The decision by the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) to require its members to reconfirm consent from a subscriber to continue billing for a service when the customer’s mobile content bill reaches R200.00 is yielding encouraging results.
That’s according to Michael Hainebach, chair of the WASPA Code of Conduct Working Group and a member of the association’s recently-announced 2010 Management Committee. He says that the mobile spend notification limit has virtually eliminated the number of "bill shock" complaints where a consumer would generate thousands of rands in charges during a single month without being made aware of the mounting bill.
“WASPA has always required members to obtain explicit consent right from the start of the commercial relationship. Requiring WASPA members to obtain permission in order to continue billing customers was a further step in the right direction,” says Hainebach.
"Bill shock" refers to the phenomenon of customers being aware of the cost of each mobile transaction without realizing they were overspending after having lost count of the actual number of transactions engaged in.
The WASPA Code of Conduct was formally adopted by WASPA in June 2005. It has been revised several times since with the most recent incarnation being adopted in October last year.
In terms of Version 8.0 of the Code, the WASP is not allowed to bill the subscriber beyond R200.00 per month before obtaining explicit consent from the subscriber to continue billing for that service. The service provider must get permission, once again, to bill the subscriber once the bill passes R400.00 a month. Every time thereafter that the bill increases by an increment of more than R200.00, additional notification must be sent to the customer notifying them of the total cost incurred for that service so far.
“What’s also important is that the onus rests on the WASPA member, and not the customer, to keep a record of the confirmations provided by the customer, or of the notifications sent to the customer,” says Hainebach. He adds that this was a subtle, yet, important, provision because in the event of a dispute, it implied the innocence of the subscriber until the WASPA member could prove otherwise by producing either confirmations of notifications.
The WASPA code of conduct, which all of South Africa's WASPs must subscribe to, outlines in detail how the organisation's members should conduct themselves in their interactions with the public, including how they advertise their services, their billing procedures, and the type of content they may carry.