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Airtel loses bid to force Safaricom to cut M-Pesa fees

Kenya , 25 Jul 2014

Airtel loses bid to force Safaricom to cut M-Pesa fees

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) says it doesn’t have jurisdiction to order Safaricom to cut M-Pesa cross network transaction fees.

The CAK says these powers exist with the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

Airtel filed a petition to the CAK alleging that Safaricom is anti-competitive because rival network subscribers pay almost double the amount paid by Safaricom’s subscribers in sending or receiving mobile money across networks.

By declining to make a ruling on mobile money pricing, the CAK added that this is a matter that also requires drafting of additional laws.

Airtel also requested the CAK to compel Safaricom to open its M-Pesa agency network to rival networks, something that Safaricom has agreed to do before the CAK could make its public ruling on the matter.

The CAK’s move effectively makes Safaricom the inexplicit winner in the petition, as this gives the telco a lifeline to continue charging mobile money subscribers on rival networks a transactional fee of between KSh 60 and KSh 250, as compared to KSh 3 and KSh 75 for those within Safaricom M-Pesa network.

“Price controls in Kenya have always remained a sensitive issue in the country, with most people opposed to it, saying that the rules of demand and supply should dictate the same and not boardroom decisions by those in authority,” Noah Mutai, an IT research lecturer and telecommunications analyst, told ITWeb Africa.

“If the Central Bank of Kenya and the Communication Authority of Kenya decide to take this matter head-on by dictating the transactional fees, as it is Airtel’s wish, this could result in competitors from other industries in the country filing cases, something that could lead to an overhaul of the entire pricing laws in the nation,” Mutai said in conclusion.

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