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WASPA curbs abuses among quiz subscription providers

Released: 29 May 2009

The Wireless Application Service Providers' Association of South Africa (WASPA) has fine-tuned its Code of Conduct to address consumer concerns and complaints about abusive practices among certain providers of SMS quiz subscription services.

"WASPA has received a number of complaints from the public about certain practices among providers of quiz subscription services and realised that it had to take immediate action to protect the interests of the public and its members," said Leon Perlman, chairman of WASPA.

"We believe that the changes we have made to our Code of Conduct will ensure that consumers can enjoy quiz services in the knowledge they have clear information about how much these services will cost them and how to opt-out of services they no longer wish to subscribe to."

According to the amended Code of Conduct, providers of mobile quiz subscription services must now indicate that their quizzes are subscription services on all advertising, even online ads such as those delivered on Facebook and Google.

When subscribers receive SMS messages with PIN codes to retrieve the results of quizzes they have completed, they should be able to easily understand that inputting their PIN codes to get the results will result in them subscribing for the quiz service.

These activation SMS messages must follow a compulsory format specified by WASPA and must clearly outline the terms, costs, and stop/opt-out details of the service as well as the contact details of the service provider.

In addition the WASP is not allowed to bill the subscriber beyond R300 per month (soon to be R200 per month) before obtaining explicit consent from the subscriber to continue billing for that service. The service provider must get permission once again to bill the subscriber once the bill is passes R400 a month, and every time thereafter that the bill increases by an increment of more than R200.

WASPs that run quiz subscription services must also send all subscribers a reminder SMS in WASPA's compulsory format every 30 days reminding them that they are subscribed the service and outlining the costs of the service, contact info of the subscription service provider and any opt-out/stop details).

The speed with which WASPA has been able to react to consumer concerns about quiz subscription services vindicates the self-regulation model that the industry has adopted, Perlman added. "We are determined to protect the public against bad practices by WASPs to uphold the good name of our industry."

The WASPA Code of Conduct, which most of South Africa's major WASPs subscribe to, outlines in detail how the organisation's members should conduct themselves in their interactions with the public, including how they advertise their services, their billing procedures, and the type of content they may carry.

The WASPA Code of Conduct can be viewed at: http://www.waspa.org.za/code/codeconduct.shtml

Should you believe a WASPA member has broken these rules, you can lodge a complaint by going to http://www.waspa.org.za/code/complaint.shtml and following the process outlined there.

ENDS


About WASPA

WASPA represents the mobile development; value added services and content services community in South Africa. After lobbying the mobile operators and WASPs in late 2003 for an industry body, WASPA's formative meeting was held in August 2004. Membership of WASPA was made mandatory by the mobile operators and TV stations for any company doing value added services in South Africa.

WASPA's remit is to promote and self-regulate the WASP industry. As part of the self-regulatory component of WASPA, there is the now internationally recognized and emulated self-regulatory regime for mobile value added services that includes the WASPA Code of Conduct & Advertising Rules. WASPA's Code of Conduct regulates inter alia, competitions, chat, adult services, spam, CRM, advertising of services,subscription services and pricing. The first version of the Code was passed in June 2004 and implemented on 1 September 2005. It has been updated numerous times as the need has arisen.

Enforcement of the Code & Advertising Rules is achieved by a novel quasi-judicial system that consists of a procedure for lodging and responding to complaints where it is thought the Code is being contravened. Adherence to the Code and the Advertising rules is mandatory for all providers operating in South Africa.

ICT lawyers acting as WASPA adjudicators will find on the merits and have the power to suspend, fine, expel any WASP or Information Provider found to contravene the Code rules. Adjudications are enforced through contractual provisions in all WASP agreements. There is also a 3-person appeals panel as well as an emergency panel.

Issued by:

Ivan Booth
Reliable Sources PR
082 851 7419
ivan (at) reliablesources.co.za