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Waspa wakes up...

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Precious Mncwango's picture

Photo: Wayan Vota

Three months back the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (Waspa) was put under the spotlight for failing to protect consumers from SMS spam and illegal billing.  Pieter Streicher said to ITWeb that there is a perception among consumer that there are insufficient controls to protect them against fraud. Consumers lodged complaints in social sites about receiving no assistance from Waspa in employing sanctions so service providers stop spamming their customers.

Waspa is a self-regulatory body which was set up to represent and self-regulate mobile-based value-added services providers. Belonging to the body is a compulsory requirement from the mobile operators. The provider is not enabled to use the SMS service should they refuse to be part of the body.

In May consumers complained about fake subscriptions and not being able to reclaim their money back. Consumers that had complaints regarding subscriptions that they had never signed up for were left stranded as there was virtually no way to prove this claim. ITWeb reported that certain Wasps (wireless application service providers) allegedly faked opt-in logs – proof that a subscriber did click on a link agreeing to be billed a daily fee for a service.

Generally, it is very difficult and tricky to prove that a customer did subscribe to a service.  Waspa noted that it is even more difficult to deal with situations where the subscriber denies having signed up for subscription but service information is contradictory.

Currently only Vodacom offers its customers a double opt-in system which ensures that customers don’t accidently sign up for subscriptions or get signed up fraudulently. This has reduced their Wasp billing queries by 90%.

Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS says that majority of the complainants are instances where customers didn’t realise that they had signed up for a subscription.

MTN is currently undergoing plans to protect its consumers from fraudulent Wasps. Cell C could also possibly be evaluating options for a double opt-in system similar to Vodacom.

Last month Waspa responded to the complaints and dissatisfaction of consumers and its members. A member of the Waspa management committee, Ryan Birkin, told ITWeb  that Waspa is now beefing up its processes.

He says the body is currently looking for two additional staff that will tend to the daily running of the body while members of the management committee (whom have day jobs) will focus more on important matters.

ITWeb reports that to their knowledge only two Wasps have been expelled; Vending for Africa in 2006 and T-Mobile in 2011.