Icasa committee fines MTN millions over price hike

A hoarding outside MTN’s head office in Johannesburg

Communications regulator Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee (CCC) has fined MTN South Africa R5-million — R2-million of which is suspended for three years — for contravening regulations when it hiked the tariffs on one of its data plans without following the requirements.

MTN appeared before the CCC earlier this year over a charge that it failed to comply with a notification rule regarding tariff adjustments.

The CCC found that MTN contravened regulation 9 of the standard terms and conditions by failing to comply with the part of the regulation that requires notifying Icasa at least seven days prior to the provision of a charged service. The matter was initiated by the compliance and consumer affairs division of Icasa. The ruling was handed down last week.

The regulator was unhappy that MTN amended its 1GB WhatsApp monthly bundle to R30. “MTN implemented the price adjustment before the end of seven days’ period without prior approval by Icasa,” the regulator said in February.

MTN South Africa spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan told TechCentral on Monday the company is aware of the ruling and intends to appeal it at the high court, arguing that it has a strong case given that the low-cost WhatsApp plan in question was degrading the quality of its 3G network and that the price adjustment was therefore urgent.

Icasa said in February that MTN had argued that the early implementation of the amendment was done out of necessity as the company was faced with a choice between breaking the letter of the regulations and suffering more serious harm.

Could have been worse

MTN could have faced a fine of between R100 000 and R5-million, and the CCC chose the maximum sum. However, the regulations also allowed the committee to impose a fine of fined 10% of MTN South Africa’s annual turnover for every day (or part thereof) during which the offence took place, which it chose not to do.

At the time, Icasa said it felt that MTN’s “actions and contraventions … effectively undermined the authority’s efforts of reducing the cost of communications in South Africa and the implementation of consumer protection regulations aimed at promoting transparency and prohibiting unfair business rules in the provision of communication services”.  — © 2019 NewsCentral Media

Source: techcentral.co.za