Digital Marketing

ICASA regulations for SMS premium services in SA – Part 1

ICASA & premium SMS services Pt 1

The ICASA code of conduct for premium rated services was published in Government Gazette 40402 on 4 November 2016 and is effective immediately. All premium rated service providers in South Africa should take note of the new code, which has implications for advertising, promoting and delivering contact, dating, adult, chat room and children’s services.

Please note that the following summary is not a legal opinion and Clickatell holds no liability for any losses suffered as a result of relying on this information. If you’re concerned about how this affects your business, you should seek legal counsel.

Who does the code apply to?

The code is applicable to all ECS and ECNS licensees as well as any third party providing premium rated services using a licensees’ network. Premium rated services are defined as meaning ‘a service provided by means of premium rated numbers or short codes in level 3 and 4, where the charge is higher than standard rates and in some instances, where a portion of the charge is passed on to a premium rate service content licensee, irrespective of the originating electronic communications network used’.

Let’s take a look at the new rules. In this first installment, we’ll look at the new numbering structure, the double opt-in requirement for subscription services, and the new regulations around promotional material and advertising for subscription services.

Related: ICASA regulations for SMS premium rated services in South Africa – Part 2

New numbering structure

Premium rated services may only be provided within the designated number ranges – using short codes beginning with 3 or 4, or using non-geographic numbers beginning with 090, 091, and 092. Any services that consist of adult content must use 090 2. Migration to the new numbering structure must be completed by 3 November 2017.

Double opt-in for subscription services

Subscription premium rated services are not defined in the ICASA code. It seems this phrase is meant to refer to subscription services provided by premium rated numbers or short codes. The code does define ‘double opt-in’ as meaning ‘a process defined in these regulations which entails that a premium rated service provider, shall, upon receipt of a subscription request from an end user and before any charges are incurred by that end user send a SMS subscription confirmation to the number that initiated the subscription request message at no charge to the end user. The confirmation SMS must be followed by a response from the subscriber either confirming or refuting the request for subscription by responding either YES or NO respectively.

Five items are listed which must be contained in the subscription confirming SMS:

  • Confirmation of subscription

  • Description and name of service

  • Contact details of the service provider

  • All costs levied for using the service

  • Details of how to unsubscribe

The code stipulates that end users must be given an option to opt-out of the service by sending an SMS with the word STOP (this isn’t new, of course). What is new, however, is that the number for sending the opt-out SMS may not be a premium rated number.

Promotional material and advertising for subscription services

The Advertising Standards Authority’s Advertising Code has been made applicable to all promotions and advertising of premium rated services. Premium rated service providers should therefore take heed of the ASASA code when advertising their services, even if they are not members of ASASA.

Promotional material for all subscription premium rated services must prominently and explicitly identify the service as ‘subscription service’. Furthermore, any advertisements for a content subscription service must have at least 2 examples of the content clearly displayed. For a television advertisement, a voice over must stipulate that the service is a subscription service and the price and frequency of the billing. It is not sufficient to just have it displayed on screen, there must be a voice over.

Next steps

  1. Start working on migrating your premium rated services to the new numbers within the designated numbering ranges. This must be done by 3 November 2017.

  2. Implement double opt-in for subscription services.

  3. Review your advertising and promotional material.

The ICASA code also stipulates new regulations for contact and dating services, how end user information may be used, new billing thresholds, and a compulsory toll free number for complaints. Information around these is outlined in our next article.

If you need any more information or have any questions regarding the ICASA code of conduct, contact our expert advisors who will gladly assist to help you ensure that you’re compliant.

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