Bill 'could create weather monopoly'
Cape Town - The draft SA Weather Service amendment bill will create an unfair monopoly on weather services, Parliament's environmental affairs committee heard on Wednesday.
"It can't be pure coincidence that this legislation can be used against all private competition in a very monopolistic way," forecasting website weather.co.za owner Randolf Jorberg said in a submission to public hearings by the committee.
"The bill in its current state clearly doesn't help to create fair relations between private companies and the SA Weather Service."
Jorberg said if passed, the bill would contravene annex 3 to The World Meteorological Organisation's Resolution 40, which laid down guidelines for relations between a national weather service and commercial services.
The annex states that both sectors should recognise each other's contributions to the industry and the mutual benefit of co-operative interaction.
It further states that "in the case where the national service of a country, particularly of a developing country, were to consider itself affected by the commercial sector's commercial use of data [that] originated in its own country", all parties should negotiate to achieve a satisfactory agreement.
Ocean Satellite Imaging Systems owner Jean Pierre Arabonis said the clause requiring permission to issue a severe weather warning was uncompetitive.
"It is the same as one retailer asking another retailer for permission to have a sale," he said.
"We should still have the ability to issue that warning, specifically to our clients."
Arabonis said the draft bill would be detrimental to the safety of mariners in South Africa.
Committee chairperson Johnny de Lange said the bill was likely to be re-worded so that it would only be an offence if a hoax or false, misleading information about severe weather was released to the public sector.
He said the committee would investigate commercialisation concerns, as important weather information should not be kept from a person at a fee.
"I've got no problem with the commercialisation but there are some services that may not, should not, be commercialised... if we see some services should be more freely available then we'll engage in the weather bureau with those.
"I am worried more about citizens and the flow of information about the weather so that they can regulate their lives in a way that can keep them safe and the citizens around them."
To access unusual weather and storm warnings on the SA Weather Service website, a person has to subscribe to one of three packages priced between R40 and R180.