Safaricom’s M-PESA set the foundation for the local mobile money sector and while the product is obviously dominant (M-PESA makes up about 80 percent of the volume of transactions), competitors have upped their game with similar products. Airtel Money, for instance, allows its users to send money for free. The same strategy was implemented Equity Bank its subsidiary Finserve Africa’s product, Equitel.
It appears that the bank has dropped free Equity to Equity money transfers (that is, sending cash to other Equitel subscribers) for a fee that depends on the amount being transacted. We are not sure when this change was introduced but a Techweez forum member noticed the change in late 2017. At the same time, requesting for a mini-statement will attract a KES 5 fee save for balance confirmation that is still free.
It has been highlighted that these charges go in line with the interest rate cap that was announced a few years ago. While it sounds legitimate, we are still unsure why users were not notified in time. Still, those who perform multiple transactions using the platform may have noted the development as all charges are displayed before confirmation. However, subscribers need to be apprised of key announcements especially in cases money is incurred.
A few years ago, M-PESA made some changes in regard to fees incurred when sending cash. Users were informed beforehand, which resonates well with openness and honesty.
Personally, I hardly use Equitel to send cash because it is calls for higher transaction fees than the competition. Fortunately, the MVNO’s pay bill services are free, and while that is a good thing, I’m skeptical of the product’s future especially in regard to introducing changes that may be unpopular with consumers.
Lastly, it should be noted that we are still waiting for mobile money interoperability developments to be announced by the Communications Authority to address the competition clause that is a headache to small players who think M-PESA is too big to favour their growth.