WASPA adds further protections for consumers into code of conduct.

Published on: May 12, 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.