Mobile operator Cell C has finalised an agreement with the Competition Commission over data cuts and digital inclusion.
This followed the agreements made between the commission and telecommunication groups Vodacom, MTN and Telkom in March.
Cell C will offer a data lifeline package, enhance its rate transparency and zero-rate a number of government and other official websites.
“The company’s voluntary offer is in line with Cell C’s commitment to digital inclusion, central to the objectives of the Data Services Market Inquiry recommendations,” said Cell C CEO Douglas Craigie Stevenson.
While no evidence was found of Cell C contravening the Competition Act, the company agreed that certain industrywide measures would improve access for lower income consumers.
“The context of the agreement is based on Cell C’s social responsibility to ensure that lower income consumers have access to essential communication services through the provision of free daily lifeline data and the zero rating of essential government and educational services,” added Cell C chief legal officer Zahir Williams.
“The commission’s recommendations on data price cuts have resulted in industry prices now falling to levels that Cell C has been offering since 2018 and the company is happy to have concluded an agreement in these circumstances,” Craigie Stevenson added.
“Cell C will, by May 1, launch a free lifeline package capped at 250 KB a day at a bundle size determined by Cell C, accessible to the Cell C prepaid customer base,” the company said in a statement on April 1.
The lifeline package will be further enhanced to allow for direct messaging to other Cell C customers through the Cell C App and portal, allow delivery conversion to SMS for customers who are not on the application, five free Cell C to Cell C SMSes a day, seven free “call me’s” a day and free basic internet.org access.
Customers can access the lifeline bundle through a USSD string, as well as the Cell C App or portal.
However, customer will not be able to use the lifeline bundle for video or streaming off sites such as Netflix, Spotify or Showmax, barring YouTube where there is some educational and health content available.
The lifeline package will be filed with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa under the End User Services and Subscriber Charter Regulations.
Meanwhile, to ensure transparency for the benefit of customers, Cell C will implement effective rate notifications that will allow customers to check the use per MB price.
“This enhances price transparency, particularly for products no shorter than 30-day bundles, hybrid and post-paid customers,” said Craigie Stevenson.
The effective rate will take a period of six to nine months to implement.
Meanwhile, already on offer, is Cell C’s range of free services to enable family and friends to stay in contact and informed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company has zero-rated the national Covid-19 website, providing free push SMSes promoting the Covid-19 WhatsApp number, enabling free access to the Mpilo: Healthcare in Your Hands app, and free access to the Department of Health’s maternal service MomConnect.
The company’s zero-rating also extends to Free Basics by Facebook and free access to essential information such as local and international headlines, education sites, health sites and weather services through Free Basics/internet.org, with Cell C in the process of zero-rating some tertiary and health institution websites to enable free use.
Cell C will provide zero-rated access to customers on websites of designated public benefit organisations on an affordable limit, including official national and local government websites focused on education, health, social services, child welfare, transport, security, home affairs, Eskom and local power utilities, Prasa and other transport services servicing the mass market segment, the South African Depression and Anxiety Support group, Lifeline and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.