Vodacom in breach over new tariffs? - TechCentral

Vodacom in breach over new tariffs?

Vodacom is in breach of Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) regulations for not filing its new 99c/minute prepaid tariff plan with the regulator before announcing the new rates on Wednesday.

That’s the view of Icasa, whose spokesman, Paseka Maleka, tells TechCentral that Vodacom “did not follow the process of applying to the authority … as required by regulations when it introduced its tariff changes”.

But Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman denies that the operator is in breach of the rules because the new pricing — announced within minutes of rival Cell C unveiling its own 99c/minute prepaid price plan — forms part of a “promotion” rather than a permanent price cut.

However, Vodacom’s press release announcing the price cuts fails to mention the word “promotion” once. Rather, it simply refers to the 99c/minute package as “the new prepaid tariff”. Boorman was not able to say when the new pricing plan will come to an end, only that it has an expiry date.

But Icasa is not impressed. Maleka says the authority is “currently engaging with Vodacom on the matter to address the contravention”.

Operators are required to file tariff changes seven days prior to their launch.

An industry insider and legal expert, who didn’t want to be named on account of his involvement in the telecoms industry (he is not employed by one of the operators), says Vodacom appears to have side-stepped the requirements to get the offer to market sooner when it got wind of Cell C’s plans.

TechCentral understands that Vodacom was aware of Cell C’s intended market-shaking move as early as Monday.

The insider says that although other operators could object and ask that the new tariffs be held back, this seems unlikely because it would not be defensible from a public interest standpoint.

He says Vodacom is unlikely to face punitive sanctions and is more likely to receive a reprimand because only Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee can apply sanctions, but asking the committee to do so would most likely be seen as a waste of Icasa’s resources.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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