DRC tax controversy hots up as operators and regulator debate price hikes

DRC tax controversy hots up as operators and regulator debate price hikes

Last week came news from The Federation of Businesses of the Congo (FEC)’s telecom commission that a hike in telecoms tariffs was on the way. But the telecoms regulator ARPTC has responded by saying it can’t happen.

The background to this, as reported by Agence Ecofin, was the announcement and eventual withdrawal of a very unpopular mobile registration tax, which was then replaced by an alternative mechanism in late March used to fund some of the telecom regulator’s services. These were ostensibly small taxes on voice calls, texts and data, justified as payment for ARPTC’s services.

Operators said last week they had no other choice than to raise the tariffs of the various services on which the government is now levying additional taxes and cancel some special offers, according to a press release announcing the decision.

The FEC has suggested that the taxes unnecessarily increase households’ expenses in an already difficult socio-economic context, something we mentioned in a report in April, along with suggestions that the new tax could be even more profitable to ARPTC than its unpopular predecessor 

But now, as reported by TeleGeography's CommsUpdate, ARPTC has published a statement insisting that operators are required to seek permission from the regulator to review tariffs, something ARPTC has not yet granted.

ARPTC has also threatened sanctions on any provider that illegally raises tariffs or spread misinformation on the matter. The question now is how the most heavily taxed telecoms sector in sub-Saharan Africa will respond.

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