The Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) has warned that Telkom’s “insistence” on bundling its broadband data service with a compulsory voice service may mean that the company is “acting in a way that contravenes SA’s new Consumer Protection Act (CPA)”.
Ispa GM Ant Brooks says section 13 (1) of the CPA has “clear prescriptions against bundling goods and services in a manner that forces consumers to enter into agreements or transactions they do not require as a condition of buying a certain product or service”.
He says the act regards such practices as a “limitation on the consumer’s right to choose suppliers for each service”.
“According to the act, compulsory bundling of services is forbidden unless the supplier can prove that it offers economic benefits and convenience to the consumer that outweigh the drawbacks of limiting choice,” according to Brooks.
“Telkom’s [broadband digital subscriber] lines (DSL) are not available in ‘naked’ options, though one can buy a voice service without DSL,” he says. “Ispa believes that forcing a client to take a voice product and pay a rental fee for a voice line when he or she simply wants a data line is a form of product bundling that is contrary to the CPA.
“Telkom would be hard pressed to prove that the bundling of a voice service and DSL line offers economic benefits or convenience to the subscriber, since many subscribers either want the option of using an alternative voice service provider or do not want a voice service at all,” says Brooks.
“Many users regard the voice line rental fee as a ‘Telkom tax’. In many cases, the voice service is not wanted [and] yet consumers are forced to pay for it if they want a DSL line,” he says. “Telkom is constraining consumer choice with this practice.” — Staff reporter, TechCentral