Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator says it will continue reviewing tariffs in line with cost movements and international best practices following concerns over the high cost of products in the country.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Telecommunications service providers announced new tariffs effective April 1 in response to rising costs following the removal of the 1:1 US dollar and bond note parity in February, which saw the local currency weaken.
The National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) filed a complaint with the Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) following the tariff increases, but the regulator’s director-general Gift Machengete said they had to strike a balance between operator viability and consumer welfare.
In its petition, Nacora had requested Potraz to consider adopting time-framed international best practices with regards to unused data rollover, transferability of data like airtime and ending default-out-of-bundle browsing.
“The authority will continuously review all tariffs for telecommunication services in line with cost movements and other market dynamics as usage traffic,” Machengete said in response to Nacora, in a letter dated May 14.
“This is aimed at balancing operator viability and service affordability using the cost-based criteria in line with international best practice and not simply benchmarking on what other countries are doing.”
“The authority will work towards having all operators putting in place mechanisms to ensure consumers are protected from bill shocks.”
On the issue of transferability of data just like airtime, and also ensuring that unused data does not expire but rolls over, Machengete said: “However, we need to clarify that our intervention on data transfer for discounted optional data bundles is very limited as these are not basic services.
“On our part as the regulator, we will consult operators on facilitating data rollover,” Potraz said.
In April, Machengete told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology that total operating costs had increased by 23,1% from $657,4 million in 2017 to $809,01 million in 2018, considering salaries, rentals, fuel and other expenses.
Mobile network operators told the same parliamentary committee that local tariffs were still way below the cost of delivering services despite a recent hike.