The new cellphone data regulations in a nutshell

The new cellphone data regulations in a nutshell

From midnight tonight, the on-off data regulations will finally be a reality. Wendy Knowler summarises what they mean for you and your data spend.

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It’s been a bit of a confusing road for consumers since ICASA first published its End-User and Subscriber Service Charter (EUSSC) amendment regulations - which were initially to come into effect last June, but Cell C went to court to argue that they hadn’t been given enough time to implement the changes.

The regulations are intended to give consumers some relief against expiry of our paid-for data, as well as bill shock due to lack of transparency on out-of-bundle charges.

Number 1 - from midnight:

You can opt-in or opt-out of “out of bundle” - OOB - data charges to minimise bill shock.

Up to now we’ve been automatically - and often without notification - switched to much more expensive out-of-bundle billing.

If you opt out, you could find yourself suddenly cut off from your network. If you opt in, you could still end up with a sky high bill, so to avoid that, set a Rand value on out-of-bundle data spend.

Number 2

You’ll also have the option to roll over unused data before the date of expiry. The operators will have to allow for that rolled-over data to be used first, until it is depleted, before any allocated data is used.

Before that rolled over data would only be used after the current data was used, with the effect that it would expire anyway.

Number 3

You’ll also be able to transfer data to other users on the same network so get busy on your list of people you may want to gift with data.

Number 4

ICASA tweaked the regulations earlier this month.

Originally, the regulations compelled cellphone operators to send usage depletion notifications to consumers of data, voice and SMSes, at prescribed deletion points - 20%, 50%, and 100%.

Now they have to provide consumers with an option to opt-out of usage depletion notifications for voice, SMS, and data services.

A few weeks ago, Cell C, which, like Telkom, has already implemented all the new regulations, told me that some of its subscribers had voiced their irritation at being bombarded with those depletion notifications.

Each network is implementing the regulations in slightly different ways.

If you’re a Vodacom subscriber, you’d have had an interesting couple of days if you’ve been following Vodacom’s flip-flopping on the data rollover issue.

Early in the week, Vodacom revealed that it planned to charge users to roll over data beyond its expiry date - not specifically prohibited by ICASA's regulations but hardly in keeping with them either.

The network operator has since backed down in the face of a public outcry.

Incidentally, this week, Vodacom announced that it will cut out-of-bundle rates by as much as 70% from tomorrow - from 99c/MB for prepaid customers and 89c/MB for hybrid and contract customers to a single fee of 49c/MB.

You may remember that at the end of January, MTN announced that it would drop its out-of-bundle data charges to 29c/MB.

Telkom and Cell C say they are already compliant with the new regulations.

Tomorrow, Cell C will turn on the feature that prevents customers from making use of the OOB facility for data unless they opt into OOB usage.

Its customers can opt-in or set limits to OOB spend by using Cell C's spend control service, which applies to data, voice, and SMS. Customers can opt-in on the Cell C app or Web portal and if they do so by midnight tonight, they won’t be asked to do so again, the network has said.

"Customers who don't opt-in by the deadline may find themselves in a situation where they don't have access to any data once their data bundle runs out, even if airtime is available or they are on an open contract.”

ALSO: Yay or nay to eating food past its best before date?

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