By Alois Vinga
A CONSUMER rights lobby has slammed mobile telecoms operators and the industry regulator for working in cahoots in hiking data and voice tariffs to levels which many cannot afford.
Econet Wireless, the country’s largest mobile phone operator by subscription, recently effected a 60 % tariff increase after receiving the green light from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe early last month.
POTRAZ allowed increases of up to 190 percent early August, but reports say Econet only implemented an increase of about half the approved figure at the time while NetOne proceeded to effect it in full.
Mobile telephone operators have cited the continued local currency devaluation and increasing network input costs as reasons behind the hike.
However, Voice of Consumers Zimbabwe (VOCZ) president, Panashe Makufa criticised the operators for allegedly capitalising on the poor and already struggling consumers while the government did nothing about it.
“The telecommunication industry seems to have been dominated with the untouchables and been politicised,” said the group.
“Government’s ignorance cannot be misquoted, it’s a direct blow to consumers so that they won’t be active on social media, since they think that it has been weaponised.
“It’s also seen with their efforts to rush the Cyber Bill into law, they want to discourage the masses into exercising their constitutional freedoms.”
Makufa also accused the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe for allegedly being a “toothless dog” through failure to serve the interests of innocent consumers.
“In May this year, Zimbabwe was rated the first African country with the most expensive data by Further Africa.
“It’s such a shame and we urge the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe to fulfil its obligations and stand for consumers,” he said.
Econet subscribers will now be paying $13 for a daily 20 megabyte (MB) data bundle, up from $8, while 100MB bundles have been adjusted from $42 to $67 per month.
Econet’s monthly 8G private Wi-Fi bundle will now cost $960, up from $600.
NetOne subscribers are currently paying $16 for a 20MB daily bundle and $100 for a weekly 150MB bundle, while Telecel is charging $15 for daily 50MB and $100 for a monthly 220MB bundle.
The sector has also maintained that prices of key components required to maintain good networks have risen significantly after the official foreign currency auction rate moved from $57:US$1 in June to the current ZWL$83.