Communications regulator Icasa has quietly published amendments to its end-user and subscriber service charter regulations in which it is proposing that telecommunications operators be forced to roll over data bundles for a minimum of six months.
The draft regulations also deal with the rollover of voice and SMS bundles.
The regulations were last amended in 2018 and implemented with effect from end-February 2019.
The changes implemented in the 2018 regulations came during a time of intense backlash in South Africa against perceived high mobile data charges and the rise of the so-called “data must fall” movement.
The changes to the regulations at the time, which were watered down from draft proposals, meant operators were required to:
- Offer data rollover to customers, though Icasa left it to the companies to determine how long that period of rollover should be;
- Send usage depletion notifications to consumers once used 50%, 80% and 100% of their bundles;
- Ensure that out-of-bundle data was explicitly opt-in only — consumers could not automatically be defaulted to out-of-bundle rates when their bundles were depleted; and
- Provide an option to offer unused data to other users on the same network.
In the new draft amendments to the regulations, Icasa has proposed that:
- Data, SMS and voice bundles do not expire for a minimum of six months, except for promotional packages, for both prepaid and post-paid users;
- Operators will apply new voice and SMS bundles only once the old ones have been used up;
- Operators must compensate users “appropriately” (extending usage or giving a rebate) for network outages or service breakdowns;
- Only once previously allocated data is depleted may newly allocated data be used; and
- Data transfer, between users on the same network, will not be limited to specific products or payment types (except for uncapped or free/promotional data).
On the last point, Icasa said some operators have placed restrictions on how consumers take advantage of the 2018 data transfer rules, and its proposed amendments are meant to address that. The proposed changes apply to any Sim card or device on the same network, including devices owned by the same user. It proposes there also be no limit to the number of times a user may transfer data.
An additional proposed rule is that operators might be ordered, in writing, to issue alerts to consumers on specific issues Icasa deems important.
These alerts could include notifications about fraudulent Sim swaps, fraudulent number porting, public health warnings, or any issues which affect consumers and that require immediate circulation of information.
Icasa said affected parties must provide submissions in writing on the proposed regulations by no later than 4pm on 18 May. – © 2022 NewsCentral Media