Kenya’s biggest communication firm Safaricom on Wednesday abolished expiry dates on data packages it offers, in what it said was to celebrate 19 years in service.
The move, however, was curious as it came in the mid of a class legal suit filed against Safaricom and two other telcos, Airtel and Telkom Kenya over consumer exploitation through bundles with use-by dates.
The company said it would also issue sim cards for free at its shops and dealer outlets from November 1. The lines used to cost $0.5 (Ksh50)
However, buyers would be immediately required to top up a new line with airtime of $0.5 (Ksh50).
“We are starting afresh and going forward we aim to be even more simple, transparent and honest in everything that we do,” said Safaricom's interim CEO Michael Joseph.
Mr Joseph was appointed acting CEO in July after the death of Bob Collymore.
The company is set to announce a substantive head in November.
Other changes include new sms and voice call packages that will also not be time-barred.
The company said this would give customers freedom to communicate for as low as one-dollar cent (Ksh1) under clearly defined packages.
The changes came amid mounting complaints from customers on restrictions on data bundles and difficulty in accessing customer care services through the congested call centers.
It has now set five minutes as the maximum time it will take to serve a customer through the call centers or its shops.
The freeing of bundles from expiry came a day after a lawyer and ICT technician sued telcos in the country, demanding that they totally abolish data bundle expirations.
Mr Adrian Kamotho filed a complaint at the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal, arguing he had been aggrieved by the high cost of data and frustrated by the arbitrary expiry.
The restrictions required a user to spend the bundles within a given timeframe or lose the balance.
The other telcos had not signalled their intentions on the suit although Safaricom retained an option for customers to buy bundles with expiry date - usually a day, a month or three months.
The calls to remove data expiration have been rising across Africa.
In early October, Ghana directed its telcos to remove restrictions on data, calling for automatic renewal once one loaded a new package.