Unsubscribe requests for mobile content services plummet

By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com 

Since the introduction of the Vodacom double opt-in system, Vodacom consumer unsubscribe requests forwarded by the mobile network to WASPA have reduced by 70 %. This is a positive step in ensuring that consumers are only billed for subscription services they consent to use.

Mobile subscription services allow a third party to connect to the network operator’s platform and bill against a consumer’s airtime on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Most mobile content is billed using a subscription model.

Over the years many consumers have complained that they have been billed for mobile subscription services even though they claim that they hadn’t subscribed to these services. These complaints are fielded by the networks and passed on the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) to resolve. WASPA has a system in place that notifies mobile subscription service providers of a complaint and sets out a process for resolving that complaint by unsubscribing the consumer’s cellphone number from the service and, if applicable, offering a refund.

It was a result of this complaints process that, in 2010, WASPA was able to identify illicit billing trends and suspend T-mobileSA for auto-subscribing more than a hundred thousand consumers.

In 2011 WASPA received approximately 150,000 unsubscribe requests per month, but until recently it was difficult to determine how many were the result of inadvertent or forgotten subscriptions, and how many consumers were illicitly billed for services without their consent.

This has now changed on the Vodacom network with the introduction of a system that eliminates “auto-subscriptions”. In late 2011, Vodacom introduced a new double opt-in system which ensures that when mobile subscribers request to be billed for a third party subscription service, Vodacom makes sure they confirm this with a double opt-in. This system gives consumers the chance to confirm or decline a subscription service at the network level before any billing can occur. Prior to this, wireless application service providers (WASPs) handled the subscription process, and the mobile networks would be unaware of fraudulent activity unless mobile users alerted them to this.

As a result of Vodacom’s initiative, MTN, Cell C and 8ta are developing similar double opt-in systems. This is good news for consumers and will further help the networks reduce the number of subscription billing complaints they receive.

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Unsubscribe requests for mobile content services plummet