Opposition MPs query Kazako on sustained high data costs

Cellophones in Malawi

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) will continue to monitor data packages offered by mobile operators to ensure that all data bundles on the market are reflective of the costs of the internet services in Malawi.

Information Minister Gospel Kazako was responding to a query from Thyolo Central parliamentarian Ben Phiri who wanted to know the steps taken to address issues of high data charges and bundles expiring before they are exhausted.

He disclosed that Macra has finalised the proposed tariff regulations endorsed by the Ministry of Information submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Additionally, the regulator is undertaking a market analysis assessment study to be followed by a cost modeling study to review current costs of services in the ICT market.

Kazako assured members the tariff regulations will ensure roll-over data which a consumer has not exhausted before the expiry date. 

To trigger the roll over data, a consumer has to purchase another data bundle and the remaining one will be added to the new data volume purchased by him.

Kazako: High rates for the non-expiry bundles were against government’s policy of ensuring affordable ICT services

He indicated this is one way of making sure customers are protected against exploitive pricing by service providers in addition to consumer complaint handling procedures which MACRA and the operators follow.

MACRA and government met Airtel and TNM teams on 1st June to discuss ways of handling issues on high data charges and bundles expiring before their time.

The meeting was aimed at engaging the two mobile operators to initiate the provision on non-expiry data bundles on the market in the attainment of a digital economy.

The two indicated that similar to other countries in Sub Saharan Africa, it was possible to provide non-expiry Internet data bundles and agreed to do this as an alternative to the current bundles offered on the market.

They made a request for non-expiry data bundles to the regulator for its consideration and approval targeting 8 and 10 categories of lower volume bundles below 3GB to 100 MBs.

However implementation of the proposed non-expiry bundles meant having bundles with increased charges to consumers.

Mwanambekha: Queried the Minister on the outcome of the metting

Chiradzulo south legislator Joseph Mwanamvekha queried the Minister on the conclusion of the negotiations and if the bundles will continue to expire or not.

In response, Kazako stated that during the negotiations, government queried how value expires and an understanding was reached that if one buys bundle and remains with a balance he or she must buy more before its expiry for it to roll over.

“There are still possibilities that you will be solidly be having bundles that will not expire but our finding out from the region and other places that are doing well like Kenya, South Africa those bundles normally become  a little more expensive.

“But we still give our consumers a chance so that they buy a bundle that will never expire; but certainly is slight expensive. We try to look at other places we could have gotten so that we fertilize our argument but most of the places that we have done a research on we found that they were very expensive including Zambia, Kenya South Africa where they are known for having cheaper services.

Kazako noted the high rates for the non-expiry bundles, were against government’s policy of ensuring ICT services and products including Internet are affordable with improved quality services.

He cited the examples of Zambia where they cost over 300 percent more than the normal bundles to the extent that they’re not popular and used.

In Uganda, Kenya and Ghana, the implementation of non-expiry bundles is on selected bundles which are higher than the rest of the bundles.

The information Minister stressed on the need to ensure that adoption of non-expiry internet bundles should not bring a negative impact in form of high data prices which defeat government’s policy of making ICT services affordable