A smartphone user. Picture: Pexels

The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has welcomed the outcomes of the market inquiry into the state of competition in the data market.

The inquiry was established by Minister Ebrahim Patel in September  2017.

Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha also endorsed the recommendations that operators should reduce their data prices within two months or face prosecution.

“This is not the first time that operators are given an order to reduce data prices and threatened with legal action if they fail to comply. In 2017, our parliament pleaded with network operators to lower data costs and threatened to act harshly if they failed to do so. 

“Throughout time operators have made it unequivocally clear that they don’t intend to slash prices and they enjoy sucking consumers dry.

“As Nehawu, we say the time for empty rhetoric must come to an end and our government must act on behalf of its people to lower the prices to enable citizens to communicate among themselves,” Saphetha said. He said operators cannot continue to overcharge consumers as they please without facing punitive measures.

“The report by the Competition Commission reveals that South African data costs are among the highest in the world and this does not bode well for the working class and the poor.

“The exorbitant fees needed to communicate disadvantages almost the entire population more especially workers and the youth.

“Learners in high school and university students struggle to access the internet for school work because of the current prices of data.

“In an age where everything is almost digital, job seekers are hugely affected when they have to apply for positions,” Saphetha said.

He said that does not augur well for the growth of the economy and directly adds into the number of people who are unemployed saying if the country was serious about growing the economy then issues of data costs and the cost to communicate must be looked into, as a matter of urgency.

“As Nehanu, we will watch this matter closely and ensure that the Competition Commission implements the outcomes of the report which includes the demand that all mobile operators must provide prepaid customers a lifeline package which provides them free data on a daily basis,” Saphetha said.

Political Bureau