Icasa agrees to look into high cellphone rates

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) on Thursday agreed that there was a need to look into high cellphone rates, said Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

Icasa would engage with cellphone operators in this regard, De Lille said in a statement after talks with Icasa on Thursday afternoon.

She said the communications sector regulator had also offered to cooperate with the Competition Commission in its investigation into possible collusion and anti-competitive behaviour by cellphone operators.

De Lille recently complained to the Competition Commission that South Africa had some of the highest cellphone call costs in the world and marginalised its low-income citizens in telecommunications as a result.

She said Icasa agreed that the Competition Commission Act needed to be amended to allow the body to regulate cellphone rates.

She would assist by taking the proposed amendments to Parliament, De Lille said.

“The failure of the president to speedily sign the amended Competition Commission Act is also impacting on the ability of the Competition Commission to punish those found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour,” she said.

“Currently, the Competition Commission Tribunal can only issue a fine as a deterrent to companies, but once the president has signed the amended Act, directors will also be able to be held personally liable and go to jail.”

In a meeting with her later on Thursday, the Competition Commission told her it would investigate her complaint and that it had received similar complaints in the past, De Lille said.

“Everybody agrees that the cost of telecommunications in South Africa is too high, but up until now no one has done anything about it,” she said.—Sapa

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