“Disappearing airtime” is a common complaint among smartphone users in South Africa, although the reasons for this unexplained drop in funds has a number of potential causes.
Many South African smartphone users might not notice that they had depleted their mobile data bundle and subsequently continued using mobile data while incurring out-of-bundle usage charges against their airtime balance.
This complaint was so widespread that it ICASA recently enforced new regulations which restrict out-of-bundle data usage and require mobile operators to seek customer consent before automatically depleting their airtime balance.
While it is recommended that users ensure that they are opted-out of out-of-bundle billing, this concern should not be anywhere near as common as it was before the regulations were implemented.
The other major cause of unexplained airtime disappearances is the proliferation of fraudulent WASP subscriptions.
Rogue wireless application service providers (WASPs) secretly subscribe thousands of cellular users to their content subscription services every month.
Mobile operators supply these WASPs with the ability to bill subscribers’ accounts for services, and this access is often exploited to bill subscribers without their consent.
South African SIM cards are open to WASP billing by default, and the responsibility is on the subscriber to regularly check their cellphone account and determine that they are not being defrauded.
This can be an infuriating problem to deal with, especially when trying to reclaim the stolen money from the WASP through WASPA or your mobile operator.
Luckily, mobile networks offer a few ways to check if you are subscribed to any WASP services, and some even allow you to block them altogether.
Below is a guide on how to check if you are subscribed to a WASP on South Africa’s mobile networks.
Vodacom customers can check their WASP subscriptions and cancel any content service subscriptions through the USSD menu.
To do this customers must follow the steps below:
- Dial *111#
- Select option 8 (Services)
- Select option 11 (Next)
- Select option 2 (Content Services)
- Select option 1 (View and Stop Content Services)
Users on Vodacom can also stop all WASPs by SMSing “Stop All” to 31050.
While its previous WASP cancellation system was convoluted and comprised four separate USSD menus for customer to check, MTN now has a single USSD platform for users to manage their content services.
MTN customers can check for and cancel WASP subscriptions through the USSD commands below:
- Dial *155#
- Select option 1 (View and Unsubscribe)
- Select option 1 (Cancel All)
Through this USSD platform, MTN customers can also choose to block all future content service charges.
Cell C customers can dial *133*1# to view and cancel any active subscriptions.
Telkom users can view and manage their WASP subscriptions within the Telkom Mobile app by navigating to My Product > Subscriptions > Content Services.
They can also navigate to My Products > Manage > Protect Your Mobile Number, and set it to “On” to prevent any future WASP billing.