Is your airtime quietly being stolen?

In 2008 MyBroadband reported on the unauthorized billing of SIM cards by Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs) selling ring tones, pictures or other offerings.

At the time an industry player said that the unauthorised billing of accounts, especially with re-issued SIM cards, occurs often.

To the delight of consumers Vodacom and WASPA said in 2008 that they were working on various mechanisms that would proactively sample WASP services to monitor quality and billing integrity.

Following these remedial actions from WASPA one would expect the illegal activities of WASPs to have been nipped in the bud by now, but nothing seems to have changed three years later.

Unauthorized SIM billing rife: Industry player

MyBroadband has been furnished with proof that both newly issued SIM cards (which have been re-farmed) and existing SIM cards are being billed without authorization – in one case to the tune of R1,500 within days.

One industry insider, who asked not to be named because it can harm his affiliation with some of the WASPs, said that the unauthorized billing of SIMs is rife in South Africa. He added that not much is done about it either.

“WASPA is useless and toothless,” he said. “Nobody is scared of WASPA which is staffed by the very people that have an interest in maintaining the status quo.”

He added that the complaint evaluation process is ‘laughable’.  “I’m sure less than 1% of the complaints they receive result in any form of censure,” he said.

“In practice when people buy a new SIM and find their airtime disappearing, they most likely toss the SIM and use a new one. It is just too painful to try getting a refund,” he said. “This is probably a bigger contributor to churn than most realize.”

Role-players asked for their opinion

MTN SA said that it provides a list of all their recycled numbers to WASPs for blacklisting and to ensure that no services are subscribed to these services.

“MTN views in a serious light instances where the WASPs breach WASPA rules and has, in certain instances, suspended these WASPs from its network,” MTN SA said.

What is of concern is that Vodacom and WASPA, which previously said that they were working on reducing these problems, are mum on the issue.

Neither Vodacom nor WASPA provided any feedback to questions which related to unauthorized billing of SIMs.

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Is your airtime quietly being stolen?