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Time running out for Malawi’s operators over data bundle expiry dates

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , Malawi , 13 Nov 2020

Pressure is mounting on Malawi’s two mobile phone operators to remove the expiry date on data bundles, as is the case in some neighbouring countries, including Zambia.

Despite public outcry, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has been silent on the matter.

Following MACRA’s silence, the Consumer Association of Malawi and the ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) have requested that government force Airtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) to comply.

The organisations are lobbying for the removal because they say it will make the internet more affordable and encourage more widespread internet usage.

ICTAM President Bram Fudzulani has told the media that data bundles in other countries do not expire as the case is in Malawi, adding that there is no need for data bundles to have time limit.

Fudzulani also expressed concern over how quickly data bundles are depleted and said there was need for mobile operators to rectify the situation.

He added that since MACRA is already aware of the Association’s demand, they now want the government to intervene in the matter.

Fudzulani was quoted by the local Nyasa Times newspaper saying, “We presented our submission to MACRA on pricing, competition and consumers’ welfare under the Data Must Fall campaign.”

In July this year, Consumer Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito wrote to MACRA to demand the removal of expiry date on internet bundles saying it was unfair and unjustifiable that internet bundles should have an expiry data.

He also complained that compared Malawians were paying too much for the same data bundles that expire compared to other countries.

Airtel Malawi and TNM did not respond to ITWeb Africa’s requests for comment.

Richard Kadoro, a telecoms researcher at Computer Association of Zambia, said applying an expiry date on internet bundles is tantamount to theft from consumers.

“Malawi’s situation is similar to that of Zambia where the regular failed to handle the problem until politicians compelled operators to remove expiry dates on data bundles. The problem is that forcing expiry dates only benefits operators rather than customers and that is the same as stealing.”

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