Vodacom, WASPA, and the disappearing airtime

A Vodacom contract customer recently contacted MyBroadband to share how they had been signed up to WASP services without their consent.

In December 2019, the reader realised that their airtime was depleting faster than it should have been.

Upon investigating the issue, the reader found they were subscribed to a R10-per-day WASP – which had been charged to their account from 17 October 2019.

This was not something that the user had agreed to, and they immediately unsubscribed from the WASP.

The reader then received SMS confirmation that the subscription had been cancelled and that they would no longer be billed.

More subscriptions

This was not the end of the reader’s issues, however, and on 2 January they received a carrier information pop-up screen which asked if they wanted to subscribe to a gaming platform.

The reader declined and received an SMS acknowledging his decision.

On 5 January when the customer used the Vodacom app to ensure they were not being charged, though, they found that R10 had once again been deducted each day from 2-5 January for a gaming service.

This time, the user selected to block all third-party services to ensure they were not subscribed to another WASP without their knowledge.

The user logged a complaint through the Vodacom app on 12 January, but after not being contacted about the issue, they phoned the mobile provider on 16 January.

Vodacom then agreed to refund the airtime that the WASPs had deducted from the user’s account.

Bombarded with pop-ups

This user’s story was not over yet, however, and on 17 January they received five different “carrier information” pop-up notices on their smartphone which said the following:

Content Services are currently blocked for [Number redacted]. Do you want to override this block and continue? 1. Yes 2. No.

The user rejected these notifications, but complained of the persistent attempts to subscribe them to WASPs.

These aren’t our services – Vodacom

A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that the WASP services in question are not Vodacom services.

When MyBroadband asked Vodacom for more information on the third-party WASPs to investigate further, Vodacom declined to provide additional details about the services – citing “confidentiality clauses” in their agreement.

“They are two separate services, offered by third parties to Vodacom customers, for which Vodacom facilitates the billing,” said Vodacom.

“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 (Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association) code of conduct.”

Vodacom also confirmed that even though these are not Vodacom services, it still processed a refund to the customer’s account.

Vodacom said it will look into the matter further, and will communicate the findings upon the conclusion of the investigation.

Not governed by WASPA

The reader told MyBroadband they had also reached out to WASPA hoping it would investigate the issue, but WASPA said it was unable to do anything as the services fall outside its jurisdiction.

WASPA general manager Ilonka Badenhorst explained to MyBroadband that WASPA’s Code of Conduct applies to all mobile application services offered by WASPA members to South African customers.

However, there are three scenarios that are specifically excluded from the scope of its code of conduct:

  • Vodacom VLive
  • Vodacom Charge to Bill (CTB)
  • MTN Play

This is because these services are all Charge to Bill or Network Platform services – which are not within WASPA’s jurisdiction.

Badenhorst said WASPA contacts at Vodacom have confirmed the two services which took airtime from the reader are both Vodacom CTB services – and are therefore excluded from its jurisdiction.

“Consumers are still encouraged to contact WASPA to assist with any queries and complaints related to WASP services offered by our members and that are not exempted from our jurisdiction by the mobile network operators,” said Badenhorst.

Check if you’re subscribed

Badenhorst said that consumers should use the following methods to check for unwanted subscription services:

Vodacom

  • SMS “STOP ALL” to 31050
  • Dial *111# > Services > Content Services > Stop All
  • Stop Vlive and CTB Services – Dial *117#

Cell C

  • Stop all content services – Dial *133*1#

MTN

  • Dial *141*5#
  • Select 1 for WASP services
  • Select 2 CTB/MTN Play services

Telkom Mobile

  • Telkom app – Login > My product > Subscriptions > Content Services

Now read: MTN cracks down on WASP fraud

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Vodacom, WASPA, and the disappearing airtime