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WASPA adds further protections for consumers into Code of Conduct

Released: 12 May 2010

The South African Wireless Application Service Providers' Association (WASPA) has made a number of changes and additions to its Code of Conduct that offer even more peace of mind to consumers that use the mobile applications, services and content provided by its members.

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, unsubscribe procedures, and the type of content they may carry.

WASPs are service providers that provide mobile applications and content such as bulk SMS messaging, ringtones, wallpapers, and information services to corporate customers and directly to consumers.

The latest version of the Code includes a number of new provisions that beef up rules designed to ensure that consumers are billed transparently and fairly for services they sign up for; that WASP services are promoted in an honest manner; and that customers can terminate a service easily and conveniently should they wish to do so.

Said WASPA chairman, Leon Perlman: "WASPA believes that ethical behaviour by WASPs is in the interests of consumers and the industry alike. With each new version of our Code of Conduct, we add further protections for consumers to ensure that they can use our members' services secure in the knowledge that their rights are being looked after"

One new clause obliges WASPA members to notify customers as soon the total cost service in a calendar month exceeds R200, and to notify them again every time the total cost of the service climbs by a further multiple of R200. WASPs must also now send a separate confirmation message to the customer's mobile handset if he or she registered for a service on a web page or WAP site. This message may contain a PIN number which is then confirmed or validated on the web page, or a URL with a unique identifier, which, when clicked, validates the handset number.

For subscription services that are initiated via WAP, and which are not confirmed by the customer using the above validation process, WASPs must display a WAP confirmation page to the potential subscriber. The WAP confirmation page must clearly display the name of the service, the price and frequency of billing, and a phone number for customer support.

The new Code also obliges WASPs to send customers a welcome message immediately when they first subscribe to a notification service. This welcome message must include the name of the notification service, the cost of the notification service (price per notification), clear instructions for unsubscribing from the service, and the service provider's telephone number.

This message must be sent to each subscriber again once per calendar month thereafter. The Code of Conduct has real teeth since WASPA can sanction members who break the rules with penalties that range from hefty fines to suspension from the organisation.

It also provides a mechanism through which members of the public can address grievances with service providers that engage in bad practices like spamming or misleading consumers about subscription fees.



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