The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) has uncovered a new cell phone scam where South African mobile users are secretly subscribed to a paid-for adult service.
Following a complaint, WASPA’s Media Monitor identified the case of auto-subscription – where a consumer is subscribed to a service without asking or consenting to be subscribed.
All a user needed to do to be subscribed to the service was to visit a Web site and click on a link. No indication was given they would be subscribed to the service.
A panel of three adjudicators, who are specialists in information and communications technology law, reviewed the complaint and details provided to determine if there is any breach of the WASPA Code of Conduct.
How it happens
The investigation of the service shows that the user of the cell phone would not have known he was being subscribed to a subscription service, as the network confirmation page was not visible to the user.
The user never saw the network confirmation page, and therefore could not click on it to subscribe to the service.
However, this network-hosted confirmation page is ostensibly approved by the user, as the provider of the service fools the confirmation page into reporting that the user confirmed the subscription.
The first time the consumer becomes aware of subscribing to the service is after R5 has been billed to their account and when they receive an SMS welcoming them to the subscription service.
According to the panel, the service involved adult content, and there were no warnings to this effect.
There was also no reference to the fact that this was a subscription service on the Web site, nor were pricing, billing, or terms and conditions shown to the user.
Your number available without your consent
In this case, the cell phone number of the user is harvested without their knowledge or consent, simply by the consumer browsing a particular Web site.
“The consumer would probably wonder how the subscription service was able to know which cell phone to bill, as the consumer never typed their cell phone number into a text field on the Web site,” the panel said.
This insidious collection of personal information intrudes on a consumer’s right to privacy, said the panel.
It would appear that the “Mobile Network Providers” allow for this information to be made available to third-party Web sites.
WASPA temporarily shuts down service
The panel said this is a good example of a cynical and criminal attempt to make money at the expense of the consumer.
“No real attempt is made to comply with the WASPA Code of Conduct at all, and so the breaches are numerous and both flagrant and extreme,” the panel concludes.
In an emergency panel meeting on the matter, it found that there was a high likelihood of considerable harm to the public if this service was not stopped.
The service provider’s WASPA membership was suspended until all of its services were provided to the Media Monitor for review and testing to rule out any further harm to consumers.