What you can do about SMS spam

While email spam is very annoying, it has unfortunately become something that most of us live with. SMS spam on the other hand, while less pervasive than email spam, is often a very different matter, thanks to how attached we have become to our mobile phones, many of us having them close by 24 hours a day. It also poses a major threat to business communications via SMS and mobile voice calls.

If you thought SMS spam in South Africa has increased recently, you’d be right as recently reported by local research company Dashboard. This is for two primary reasons: local spammers are using international messaging routes to avoid WASPA (Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association) regulations; and WASPA is so overwhelmed by billing complaints that true spam is not receiving the attention it should.

In the first instance, the responsibility lies firmly on the shoulders of the local operators. Currently some local operators are unable to even trace spam messages from international sources after specific instances have been reported, let alone proactively block or filter these messages. International A2P spam can be identified, as local mobile numbers are often spoofed to disguise the international origin.

In the second instance, consumers need to correctly identify spam and be more proactive about reporting it to WASPA and escalating the matter. There are 300 million application-to-person (A2P) SMS messages sent every month in South Africa, yet there have been only 41 upheld spam related complaints in the last three years.

This sounds a bit low, right? But currently very few instances of true SMS spam are escalated to formal complaints with WASPA. Spam, or unsolicited messaging, is too often confused with unsolicited billing related to subscription services. This is currently the biggest problem in the mobile industry and responsible for more than 99% of the 120,000 – 150,000 monthly unsubscribe requests lodged with WASPA. The welcome and reminder messages associated with paid subscription services are often also perceived as spam, in those instances where consumers cannot recall that they subscribed in the first place. These volumes unfortunately overshadow the problem of spam, which needs to receive immediate attention.

The second thing to notice about the spam complaints that are upheld is that the vast majority originate from people working within the WASP and ICT industry. Those working in the industry are also more likely to escalate requests to formal complaints, as they know the rules and will not accept poor explanations for breaches. Very few consumers want the hassle of requesting a “formal” review, even though the process is pretty straightforward.

To combat SMS spam, it is necessary for the broader public to report it to WASPA and insist on a formal review where appropriate.

Examining the recent results of the WASPA complaints process can help shed more light on the matter.

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What you can do about SMS spam