Malawians accuse TNM of deception: Company has not reduced its data bundles

Airtel Malawi

#DataMustFall protesters have accused local mobile operator, TNM, of deception after reducing Pay As You Go (PAYG) internet cost without touching prepaid data charges.

The telecommunications company announced last night that it has reduced its PAYG internet cost by 70%, driving the country into a frenzy of celebration which turned into rage against the company.

Unlike in other countries where PAYG come with pre-set data allowances, PAYG internet in Malawi occurs when a customer buys airtime and uses it for internet without buying an internet bundle.

For a majority of Malawians this occurs in two fold. Firstly, when they buy airtime when the data option is on. Immediately after, the airtime ‘disappears’ at light speed as it is used before a person can buy a bundle for data.

It is now a norm for most customers in Malawi to first switch off data/internet option when buying airtime to avoid losing airtime – especially when their data bundle had been depleted.

The second PAYG internet occurs when a person uses all ‘their’ data bundle that airtime is instead used when they browse the internet. This often occurs without the knowledge of the person.

PAYG rates for internet are astronomical. Prior to the change, TNM was charging K25/MB or K25,600 per GB. The 70% reduction implies that TNM is now charging K6.25/MB or K6,400 per GB.

On PAYG rates, Airtel was offering relatively cheaper albeit exorbitantly expensive at K15 per MB or K15,360 per GB.

With the same amount in the UK, Vodafone offers 30GB of data, 250 minutes and unlimited text. No special internet data required. With K27,000 under 02, you would get 100GB and unlimited text and minutes on PAYG.

Malawians took to social media branding the reduction as a “scam” as Malawi still tops the list of countries with brutally expensive rates for internet on PAYG or pre-paid data, justifying the protests.

One of the #DataMustFall activists wrote: “What TNM has done is like MERA reducing the price of jet fuel with 70% when we don’t have planes and expecting Malawians to rejoice when they demanded #FuelMustFall”

In an interview with Malawi24, Social Justice Network acting director, Thandeka Lizi, said it is unfortunate TNM opted to use the Rumpel approach to trick its customers.

She called on companies to #ReduceDataCost as a matter of urgency because “access to internet is a key means by which people can enjoy and exercise their human rights” rather than “an exploitable luxury that companies like TNM and Airtel charge with obscene rates”.

Likewise, one of the #DataMustFall activists with a handle C dot (@clingao) described as unfortunate that the TNM decided to mock Malawians with PR stunts.

“This is not only a battle on pricing, this is a war of equity and fairness. We will not relent!” ‘they’ tweeted.

Another person tweeted that the data rates by TNM and Airtel “are chocking Malawians”

University of Malawi communications lecturer, Jimmy Kainja, noted that even with the reduction, TNM’s PAYG remains the most expensive in Malawi.

They tweeted: “After the decrease it appears TNM PAYG rate is still more expensive than Airtel. TNM will now cost about K17.50 per MB while Airtel is at K15 per MB. If anything it shows that TNM is cracking. MACRA has called a meeting of all services providers on 28th July.

“TNM’s reduction is to reducing jet fuel when Malawians are demanding for petrol to fall”