The very public suspension by Waspa and its finding that wireless application services provider Interband had been being dishonest in dealings with Waspa and the public, suggests that it has taken note of the rapidly escalating public outrage regarding the practise of cramming, the unsavory act of tacking an unrequested service fee to a phone bill. It comes at a time when authorities in the Unites States have taken cellular network, T-Mobile, to task. The spotlight now needs to shine on South African cellular service providers, and the steps that they must take in order to protect their subscribers.
Following a decision of its Emergency Decision Panel, Waspa (The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association) summarily suspended Interbrand’s operations.
Read Waspa’s full Emergency Panel Decision here.
Mira the middleman
The suspension means that Interband can no longer do business in South Africa.
Interband was using Mira Networks as its aggregator. Mira GM, Deon Odendaal, told Moneyweb: “Aggregators, such as Mira, are the technical facilitators for the services that cellphone users subscribe to. Aggregators are therefore, essentially go-betweens in the transaction process and are not responsible for the contract in any way.”
Mira has also terminated its business relationship with Interband.
Is Interband a front for a local company?
Moneyweb’s own investigations into Interband suggest that it may be a front for a local company.
Waspa told Moneyweb that they would not give out any ownership information regarding Interband, a Waspa member, citing the Protection of Personal Information Act.
The only contact information available on this Delaware corporation’s website is Mira’s 086 contact number. Its registered address is 1220 North Market Street, Suite 804, City of Wilmington, Delaware. This address is known as an accommodation address – meaning that it and a multitude of other business using that address, do not operate from there. Apart from being a tax-haven state, Delaware company laws enable one to hide the true proprietorship of a company.
The question that needs to be answered is why Interband has only a South African telephone number?
Is the consumer protected?
Just how well South African consumers are protected is uncertain. Waspa has no statutory authority to order its member to compensate a consumer. It also has no consumer members on its complaints review panel.
Odendaal previously told Moneyweb that Waspa protects the consumer because it, “wields the big stick.”
Interband told Moneyweb in an unsigned email that they had responded to Waspa last week, “with all of our comments, suggestions and confirmation how we promote our service and what we provide within our services. Please acknowledge that our company is in communication with Waspa and Mira on a daily basis working on the marketing materials, subscriptions, traffic monitoring and customer services.”
Moneyweb asked Interband who the owner(s) of the business was, and why the business only listed the Mira telephone number on the site.
Interbrand responded in an unsigned email that Waspa requested to put that number on the site as they claim that we need to have SA number contact to comply with regulations and as “Mira Networks is our aggregator and providing customer service we put their number instead of ours, which is: +27110838112”.
Moneyweb called this number and spoke to a call centre operative with a foreign accent. He was unable to provide us with any information about Interband.
The secrecy surrounding the ownership of Interband points to a pernicious enterprise that seeks to strip South African cellphone users of their hard earned money, with little or no legal recourse.
Telltale signs of fraud
The four main network operators need to take further steps to protect their clients from the predations of these Wasps. The United States Federal Trade Commission recently took cellphone service provider, T-Mobile, to task, saying that it had ignored, “telltale signs of fraud.”
Interband had not responded by the time of publication to our draft story put to them for their comment.