UCC tasks MTN Uganda to explain unapproved tariffs

UCC tasks MTN Uganda to explain unapproved tariffs
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director Eng Godfrey Mutabazi. Courtesy Photo.

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has tasked telecommunications giant, MTN Uganda to explain why it has been changing internet data and voice call prices in the last 12 months without notifying the regulator.

In a July 7 letter to MTN Uganda Limited Chief Executive Officer, UCC Executive Director Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi says the telecom company should furnish them with justification for price changes as well as new data and voice call prices not later than July 12.

“The commission now directs that you submit the most up to date schedule of retail pricing for all regulated services and products available on the MTN platform(s). Furthermore, the commission directs that MTN provides a detailed justification for all price changes implemented in the last 12 months for which the commission was not notified in advance,” the letter reads in part.

According to Uganda Communications Commission Act 2013, UCC is mandated to, among others, regulate rates and charges for communication services with a view of protecting consumers from excessive tariffs and to prevent unfair competitive practices.

Mutabazi explains that telecommunication (tariffs and accounting) regulations No. 27 of 2005 also direct that all tariffs charged be submitted to the commission for approval before they are applied.

In applying unapproved tariffs, says Mutabazi, MTN breached its license terms. “

The same requirement (submission of tariffs for approval) is reflected under article 8 of MTN’s license for the operation of a telecommunication system and article 18 thereof which provide for non-compliance with this provision a ground for suspension or termination of the license,” the letter says.

On Sunday, MTN Uganda for instance announced change of its daily data bundle prices.

“All daily bundles have been replaced, giving you more volume for about the same price,” the company announced.

Previously, 10 Megabytes (MBs) of data was sold at Shs 300 but in the new tariff, it was reduced to Shs 250. The telephone company on the other hand increased data volume for Shs 500 from 20 to 25 MBs and data for Shs 1000 from 50 MBs to 60 MBs among other bundle volumes. The company also expanded its social bundle from Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter to include Instagram and SnapChat which also costs Shs 500 per day.

UCC says its request was triggered by preliminary assessment of the current pricing of MTN Uganda retail prices which indicates that there have been changes without notifying the regulator.

The request also comes at a time when MTN Uganda is facing a wrath from its customers who have been expressing their discontent on social media platforms claiming that they are cheated especially on the rate at which data gets depleted.

Addressing a conference of young innovators last week, ICT and National Guidance Minister Frank Tumwebaze revealed that government is interrogating factors pushing up data costs in Uganda. He said government will address data cost problems through a policy framework and regulations if necessary.

“On the cost of internet data, we are trying to interrogate and investigate the push factor for this. Is there connivance in the industry? Is it because of our location in the region? It is different in Rwanda, it is different in Kenya. We are interrogating why our data costs are high. If we find out that there is connivance in the industry, we shall use a regulation to intervene,” he said.