Consumer Commission Switched On To Cell Phone Companies

Eva Smith (Attorney) @ Lucid Living

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) is going after cellphone companies that are refusing to implement new customer-friendly regulations.

But with maximum penalties of R1- million for companies that fail to comply with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the NCC might be fighting an uphill battle.

The NCC has already told Vodacom, Cell C, MTN, Telkom and 8ta to bring the terms and conditions of their subscribers’ cellphone contracts into line with the CPASee our earlier article investigating this.

The NCC wants the cell phone companies to stop automatically renewing cellphone contracts when they expire, and for new subscribers to be allowed to give 20 days’ notice if they want to cancel – instead of being stuck with the cellphone contract for two years.

“The commission adopted a strategy of giving the cellphone companies a chance to enter into consent agreements. To date only one mobile operator [Neotel] entered into the consent agreement and the rest raised issues,” the NCC’s head of enforcement and investigations, Prudence Moilwa, told the meeting.

These cellphone companies now have until the end of September 2011 to amend their contracts, or National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala says she will take them to the tribunal.

The next investigation is into the “exorbitant cost” of global roaming, and exactly how the costs of per- second billing, SMSes and the different peak and off-peak network charges are calculated.

“We want to look into this to see if there is compliance with Section 48 of the CPA, which talks to fair pricing,” said Moilwa.

Trade and Industry deputy director-general Zodwa Ntuli said big companies were putting up “resistance” to the NCC, which operates on a small budget of R33-million a year.

“Most of the cases are going to land in court. The big players will use their financial muscle to frustrate the work of the commission” by going to different courts, Ntuli said.