Mobile giants slammed for exploiting SA poor

MTN and Vodacom have been singled out for their high data costs by a competition commission inquiry. Their prices are far cheaper in the other countries in which they operate.
MTN and Vodacom have been singled out for their high data costs by a competition commission inquiry. Their prices are far cheaper in the other countries in which they operate.
Image: iStock

A damning competition commission report into the high cost of data has slammed SA’s mobile giants for oppressing and exploiting the poor.

The report‚ released on Wednesday by commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele‚ revealed that Vodacom and MTN were charging far more for data in SA than in the other countries in which they operated – with the poor hit the hardest.

The report comes two years after the commission began its inquiry following a public outcry over the high cost of data and mobile operators’ failure to carry over unused data.

“SA is still considerably more expensive than the cheapest country‚” Bonakele said in revealing the report’s provisional findings. Giving mobile operators until June to comment‚ Bonakele said the findings of benchmarking studies were disturbing.

“They found that lower-income consumers were exploited more compared with wealthier consumers.”

He said those buying smaller data bundles pay up to twice as much compared with those who buy larger bundles.

“The cost of mobile data is anti-poor and lacks transparency‚ with lower-income consumers being exploited compared to higher income consumers.”

Bonakele said it was clear that mobile operators prefered to offer “specials” instead of lowering the actual price of data so that all consumers could benefit.

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