ConsumerTalk with Wendy Knowler

Unsolicited mobile subscriptions chowing your money? Here's what to do

Many South African cellphone users have complained about losing airtime and falling victim to hidden charges for unknown subscription services.

These mobile subscription services are referred to as Wasp (Wireless Application Service Providers) subscriptions.

Wasp subscriptions offer subscriptions to ringtones, games and other content ranging from porn to sport.

The subscriptions can deplete pre-paid airtime or data and can land up as “content” charges on the bills for contract holders.

Read: Are network providers stealing from you? Finally there's something you can do

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler says that network providers often make a cut from these unsolicited Wasp subscriptions.

While it easier to cancel Wasp subscriptions when spotted, Knowler says it's virtually impossible for consumers to get refunds for the charges accumulated over time.

The Wireless Application Services Providers Association (Waspa) is a self-regulatory industry body, Knowler explains.

Many years ago Waspa forced their members to do a “Double Opt In” - to send an SMS asking a consumer if they agreed to subscribe to a particular service at whatever charge.

Cellphone networks had also introduced their rules, saying they would only activate a subscription if the consumer confirmed they wanted it.

Waspa chairman James McNab claims Waspa continues to regulate Wasp service providers which he says are still required to “Double Opt In”.

McNab says he cannot answer on behalf of how consumers use their cellphones or the mobile internet.

He has encouraged consumers to lodge their complaints with Waspa so that the trade body can investigate and sanction Wasp services for breaches of conduct.

Visit the Waspa website for more.

You can't be subscribed to a service without prior confirming it.

James McNab, chairman at Waspa (Wireless Application Service Providers Association)

Don't ignore any of those messages thinking that it's just spam... These subscriptions can be quietly mounting up in the backgorund.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

Try to engage with a Wasp about when and how you are alleged to have subscribed to a service, and you’re setting yourself up for a very time-consuming, frustrating exercise.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

With the cost of cellphone services in this country being notoriously astronomical, to my mind, it’s unconscionable that so many people have these expensive unwanted extras sapping their airtime or bloating their bills.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

At best they are unwittingly subscribing to them while on the net.

Wendy Knowler, consumer journalist

Several people called in sharing their personal stories involving unsolicited Wasp subscriptions and Knowler shared her advice.

Listen to the entire ConsumerTalk discussion during The Pippa Hudson Show:

Every Wednesday, on The Pippa Hudson Show, Wendy Knowler provides useful insights and tips on how to make the most of your buying power.

For more stories visit the ConsumerTalk feature page.

Got a consumer case you need help resolving?

Email: consumer@knowler.co.za, put Cape Talk in the subject line, followed by the issue e.g. cellphone contract dispute.


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