ICASA Has Ruled In Favour of The South African Consumer With Network Data Rollover

by: Lauren Van Niekerk

As South African's we're pretty much used to being overcharged for goods and services but if there is one service that has received the most flak from local consumers then it's the price and policies around mobile data. We are all too familiar with the struggle of running out data or being frugal with your data and losing it because you did not use it within the allocated time period. 

The bottom line is South African's are simply not getting enough bang for buck with these policies. Coupling that fact with some of the highest data rates in the world, this struggle is always real as the web and the way we use it becomes more and more data-intensive by the day.

Over the past 2 years frustrations have begun to reach the boiling point with many disgruntled consumers have voiced their concerns online which eventually turned into the trending #DataMustFall campaign that began back in 2016. Fast forward two years and South African consumers’ have received their first piece of good news. ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) has finally made concessions with regard to consumer data policies with carryover data to become a reality very soon.

What is carryover data?

Carryover data is a feature that automatically keeps your unused data in your account until the end of the following month’s billing cycle. When you use less data one month, you can use the data you carry over into the next month without paying more or losing the data you were left with from the previous billing cycle.

So no need to set your downloads and maximise your use at the end of the month to get the most out of your left over data. 

South African networks to carry over unused data

The announcement

The announcement form ICASA also included four new regulations aimed at end-users and network subscribers which you should be aware of going forward.

ICASA has stated that:

  • Service providers must notify users when their data falls below 50%, 80% and 100%. ICASA said that this will help consumers “monitor their usage” and “control” their spending on communication services
  • Users will now be allowed to carry over unused data into the next month. All licensees, said ICASA, are required to provide this option.
  • The authority expects all network providers to allow consumers to transfer data to other users on the same network.
  • Service providers will no longer be allowed to charge consumers out-of-bundle rates when data has run out without the consumers’ prior consent.

According to ICASA, the draft regulations recommended that prepaid data bundles should have a minimum expiry period of three years, in line with section 63 of the Consumer Protection Act.

The implementation

The South African cellular network provides will be given 30-days to comply with the rules once the regulations have been gazetted. The regulatory body stated that the charter does not seek to directly or indirectly regulate costs, but to improve regulations around data, SMS and voice services.

The future of data

ICASA’s CEO Willington Ngwepe said: “The regulations are in the public interest and will help users make informed decisions on how best to make use of their mobile communication, particularly users who are on pre-paid packages,"

The future looks bright with ICASA, after extensive consultations with the public, and the huge public outcry over disappearing data. With such concessions and attempt in stretching those data bundles, we might see the outcry and intent of #DataMustFall coming true in a couple of years.  

Your data is no longer held ransom

Now that data can be used at the customer's discretion this has to be seen as a win for the South African consumer and hopefully will lead to further improvements in accessibility of mobile data.