South Africa: ICASA Fines MTN Over WhatsApp Bundle Hike
South Africa's telecoms regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), has slapped MTN with a $336 000 fine for failing to comply with the law when it hiked the price of one of its data plans.
However, $135 million of the fine has been suspended for three years.
ICASA's spokesperson Paseka Maleka said that the case had been ongoing since earlier this year when MTN was charged with failing to comply with the part of the regulation that orders telcos to notify the authority at least seven days before making changes to a charged service. In this case, MTN had allegedly increased the price of its WhatsApp Monthly 1GB bundle without following the necessary steps required by ICASA.
ICASA strongly feels that MTN's actions and contraventions undermined the authority's efforts to reduce the cost of communications in the country and the implementation of consumer protection laws that are aimed at promoting transparency and exposing unfair business practices when providing communication services.
MTN SA's Executive for Corporate Affairs, Jacqui O'Sullivan said that MTN's dual data strategy had seen consistent investment in both its 3G and 4G networks in the past few years and that MTN had urgently invested more than $13 million in the 3G network, to accommodate the high demand for WhatsApp.
O'Sullivan said that in June 2018 MTN did let ICASA know about its intentions to increase the price of its Watsapp bundle, but this price increase was delayed in the hope that additional network interventions would provide some relief. Unfortunately, the state of affairs did not improve, and the stability of the MTN's 3G network remained significantly at risk; therefore MTN ended up hiking the pricing at a later stage without returning to ICASA to inform the regulator again.
The letter, sent by the CEO of MTN SA, Godfrey Motsa, he states that MTN respects the role of the regulator is committed to complying and to maintaining healthy relationships with all stakeholders. However, Motsa added that MTN is asking for leniency and will, therefore, be taking the matter to the High Court for review.