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SA regulator proposes no data expiry for six months

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South Africa's telecoms regulator has proposed new regulations that would change expiry rules for data, voice and SMS services so they could not expire for six months.

The proposed amendments to the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations were gazetted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) on March 31, 2022, and operators have 30 working days to comment on the changes.

In South Africa, data bundles are usually valid for 30 days but some promotional offers can be valid for shorter windows at a lower price.

ICASA made previous changes to the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations in February 2019, which outlawed automatic out-of-bundle (OOB) billing and forced operators to allow users to either opt in or opt out of OOB data charges, which had historically been far higher than in-bundle costs.

The 2019 change also said operators must allow users to roll their data over but left it up to the operators to determine for how long. Now ICASA is getting more specific with its rules as it believes some operators have placed restrictions on how consumers take advantage of the previous regulation changes.

Some of the new proposed changes to the regulations in 2022 include:

  • Unused data and data services as well as unused voice and SMS services obtained through either prepaid or post-paid channels shall not expire for period of six months, except for promotional packages.

  • Telecoms operators must first apply data usage against the oldest of any unused data, until that data is depleted, and thereafter against the newly allocated data. Similarly for voice and SMS services.

  • The transfer of data must not be limited to specific products and/or payment types, with the exception of uncapped or free promotional bundled products. This applies to any SIM card or device on the same network, including SIM cards or devices owned by the same end user, and exists without limit on the number of times that the end user may transfer such data.

  • Operators need to compensate end users appropriately in instances where the user is unable to utilize specific promotional voice, SMS products and promotional data packages or bundles due to a fault on the part of the Licensee (such as network outages or service breakdowns).

  • Operators, from time to time, need to issue consumer alerts on specific issues deemed relevant and necessary for the protection of end users. Examples would be information on fraudulent SIM swaps, fraudulent number porting, billing, public health warnings and public safety notifications.

  • Operators must educate end users on cybersecurity and on the protection of personal information.

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    — Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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