10 tips for getting the most value from mobile content services.

Published on: December 8, 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.