Communications regulator Icasa has amended previous draft proposals on data expiry meant to protect consumers from high communication costs.
Icasa had previously proposed introducing regulations with tiered expiry of data bundles — the larger the bundle, the longer it would take to expire.
It has now amended this proposal, and now wants all prepaid bundles to have a minimum expiry period of three years (unless used).
The regulations could have a huge impact on mobile providers, which have developed pricing based on data expiry that’s often as short as 30 days — and sometimes even shorter.
Icasa published a notice in the Government Gazette in August saying it intended amending the end-user and subscriber service charter regulations. It proposed at the time that data bundles between 1GB and 5G should remain valid for 90 days, while bigger bundles, such as 20GB and more, should remain valid for 24 months or longer. End users should also be provided with an option to roll over unused data before the expiry date.
Specifically, the previously proposed expiry periods for data bundles were:
- 1-50MB: 10 days
- 50-500MB: 30 days
- 500MB-1GB: 60 days
- 1-5GB: 90 days
- 5-10GB: 180 days
- 10-20GB: 12 months
- 20GB and more: 24 months
Icasa was criticised for favouring consumers who could afford to pay for large data bundles, while those buying smaller bundles — often the poor — would have their data expire in as little as 10 days.
The regulator has now proposed a uniform three-year expiry for all bundles, no matter the size. This could prove a big problem for South Africa’s telecommunications operators, which argue that data expiry is necessary to help them plan their networks and keep prices down.
As with the previous Icasa proposal, telecoms licensees will be required to send usage notifications for data depletion to consumers at intervals of 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% service depletion. “The notification must be through an SMS, push notification or any other applicable means.”
Consumers must be given an option to opt into or out of being charged out of bundle data rates to avoid bill shock, Icasa said.
It has set a new deadline of 3 January 2018 for written comments on the draft regulations. It plans to hold public hearings, which will no doubt be fiery, on 7, 8 and 9 February 2018, with final regulations to be promulgated by 31 March 2018. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media