The Competition Commission have found that South Africans pay too much for data, recommending that mobile operators such as MTN and Vodacom must supply prepaid customers with free daily data.

In a report on the state of data prices, the Competition Commission found that data prices are too high in South Africa and that certain operators charge more here than in other countries they operate in. The Commission also claims that ” pricing structures are anti-poor and lack transparency” and that Vodacom and MTN hold monopoly in the mobile market.

“Poorer, low-volume customers face higher per megabyte (per MB) prices than richer, high-volume consumers on a like-for-like basis. Poorer consumers are faced with little option but to resort to purchasing short-validity bundles in pursuit of lower prices, but this is no answer as it does not provide them with continual data access at affordable prices.”

The Commission recommends immediate relief on data pricing, focusing on the level and structure of pricing. Prices might reduce between 30% to 50%. They also recommend that operators offer free daily data to prepaid customers, regardless of income level.

“The Commission also calls for agreement across operators for a commitment to offer all prepaid subscribers a lifeline package of daily free data to ensure all citizens have data access on a continual basis, regardless of income levels as well as an industry wide approach to zerorating of content from Public Benefit Organisations.”

If operators do not reach an agreement with the Commission within a specified timeline, they might be prosecuted under the appropriate sections of the Competition Act.

“This is a comprehensive package of recommendations necessary to address high data costs in the country. High data costs do hamper the growth and development of the economy and will derail the country’s potential in the fourth industrial revolution. For these recommendations to be effective and achieve the desired results, we urge decisiveness by all concerned in implementation”, said Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.

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