Consumers can take control of their mobile content selection by correctly configuring their cellular network subscription services and by learning more about the structure of the mobile industry.
“Taking charge of one’s own mobile content options can be easy as entering a simple sequence of digits on one’s keypad,” says Ilonka Badenhorst, General Manager of South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA), the self-regulating body for the mobile content and applications industry.
This is because the country’s mobile network operators allow cellphone users to manage their content subscriptions through SMS or USSD as follows:
Cell C: Dial *133*1#
MTN: Dial *141*5#
Telkom: Call 180
Vodacom: Call 111
The result of the above should be that consumers only receive the mobile content they have requested. If unknown charges do appear, it’s useful to understand how the local cellular industry is structured. This way, contract and prepaid cellular users will be able to lodge a formal complaint with WASPA that contains all the required information.
The four major players in the local mobile industry are outlined below:
Mobile network operators (MNOs)
The MNOs ‘own’ the relationship with the end mobile consumer and examples of MNOs are Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile. Before these networks will allow the delivery of a mobile service or bill on behalf of a WASP, they require confirmation from the consumer who has shown an interest in subscribing and is aware of the costs. Unless a consumer performs the confirmation step by either clicking Yes on a web confirmation page, replying Yes to an SMS, or verifying the service via a network-hosted USSD confirmation page, the service won’t be activated nor will billing commence.
All MNOs have invested in customer care centres that should be a mobile consumer’s first port of call when it comes to the vast majority of mobile-related queries. Consumers should determine their MNO’s help desk telephone number or email address, and attempt to resolve a specific query in this way.
Aggregators serve as the conduits through which requested mobile content and applications moves towards the end cellular customer. Aggregators enable the links between providers of mobile content, or Intellectual Property (IP), and MNOs. As such, they are not directly involved in billing end users, but instead deliver billing information on behalf of their own clients (the mobile content / IP providers) to the MNOs who in turn bill the mobile customer.
Mobile content providers
Content providers, or IP providers, spend a great deal of time, energy and resources developing the kind of mobile content and applications that add value to the mobile experience. These firms use the services of aggregators to ensure local mobile users are able to easily access this content.
The wireless application service providers association (WASPA)
The WASPA Code of Conduct governs the way WASPA members interact with South Africa’s cellular users. Mobile users are invited to familiarise themselves with the WASPA Code – should they feel that a provider of mobile content and services has not conducted itself in accordance with the provisions of the Code, they are welcome to alert WASPA via the complaints procedure located on this website.
ICASA is the Independent Communications Authority of SA and the regulator for the greater South African communications sector. As such, complaints regarding the mobile network operators should be directed towards this organisation, and not WASPA.
“WASPA hopes that providing information about the mobile operators’ content management codes, and the structure of the industry, should go a long way towards ensuring unexpectedly high cellphone bills become a less prevalent issue,” concludes Ms Badenhorst.