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WASPA Reports on its Mandate

Released: 5 July 2010

With many cellular subscribers turning to the Wireless Application Service Providers' Association of SA (WASPA) for help with wide-ranging problems relating to mobile phones and services, and in light of the the forthcoming implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, the South African mobile content and applications industry body has moved to clarify its role by emphasising that its mandate does not extend to policing every aspect of the greater cellular industry.

Chairman of WASPA, Leon Perlman, explained that while WASPA makes every effort to assist cellular consumers, the self-regulating body has focused aims and currently a very specific jurisdiction that does not extend to the greater cellular industry. In general, this is the remit of the national telecommunications regulator, ICASA.

"As an industry body, WASPA's represents the interests of South Africa's providers of mobile Value Added Services (VAS) which mainly comprises content, applications and bulk SMS. As such its goal is to promote a vibrant and sustainable VAS industry. This often means protecting consumers from rogue services that negatively impact consumer confidence and the industry. In pursuit of the latter, WASPA regularly takes action against transgressors of its Code of Conduct to protect the South African mobile VAS consumer and to instill confidence in the industry," explained Mr Perlman.

While WASPA has gained consumer trust and confidence in how it has handled complaints, it is important to note that WASPA's jurisdiction only extends to its own members and their activities. It currently does not regulate other industries, the mobile networks or their voice and data service providers.

WASPA cannot enforce any national laws but rather refers any prima facie legal contravention to the relevant authorities. That said WASPA is relentless in its pursuit of a safe and trustworthy content, applications and bulk SMS industry.

Mr Perlman added that WASPA will soon apply to the Department of Trade & Industry for its Code of Conduct to be recognised under the Consumer Protection Act coming into effect in October this year.

The primary objective of the WASPA Code of Conduct is to ensure that members of the public can use mobile services with confidence. The Code of Conduct sets standards for advertising mobile application services and includes a framework for the provision of services by WASPs. A full list of recent sanctions issued in terms of the Code of Conduct against errant members is available at http://www.waspa.org.za. Sanctions may include warnings, fines, suspension or the revoking of membership.

Regarding SMSs sent to subscribers, it is important to understand that not every SMS transmitted in bulk to cellular subscribers in South Africa emanates from a WASPA member. WASPA does not have any control over mobile content transmitted directly by the cellular networks, neither is it able to regulate SMSs originating from foreign countries.

SMS messages can also come from legal and illegal sources. "If a mobile subscriber receives the SMS version of a 419 scam the South African Police Force (SAPF) should be immediately contacted. WASPA should also be contacted as a WASPA member may have unwittingly transmitted the SMS on behalf of a client. In this case, WASPA would alert the relevant WASP who would in turn seek to shut down the account of the client," concluded Mr Perlman. The above notwithstanding, in most cases 419 and similar scams will make use of international gateways, in which case there is unfortunately nothing WASPA can do to assist.

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.

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