Proposed expiry periods for data bundles

Communications regulator Icasa has published draft regulations that, if implemented in final form, will prevent cellphone operators from expiring users’ data for up to 24 months.

The regulations could have a huge impact on mobile providers, which have developed pricing based on data expiry that’s often as short as 30 days – and sometimes even shorter.

Icasa published a notice in the Government Gazette on Monday saying it intends amending the end-user and subscriber service charter regulations. Regulation 8B introduces “out-of-bundle billing practices” and “expiry of data practices”.

Icasa has proposed that data bundles between 1GB and 5G must remain valid for 90 days, while bigger bundles, such as 20GB and more, must remain valid for 24 months or longer. End users must also be provided with an option to roll over unused data before the expiry date.

Specifically, the proposed expiry periods for data bundles are:

  • 1-50MB: 10 days
  • 50-500MB: 30 days
  • 500MB-1GB: 60 days
  • 1-5GB: 90 days
  • 5-10GB: 180 days
  • 10-20GB: 12 months
  • 20GB and more: 24 months

Among other things, the draft regulations state that operators must provide a mechanism for end users to opt into or opt out of bundle charges when their data bundle is depleted and they must ensure that end users are sent data depletion notifications at regular intervals.

The notifications must be sent at 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% depletion of data bundles. Consumers must not be defaulted automatically to out-of-bundle data charges upon depletion of a bundle.

Where someone does not opt in or out of out-of-bundle data usage when their data bundle has been depleted, operators must automatically disconnect them from out-of-bundle data usage until such time that they give their express authorisation to do otherwise.

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom have stated that they will work with the regulator as it goes through the process.

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