she pointed out that all licencees are required to send usage depletion notifications to consumers when their usage is at 50%, 80% and 100% depleting levels. "This will enable consumers to monitor their usage and control spend on communication services."

All licencees are required to provide an option to consumers to rollover unused data, she added.

"This is to ensure that consumers do not lose unused data as it is the current practice."

On the issue of transfer of data, she said all licencees are required to provide an option to consumers to transfer data to other users on the same network.

With out-of-bundle billing, mobile operators are no longer allowed to charge consumers out-of-bundle rates for data when their data has run out without the consumers' specific prior consent.

"This will ensure that consumers are not defaulted to out-of-bundle data charges which are significantly higher than in-bundle charges."

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