The Exceptionally Unhelpful Subscriber Service Charter Regulations
ICASA has made much of amendments to the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter (EUSSC) Regulations which it says will help consumers with some of the more predatory practices employed by mobile networks and other service providers.
However, says SA’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), it is now more than 100 days since these regulations were meant to come into force, and yet the conclusion of current legal actions initiated by Cell C, Telkom and MTN is not in sight.
The court battles centre around the time period afforded to service providers to prepare for the new regulations. The essence of the argument raised in the high court is that ICASA has not provided sufficient time and should have been aware of the impact on service providers of the regulations.
This is clear from an affidavit filed by Cell C which reads, in part:
“It is inconceivable that integrated and fully operational compliance with the amended regulations could ever be possible within a one-month period, and it is also inconceivable that an industry sector regulatory authority such as ICASA, with its specialist knowledge of the industry, would not know this, or would not have carried out even the most basic regulatory assessment.
However, this is not the only issue with the new regulations. “A primary stated aim is to boost transparency and lower costs in a key industry but what we have now is more confusion and extremely vague areas, even with explanatory notes,” says ISPA.
According to ISPA, the most glaring issues with the End User Subscriber Charter Regulations (EUSSC) are as follows:
Rollover of data
The EUSSC regulations require service providers to allow their customers to roll over data but no time period has been set for the roll-over of data. How many times must data be rolled over? Is it acceptable under the regulations to roll over data for one extra day? This is exceptionally unhelpful.
Transfer of data
The amendments to the EUSSC regulations require service providers to allow consumers to transfer their data to other consumers on the same network. Whilst this may make more sense for mobile network service providers where the service and the network are so intertwined that neither the network operators nor the regulators can draw a distinction between them, it is exceptionally unhelpful for fixed line electronic communications service providers.
There are problems with the definition of the ‘same network‘? Does this mean the service provider’s or ISP’s network or the underlying network provider’s network?
For example, if ISP X has an ADSL customer with Telkom as the underlying network, must it now transfer the accumulated ADSL data to another customer of ISP X on a fibre network that is not provided by Telkom?
In the same vein, if ISP X has a customer on a licensee’s fibre network, must ISP Y who is a customer on the same Licensee’s fibre network now transfer the data to the ISP X’s customer?
Regulated service level agreements
The EUSSC regulations seek to promote consumer protection by setting minimum network uptime requirements that, if not met, may result in a rebate claim by a consumer. However, the uptime requirements only apply in respect of wireless networks and do not extend to fixed line services such as ADSL or fibre services. Once again, this is exceptionally unhelpful for anybody to whom a fixed line service is provided.
“There is no doubt that measures are required to curb out-of-bundle pricing and other predatory practices which have been allowed to flourish for years without the regulator doing anything. The amended EUSSC regulations – when they come into force – will offer consumers some relief, but ICASA’s lack of understanding of the industry it regulates means this relief is both limited and delayed.”
For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.