Vodacom, MTN subscribers illegally charged by spam SMS advert

Just under 2,000 Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C customers have been refunded after paying to opt out of a “funny video” service, following a spam SMS campaign which charged them to reply “Stop”.

According to The Power Report in the Sunday Times, a Pretoria business called Xihari Consulting used MTN IWS – an MTN-owned WASP – to send 44,230 cellphone users a message which read: “You have been recommended to receive funny videos for R50/day. Otherwise Send STOP to 47672 now, T&Cs apply.”

The 1,786 consumers who replied Stop were charged R3 – a contravention of the Consumer Protection Act.

The message also bypassed the Act’s ban on negative marketing; and violated industry rules which require the name of the service, contact details, and a link to a site detailing the offering and terms.

Audrey Price-Dix was one of the affected consumers – she lodged a complaint with Waspa and was instrumental in the charges being reversed.

Xihari and MTN

Xihari has pleaded ignorance to the allegations of flouting the Act, while MTN IWS – a member of Waspa – said Xihari had broken the rules and customers would be refunded.

The Power Report stated, though, that MTN IWS, which is aware of the rules governing WASPs, is “possibly as guilty as Xihari, if not more so”.

“As the WASP that facilitated the campaign, it has a duty under the code to ensure that the campaign is CPA and Waspa-compliant,” stated the report.

Xihari owner Sylvia Shibambo said the messages were sent on behalf of a client, which was running similar campaigns in other African countries.

The cellphone numbers which the messages were sent to were obtained from “value added service providers”, she said.

No one contacted was a subscriber of the “funny video” service”, as no service was running yet. The spam SMS messages were part of a “pilot project”, she said, in preparation for a “much better campaign”.

The full report is available in the Sunday Times – 20 September 2015 edition.

More on spam SMS

WASPs are still breaking the law by charging you to stop SMS spam

Spam SMS – why South Africans pay to reply “Stop”

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Vodacom, MTN subscribers illegally charged by spam SMS advert