Vodacom has backed down over plans to charge customers for data rollover after a public outcry. In a statement on Wednesday, the operator said it will no longer charge for data rollover. But it now plans to hike fees on some telecommunications plans on 1 April.
Earlier this week, it emerged that Vodacom planned to charge users to roll over data beyond their expiry date. Though communications regulator Icasa didn’t stipulate that the rollover should be free, many consumers took its consumer protection regulations, which come into effect this week, to mean just that.
Under its plan — published on its website and then removed — Vodacom said it intended applying different fees to customers, depending on the size of the bundle remaining. The rollover of data bundles with a validity greater than one day would have attracted the following charges: bundle size remaining less than 100MB — R5; 100MB up to 250MB — R12; 250MB to 500MB — R19; 500MB to 1GB — R29; and over 1GB — R49.
The information published on its website — and now removed — regarding the rollover fees clearly stated that they would apply to prepaid, hybrid and contract customers.
But a Vodacom spokesman told TechCentral on Wednesday that the company never intended to charge contract and hybrid customers for rollover, provided they roll over using the same bundle mechanism. In this case, whatever is left in a particular month rolls over to the next month automatically. He also said there was never an intention to charge contract and hybrid customers to roll over data from monthly allocations to the next month.
“We are no longer looking at additional tariffs on rollover,” he said.
“From 1 March, remaining data on bundle purchases by all customers will be rolled over at no additional charge once a customer purchases the same bundle as the original one,” Vodacom said in Wednesday’s statement. “Further enhancements to this service will be communicated in due course.”
Vodacom has also said that it will not charge customers to transfer data to other users on its network, provided the amount to be transferred is 50MB or less. A schedule of fees will apply to larger transfers, up to a maximum of R20 for 1GB.
South African operators, including Vodacom are required to offer data rollover and data transfers under new Icasa regulations that come into force at midnight on Thursday. Consumers must now also explicitly opt in to out-of-bundle data, a measure meant to protect them from high tariffs and bill shock.
In the statement, Vodacom said, too, that it will cut out-of-bundle rates by as much as 70%. From Friday, these rates will decline from 99c/MB for prepaid customers and 89c/MB for hybrid and contract customers to a single fee of 49c/MB. (The move comes after rival MTN said on 31 January that it would cut out-of-bundle data charges to 29c/MB.)
“In addition, customers that choose Vodacom’s worry-free Data Refill feature can save as much as 70% on out-of-bundle prices with an effective price of 30c/MB,” it said. “A below-inflation average increase on certain prepaid, hybrid and contract (plans) will also come into effect on 1 April 2019, with the requisite one month’s notice in line with the Consumer Protection Act.” — © 2019 NewsCentral Media