Consumers Associations of Malawi (Cama) says the proposed communications tariff regulations, gives more power to mobile network operations (MNOs) at the expense of consumers.
Cama was reacting to the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) statement, indicating that it has concluded public consultations on the regulations.
According to the statement, among other thing, the proposed regulations gives Macra 14 days to approve a tariff and an additional seven days before the tariff can become effective.
The regulations also provide for rollover of data bundles, which require a service provider to give a customer an option to roll over data unused before expiry date of the data bundle and a provision where a service provider will give a customer an option upon depletion of data bundle to either purchase another or consent to be charged an out of bundle data tariff rate.
But Cama executive director John Kapito observed in a response to a questionnaire on Tuesday that Macra continues to give so much power to the mobile network operators, who seem to dictate to the regulator on how they want to operate.
“We only have mainly two significant MNOs in the country, why take 14 days for an approval?
“We find the new changes clouded by so many uncertainties and advantageous to the MNOs but a raw deal for consumers. Macra has not done enough to address consumers concerns,” said Kapito.
Lately, MNOs have been under fire for overpricing their data charges, a development which pushed government to engage them to revise their prices.
Internet penetration remains low in Malawi with available figures indicating that only 13.8 per cent of the Malawian population uses the Internet.
Figures from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicate that Internet affordability is achieved when 1GB of data is bought at two percent of the monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita.
At the moment, Malawi’s GNI per capita is $380 (K281 200), translating to $31.67 (K23 435) per month.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako earlier agreed that data tariffs are too high for a developing nation such as Malawi.
Currently, mobile operators are charged 17.5 percent VAT on mobile phones and services while 16.5 percent is charged on Internet services.