Malawi: Consumer rights boss blasts telcos over high data costs
Malawi’s consumer rights body, the Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) has warned that the cost of communication in the Southern African country is now beyond the reach of the majority.
Commenting on the increase in prices of voice, Data, SMS services by the country’s largest operator Airtel Malawi, CAMA Executive Director John Kapito said the development is worrisome, especially after the government had assured Malawians of a reduction in the price of mobile phone data.
In October the Minister of Information and Digitalisation Gospel Kazako said the government will do whatever it takes to bring down data prices.
Kapito said it was shocking that most of the companies in the country were pushing consumers to the edge by raising tariffs instead of improving internal inefficiencies.
“This is shocking to consumers who for a long time have registered their anger with the current bundle prices and one wonders how Airtel Malawi reconciles and justifies their bundle prices with an increase of 20%.”
Airtel Malawi released a statement and explained that the revision of prices is largely the result of soaring costs of doing business in the country following the 25% devaluation of the Malawian currency (Malawian Kwacha) in May this year, rising energy costs and their domino effects.
The company said, “While Airtel has absorbed the ensuing pressure from these headwinds for more than 5 months, the value dilution has become unsustainable. It is prudent to revise accordingly to protect Airtel’s broad stakeholder base interests as well as guard its capability to continue to deliver quality services to customers. Further, some of Airtel’s products will be discontinued in order to streamline and simplify the products portfolio for customer convenience.”
The Minister said the solution lies in bringing in new players into the sector to raise the level of competition and force a reduction in costs.
To date, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has given licences to two companies: StarLink to ensure high-speed internet connectivity and Malcel, the county’s third mobile phone operator.