15 June 2011

ICASA may apply for exemption from the CPA

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in looking into applying to the Minister of Trade and Industry for an exemption on certain provisions of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The test that the Minister will use in evaluating an application will be whether ICASA has in place a regulatory framework that protects the interests of consumers to the same of higher standard as the CPA.

ICASA has already prescribed a Code of Conduct for licensees as well as End User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations which deal with quality of service issues.

In its consultation document on the matter, ICASA has proposed that issues relating to the language used in contracts, consumer rights, provision of information, confidentiality of consumer information, promotional marketing and advertising as well as remedies in respect of defective products be removed from its Code of Conduct so that they be regulated in terms of the CPA. ICASA, it seems, wishes to retain jurisdiction over charging and billing matters as well as complaint handling and resolution of matters it regulates.

ICASA may also want to retain jurisdiction over quality of service matters and proposes that the electronic communications sector be exempted from the provisions of section 54 of the CPA which promotes the consumer's right to demand quality of service.

Section 65 of the CPA requires that a pre-paid device may not expire until its full value has been redeemed or three years have elapsed from the date on which it was issued. A pre-paid SIM could be regarded as such a "device". ICASA may therefore wish to retain jurisdiction over pre-paid SIMS particularly as it will want its licensees to re-use numbers that are not being used.

ICASA is currently conducting workshops with the stakeholders and consumer groups around the country to solicit their views with respect to the intended application for exemption. As soon as all the consultations have been concluded, the Authority may then issue a communiqué to state its final position with regard to the exemption sought.

Kathleen Rice and Refiloe Motsoeneng

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