Vodacom has learnt that sometimes petty doesn’t pay, but so what

You can make the mobile operator rollover their data, but you can’t force them not to charge users for the service, apparently. At least, that’s the lesson that Vodacom wants us all to learn as the 28 February deadline for implementation of ICASA’s new rules about data looms.

After a lengthy process in which mobile operators fought change for as long as they could, those new rules are finally here and unavoidable. First, a recap of what exactly ICASA has ruled that mobile operators must do:

  • Allow users to roll over unused data
  • Allow users to transfer their unused data to other users on the same network
  • Give users timely in-bundle data usage warnings at 50%, 80% and 100% use
  • Make out-of-bundle data usage strictly opt-in only

All mobile operators must, of course, be compliant. Vodacom’s initial rollover structure, which they published on their website then removed because wow, it was so petty, seemed designed to be so convoluted that customers would rather opt-out of the automatic data block at 100% usage than try to get their heads (and wallets) around the costs of rolling over.

How does it make sense to charge people to keep using their own data, you ask? It doesn’t, is the answer. In what could be seen as an oversight, ICASA did not mandate that operators allow data rollover at little to no additional cost – but perhaps they thought that the other major networks would take a page from Telkom’s book and do so in the spirit of the regulations. That… wasn’t the case. But what goodwill failed to accomplish, market backlash did, and Vodacom have now said that not only will they not be charging for rollovers, but they never intended to charge hybrid and contract customers in the first place. It’s all very 1984.

So, what is Vodacom now proposing to do? According to a company rep who spoke with TechCentral, from 1 March, remaining data on bundle purchases by all customers will be rolled over at no additional charge once a customer purchases the same bundle as the original one.

And that’s the catch. You have to buy another bundle in order to get hold of your own data. Because petty is a lifestyle, my darlings.

In case you’re thinking you’ll escape by transferring the data to someone else, you are mistaken because only transfers below 50 MB will be free. Everything above that will be charged, with R20 for 1 GB being the most expensive.

So there you have it, folks – Vodacom wants you to know that you may have won the battle, but the war to keep data usage in SA just shy of untenable rages on. A luta conti – *data bundle has expired*