WASPA intros new ad rules for members to protect consumers.

Published on: November 3, 2008

The Wireless Application Providers’ Association (WASPA) has tightened up the advertising rules in its Code of Conduct to ensure that it is better able to enforce ethical behaviour by its members and protect the interests of consumers.

The new set of advertising rules comes into effect on 15 November 2008.

The WASPA Code of Conduct, which all of South Africa’s major WASPs must subscribe to, outlines in detail how the organisation’s members should conduct themselves in their interactions with the public. WASPs are service providers that provide mobile applications and content such as subscription services, competitions, ringtones and news alerts as well as bulk SMS messaging to corporate customers and directly to consumers.

Says WASPA chairman, Leon Perlman: “WASPA believes that ethical behaviour by WASPs is in the interests of consumers and the industry alike. Our rules seek to protect consumers from misleading and objectionable advertising content from WASPs so that they can have confidence in marketing messages from our members.”

One of the most important changes that WASPA has made to its advertising rules is to introduce a new standard format for all WASP ads on television, with an emphasis on ensuring that all mandatory information is present and is easy to read on televisions of all sizes. This format is designed to ensure that viewers can easily see any relevant information about a service before they subscribe to it – including details about total pricing and type of service.

Another important change to the rules is stricter requirements for the monthly reminder SMS that WASPs must send to all of their subscribers under terms of the WASPA Code of Conduct. The reminder must follow a format and style specified by WASPA that gives customers more clear and explicit information about the services they subscribe to, the inclusive costs of the services, who the service provider is and how to unsubscribe from the service. The reminder must be unambiguous so that users will not confuse it with an ad. Rules governing live TV game-show and SMS and WAP addressing have also been made stricter.

The WASPA Code of Conduct includes detailed rules and guidelines around how the organisation’s members may advertise their services, ensuring that WASPs are transparent about their pricing and terms & conditions so that end-users are able to make informed decisions. WASPs are expected to include in their adverts a Web site or telephone contact number, conditions and closing dates for competitions, and information about additional bearer technologies needed to access content (eg WAP, GPRS, 3G).

For subscription services, providers have to ensure that all promotional material, whether in print media, on the Internet, television or transmitted via text message, clearly explains how the subscription service works. Consumers should have ready access to an explanation of their “purchase” and what, if anything, they need to do to access the content.

In addition, WASPA’s Code of Conduct aims to ensure that ads from WASPs do not contain objectionable material, especially if these ads may be seen by children. The advertising rules commits WASPA members to ensuring that their advertising material does not contain any explicit sexual conduct as defined in the Films and Publications Act, unless displayed in adult media. Any age restrictions on the content the WASP has provided must be clearly marked and the service provider must have an Adult Verification System in place for access to that content or service. The WASPA advertising rules can be viewed at: http://www.waspa.org.za/code/advert-rules.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 and following the process outlined there.