Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
ECONET Wireless subscribers yesterday woke up to a shocker after the leading mobile network operator hiked tariffs by up to 250 percent and introduced new data packages.
The company’s decision follows the hiking of tariffs by other operators, NetOne and Telecel last week.
Hundreds of disgruntled subscribers took to social media yesterday, lamenting the data tariffs increase.
Efforts to get a comment from Econet were fruitless yesterday.
However, Econet Public Relations Manager Mr Fungai Mandiveyi, speaking at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on the side-lines of a product launch at the Econet stand said the only way for the company to stay afloat was to increase tariffs.
“Most of our expenses in order to provide seamless service are in forex, and our customers pay in the RTGS dollar whose value is no longer at par with the US dollar. About 80 percent of our expenses are in forex and the only way to keep afloat is to adjust prices a bit. So, in such a scenario, an upward price adjustment is inevitable. We value our customers who have made the Econet brand what it is today. However, we also hope that they will understand the environment that we are operating in,” said Mr Mandiveyi.
“The tariffs are regulated. The previous tariffs which were in place before these new tariffs were in US dollars. After the announcement of the new monetary policy which devalued the local RTGS dollar and EcoCash transfer to US $1: RTGS$3,1 now, it has been a challenge to pay our licence fees and our obligations to foreign suppliers and it is quite a challenge to get hold of forex.”
He said Econet’s revenues have gone down by a third and costs have gone up three times.
“There is need to remain viable as an industry. Econet has been lobbying stakeholders. Our position is that we want a viable tariff and to give the best services. Our infrastructure needs constant upgrading and we use licensed software and we have to pay for it in forex,” he said.
National Consumer Rights Association (NACORA) called for the Government to intervene.
Speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, NACORA campaign coordinator, Mr Effie Ncube said the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) must act on data tariffs to protect consumers.
“While we understand that the economy is tough and prices are going up across board, we cannot have a situation where as consumers we bear the whole burden alone.
“Data prices cannot rise threefold as this will fuel the rise of many products across industry as a lot of industries have adopted use of digital platforms, the internet in particular to conduct their business. Such a rise in prices will result most basic goods going up and this may lead to a runaway inflation,” said Mr Ncube.
“As consumers we are already bearing a huge burden and we hope that government and Potraz will protect us from price cartels that are not only in the telecommunications industry but across all industry. We feel that for now, Potraz is not doing enough to push the interests of the consumer. Internet access is now a basic need for many people as a lot of service is accessed online. Banking services now need online access, tertiary students rely on the internet and numerous other activities. This data increase is just unfair for all of us. According to the new tariffs, a $1 can now buy only 40MB of daily data bundle while $2.50 buys 250MB daily data bundle.
1GB daily data bundle now costs $5 and Zimbabweans will now have to part with $8 to purchase a 2GB daily data bundle.
Previously, the 2GB bundle was going for $3 while 1GB was going for $2.
In the new list of charges released by Telecel, $0.50 will buy only 30 MB daily bundle. $1 buys 60 MB for 24 hours, while $5 buys 320 MB valid for 7 days.
The popular Netone OneFusion bundles were cut, with the $10 fusion now coming with 15 minutes of calls and a mere 180 MB of data.
Efforts to get a comment from Potraz were fruitless yesterday.