Zim reverses data tariff hikes following public outcry

Mobile apps. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Mobile apps. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Harare – Zimbabwe has reversed the latest data tariff hikes which caused a furore among consumers, who considered them not only steep but also an attempt to clamp down on social media.

In statements released on Thursday night and early Friday morning, the government, the telecoms regulator and Econet Wireless issued separate statements informing subscribers that the new tariffs have been reversed.

First to issue a statement was ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira. He said while it is conceivable that the price of data may go up, “the margin by which the prices have gone up is shockingly high and can only reflect insensitivity to fellow Zimbabweans and gluttonous corporate greed”.

He added that “unreasonable data prices, especially in a high literacy country like ours, undermine our huge investments in human capital, broadband infrastructure and the ability to attract investment".

The minister then announced “an immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago, to the dismay of many mobile phone users.”

READ: Zim govt under fire for ‘painful’ data price hikes

Mobile operator Econet also issued a statement saying it was reverting to the old data tariffs, because it was the only network that had complied with the regulator’s directive.

“It is clear that, for whatever reason, the other operators had not complied with the directive and therefore there can never be a level playing field when our customers are the only ones being affected by this position,” said Econet. The company added that this was not the first time it has complied with regulations, while the other operators have not done so.

This was the second statement issued by Econet. In the first one it said that in hiking tariffs it was only following the regulator's directive, and that it felt the pain of its subscribers.

The regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), also ordered a reversal of tariffs. It argued that it was concerned and disturbed by the conduct, double standard, negative utterances and refusal to take ownership of the decision by mobile network operators.

“POTRAZ positively received the plea by operators and eventually agreed to the introduction of a moderated floor price which would ensure both sector viability and continuous service provision to consumers.

“It is clear that this decision has been met with consumer outcry. It is against this background that POTRAZ would like to advise consumers and stakeholders in general of its decision to withdraw Regulatory Determination No 1 of 2016 with immediate effect." 

READ: Zim sets price floors for mobile tariffs

In his reaction to the new tariffs, Education Minister Jonathan Moyo said: "Use of over pricing, instead of technology, to curb internet access or manage social media is primitive elitism and promotes underdevelopment."

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