The problem of rogue wireless application service providers (WASPs) billing subscribers without their permission remains a big problem in South Africa.
Consumers typically experience the unauthorised WASP billing as “disappearing airtime”, and it is then up to them to take action.
If a consumer is not aware that a WASP is billing them, their money is gone and they are the only loser.
Many consumers blame their service provider – like Vodacom or MTN – for allowing a third party to take money from their account with their permission.
This raises the question: Why do service providers continue to allow WASPs to bill clients without their consent?
It is easy for a provider like Vodacom, whose subscribers have suffered at the hands of rogue WASPs, to block all WASPs by default.
It is then up to a subscriber to allow WASP billing, which will alleviate the problem of unauthorised deductions.
Although there have been numerous calls for Vodacom to block all WASPs by default, the company is not entertaining this.
MyBroadband asked Vodacom for its reasoning behind the decision, and it provided the statement below.
Similar services around the world, such as Apple iStore and Google Play, are active by default and provide customers with the convenience of paying for content services and subscriptions without having to continuously re-enter credit card/payment details.
Through the Vodacom payment platform, for example, customers can subscribe to the likes of Showmax, Deezer, and Office 365 in addition to hundreds of games, sport, and small business services.
For customers that prefer not to have or use credit cards, this means they can access and subscribe to services that they might otherwise not have access to.
Vodacom reiterates that it has a zero-tolerance approach to any type of illegal activity that happens on our network and we take a hard line in the event that a third-party contravenes any agreement they may have with Vodacom or the likes of WASPA’s code of conduct.
We have and continue to suspend and terminate the services of WASPs and their affiliate content aggregators and will continue to investigate reported transgressions and then ensure that we take appropriate action.
We also seek to ensure that affected customers are fully refunded on first contact with Customer Care. In fact, we pass the large majority of credits to customers, if not for all queries, as standard practice is to refund the customer first and then investigate the query/allegation later.
We continuously enhance our systems and processes to eliminate fraudulent activity on our network.
We make regular improvements to our double-opt-in processes to make it clear to customers what it is they are subscribing to, the subscription term and the amount they will pay. We also actively upgrade anti-fraud detection software to curb potential fraud.
As a more recent initiative, Vodacom is putting measures in place to curtail all new WASP activations. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
This is until Vodacom is given auditable validation of a WASPs security processes and tools, as well as the implementation of a more robust USSD (or similar pop-up mechanism) whereby Vodacom directly receives confirmation of a subscription to a service from customers.
Currently WASPs are required to prove that they have received a double-opt-in from subscribers.
In terms of customers currently paying for services which they don’t use, we are putting mechanisms in place to ensure that they requested the service in the first place and if they would like it to continue. If not, we will effect refunds and recover these from the relevant WASP.