Icasa taking MTN and Cell C to court in fight to drop data costs

Icasa taking MTN and Cell C to court in fight to drop data costs.
Icasa taking MTN and Cell C to court in fight to drop data costs.
Image: 123RF/stockstudio44

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) is headed for the court in an effort to see data costs drop.

The regulator’s CEO, Willington Ngwepe, told Sowetan on Thursday that they were seeking an urgent date to hear MTN and Cell C’s challenges to the implementation of new data expiry rules.

Ngwepe said they wanted to see their End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations which were  published on May 7 2018 implemented so that issues relating to out-of-bundle data costs and expiry were addressed.

Ngwepe said the court matter had significantly delayed the implementation of the regulations which were aimed at benefiting the consumers. Ngwepe said they have instructed their lawyers to immediately seek a date for the matter to be heard and finalised.

“It’s possible for the data prices to fall, it’s just the timing that’s a bit of a challenge from a process perspective,” Ngwepe said.

“We were hoping this matter would be heard soon in court so that consumer can get the relief sought.”

In June, MTN South Africa and Cell C challenged Icasa’s deadline for the implementation of new data expiry rules, arguing that the regulator had not given the industry enough time to comply with the new regulations.

The regulations which would have stopped mobile communications companies from charging high out-of-bundle rates without the users’ consent. The regulations would have also made it possible for users to be able to carry over their unused data.

Cell C had argued that it would take them at least six months to be able to comply.

Ngwepe said the regulations were meant to protect consumers from high charges and were the first phase in a process that may take up to eight months which may lead to data costs dropping.

“The second phase was the process to identify the markets in the data provision value chain which for us was going to help us come with the necessary interventions of regulation to ultimately bring down data costs,” Ngwepe said.

The Icasa regulations came after there were concerns about, amongst others, about the perceived unfair business rules imposed by mobile communications service providers in the provision of data services to South African consumers.

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