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Mobile Spend Notification Virtually Elminates "Bill Shock"

Released: 15 March 2010

The decision by the Wireless Application Service Providers' Association (WASPA) to require its members to reconfirm consent from a subscriber to continue billing for a service when the customer's mobile content bill reaches R200 is yielding encouraging results.

That's according to Michael Hainebach, Chair of the WASPA Code of Conduct Working Group and a member of the association's recently-announced 2010 Management Committee. He says that the mobile spend notification limit has virtually eliminated the number of 'bill shock' complaints where a consumer would generate thousands of rands in charges during a single month without being made aware of the mounting bill.

"WASPA has always required members to obtain explicit consent right from the start of the commercial relationship. Requiring WASPA members to obtain permission in order to continue billing customers was a further step in the right direction," said Mr Hainebach.

'Bill shock' refers to the phenomenon of customers being aware of the cost of each mobile transaction without realizing they were overspending after having lost count of the actual number of transactions engaged in.

The WASPA Code of Conduct was formally adopted by WASPA in June 2005. It has been revised several times since with the most recent incarnation being adopted in October last year.

In terms of Version 8.0 of the Code, the WASP is not allowed to bill the subscriber beyond 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 passes R400 a month. Every time thereafter that the bill increases by an increment of more than R200, additional notification must be sent to the customer notifying them of the total cost incurred for that service so far.

"What's also important is that the onus rests on the WASPA member, and not the customer, to keep a record of the confirmations provided by the customer, or of the notifications sent to the customer," said Mr Hainebach. He added that this was a subtle, yet, important, provision because in the event of a dispute, it implied the innocence of the subscriber until the WASPA member could prove otherwise by producing either confirmations of notifications.

The WASPA code of conduct, which all of South Africa's WASPs must 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 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 www.waspa.org.za/code/complaint.shtml.



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