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Communications regulator wins legal battle over regulatory levies, sort of

Communications regulator wins legal battle over regulatory levies, sort of

In a victory for the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the Authority, validating its power to collect regulatory levies, as determined by the substantially amended Section 23 of the Communications Act.

The dispute arose in December 2020 when MTC lodged a constitutional challenge against Section 23 of the Communications Act, contending that the amendment granting CRAN the authority to impose regulatory levies failed to establish limits on levy amounts, lacked executive oversight, and granted CRAN unchecked discretion.

After deliberation, the High Court declared Section 23 and associated regulations unconstitutional and nullified them on 22 August 2022. However, CRAN swiftly appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, asserting the critical importance of regulatory levies, which constitute a substantial portion of its revenue.

CRAN’s Chief Executive, Emilia Nghikembua in a statement last week, emphasized the detrimental impact of the High Court’s ruling, highlighting the financial strain imposed on CRAN’s operations in the absence of levy collection.

On 13 March, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, overturning the previous ruling and affirming the constitutionality of the amended Section 23. The Court underscored the legislature’s efforts to provide detailed guidelines, thereby curbing CRAN’s discretionary powers and ensuring a balanced approach to levy imposition.

In a media statement following the judgment, the Supreme Court praised the amended legislative framework for establishing clear criteria for levy determination and implementing safeguards against arbitrary decision-making by CRAN. The ruling provides stability to CRAN’s funding structure and paves the way for the implementation of the Universal Service Fund, a crucial initiative stalled by the legal dispute.

Nghikembua hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as a landmark moment, enabling CRAN to refocus on its core mandate of facilitating access to affordable and high-quality communication services for all Namibians. With regulatory levies back in force, CRAN anticipates renewed momentum in fulfilling its regulatory obligations and advancing national telecommunications objectives.

The implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling are profound, signaling a definitive resolution to a contentious legal battle and providing certainty for CRAN’s future operations. As the Authority resumes levy collection, it stands poised to reinvigorate efforts to enhance connectivity and accessibility across Namibia.


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