A Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP) is a company that provides a number of services to the public. In SA, all of the big service providers such as MTN and Vodacom have partnered with many WASPs that specialise in various services or deliver some kind of mobile content.
The problem here is that these big service providers don’t really seem to have a handle on things, and all too often we’ll find that a third-party WASP has conned people into subscribing to really expensive services. If you don’t catch it in time, you could be billed up to R7 a day for a service you don’t use, didn’t agree to join and probably don’t even know about.
The procedure to end these subscriptions is different for each network, and sometimes it becomes a little bit tricky. Let’s take a look at how to stop them, how to spot them and why the network providers are facing an uphill battle.
A couple of years ago, network providers began to roll out double opt-in systems for WASPs in an effort to reduce complaints of fraud. Prior to this, subscribers had no way of preventing WASPs from debiting from their cellular accounts or unsubscribing from unsolicited services.
Many of these services are – plainly put – complete scams that swindle users into subscribing to something they don’t want. Without knowing it, people could find themselves signed up for anything from music streaming to adult content.
One of the ways in which these WASPs trick you into subscribing is an opt-in prompt created to look like an age gate. An age gate, for those who don’t know, is commonly found on websites that contain age restricted content such as trailers for movies or video games or pornography.
The age gate takes the form of a prompt asking whether you’re over the age of 18 or not.
Now, the double opt-in systems implemented by network providers are supposed to alert the user via SMS and In-Browser Confirmation Dialogue that they are about to subscribe to a service. Only once this process is complete, and agreed to, will the network provide the WASP with your contact number.
Unfortunately, users often confuse these opt-in notifications with an age gate and automatically click Confirm. Before you know it, you’ve unwittingly subscribed.
In order to combat this, network providers such as Vodacom have since changed the Confirm button on the opt-in prompt to Subscribe.
As it is with so many things these days, most of it comes down to a lack of attention. In other words, think before you click.
It’s important to keep your wits about you when exploring the big bad internet, particularly with your phone. Give very careful thought to any prompt requesting your cell number and read banners and links thoroughly before clicking on them.
It’s also smart to check your statements for any content charges, or if you’re on prepaid keep an eye on your airtime balance.
While many of us no longer make use of SMS on a daily basis, it’s also important to pay attention to those which we receive from our network providers. A good indication that you’ve just subscribed to something is when you see the word Welcome.
Sometimes, as was recently the case with an MTN customer who contacted MyBroadband, the network will have little or no control over a third-party WASP and will have to identify and contact that WASP and request termination of your subscription. This could take a number of days, and it shines a large spotlight on a couple of glaring security issues.
In general though, every network should allow you to view and manage your subscriptions through a special USSD menu, and you have the option of manually unsubscribing from each unwanted service in turn, or all at once. We’ll go through each major network procedure below, as provided by WASPA.
Your Vodacom request to delete all WASP service has been logged.
You should then receive a confirmation message for each service you have been unsubscribed from:
You have been unsubscribed from ‘SERVICE’ with effect from ‘DATE’.
Unfortunately, you have to contact the Telkom Mobile call centre to cancel any subscriptions. Call Telkom Mobile on 180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have reason to believe that you have been fraudulently signed up to a subscription service and wish to file a complaint, it is best to contact the Wireless Access Service Providers’ Association (WASPA). You can follow this link for directions on how best to direct your complaint.