Recently NetOne released a mobile data bundle product called “The One“.
The removal of the product raised a lot of suspicion as to why the MNO would remove a product that was arguably the best mobile data product available on the market at that time.
We sought clarification from NetOne to no avail.
So, we took it upon our regulator, POTRAZ, to shed some light on the issue, to which they responded:
The product had been launched without approval and it is the regulator’s job to ensure that only legally approved products are offered to the public
The regulator set the record straight, NetOne had an illegal product and the regulator, told NetOne to pull it off the market.
What was surprising was the public’s reaction to us sharing this information. Many people fingered the regulator as the bad guy, working in cahoots with the Government to deprive the public of an opportunity to access affordable Internet.
Emotions apart, POTRAZ was just doing their job, but it seems like they still have a lot more work to do.
Our interest in this issue came about from POTRAZ outlining that the product was not legal, which we would assume makes it illegal?
From what we know, in any “system”, an illegal action is followed by some form of penalty from the regulating authority.
Why then has it not been penalised? and if they have, why hasn’t it been made public knowledge?
At this stage neither NetOne or POTRAZ have made an effort to communicate what has happened or will happen to the public.
Our interest in this issue led us to dig a bit deeper, and that is when we came across a POTRAZ legislation through a statutory instrument(SI).
We are not legal experts, so we can only assume that what we say is the correct interpretation of the law.
To our understanding, the SI clearly defines the course of action POTRAZ is meant to take on such an instance and the penalties they should enforce on the guilty parties.
We sought clarity from POTRAZ on what action they will take on NetOne to no avail, they are still yet to respond.
Either way, after consulting some lawyers these were our findings:
POTRAZ has a Statutory Instrument 162 of 2008 on Penalties which outlines the regulator’s course of action in dealing with the different operators they handle under their mandate.
On LICENSED PUBLIC MOBILE CELLULAR TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICES a penalty is placed on a ” percentage of gross monthly turnover for public networks and US$ for private”, these were the penalties we found that may be tied to this issue:
- Offering services not approved by the Authority – 10% (within a period of 5 days)
- Implementing unapproved tariffs – 25% (within a period of 5 days)
- Publishing unapproved tariffs – 15% (within a period of 5 days)
Our interpretation of this is that NetOne is liable to all 3 of these fines.
The SI also clarifies what POTRAZ is meant to do when it became aware of this issue but we will cover that in a separate article.
So with penalties already set by the regulators SI why have they not enforced it?
Both parties seem mute on the issue, which points at some kind of protection and elements of favouritism.
NetOne pulling the product off the market immediately after the regulator told them to shows that they were well aware of their infringement of the law.
It is like a cheeky child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and drops the cookie immediately.
What would compel NetOne, with 20 years experience in the telecoms industry to just implement a product?
We understand that the public is not as interested in these issues because we all want cheap data, but there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Tell us what you think about this.