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10 tips for getting the most value from mobile content services

Released: 8 December 2009

By Leon Perlman, chairman of the Wireless Application Service Providers' Association of South Africa

The mobile content and applications market is one of the fastest growing industries in South Africa, with millions of consumers downloading information, images, ringtones, music, games, video clips, applications and wallpapers to their cellphones every month. But to make the most of these services, it's important to educate yourself about each service's terms and conditions and technical requirements as well as your rights as a consumer.

Here's some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Always keep your welcome message handy after you've joined a new service. This is the sms that all content providers must send you when joining a service. It should contain a contact number for the service provider and provide you with information about the costs of the service and the procedure for cancelling the service.
  2. Be aware of what you have signed up for - make sure you know how much content you're entitled to in your subscription, how often you can access it and how you access it.
  3. Check whether you should fetch the content manually from your cellphone or you will be sent links to access it.
  4. Always read the terms and conditions when you sign up for a new service - scroll right to the bottom of the Wap page to see the terms and conditions and extra info about the subscription service. Check any advertisement for a mobile service very carefully before you send the SMS to make sure you know what you're signing up for.
  5. Unfortunately content is complex. There are so many different formats and each phone handles it in different ways. It is therefore never guaranteed that the content you purchased will work on your particular phone. Therefore you should ensure that your cellphone meets the technical requirements of a value-added service before signing up - for example, make sure that it is Wap-compatible or able to playback video-clips. If not, you could end up paying for a service or content you can't use.
  6. If you're a Vodacom prepaid customer, set up the online billing facility, so that you can keep track of who is billing you, how much they are billing you for, and when they are billing you.
  7. Before signing up for a service, make sure you know how to stop it if you decide you no longer want to use it. Sending STOP in reply to a message received should in most cases either stop the service or alternatively result in an error message which would contain details regarding how to properly unsubscribe from the service.
  8. Be aware that while you are browsing the internet from your phone, by simply clicking on a "buy now" or similar mobile link on a website you could be billed on your phone account since the website owner could already have your cellphone number. Many content providers make use of number detection services, also termed MSISDN forwarding, to determine the mobile numbers of visitors to their website.
  9. Learn about your rights as a consumer by viewing the Waspa code of conduct - at http://www.waspa.org.za/code/codeconduct.shtml. If you have any reason to believe the content provider is acting in an unethical manner, take action by complaining at http://www.waspa.org.za/code/complaint.shtml.
  10. Protect your children from unsuitable content and prevent them from signing up for expensive content services without permission. Parents on Vodacom can bar their children from accessing adult content by dialling *111*123# from the phone they want to block. As an MTN subscriber, meanwhile, simply dial *101# from the handset you would like to restrict content on and follow the menu prompts.



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