The mobile service providers association, WASPA, was formed in August 2004 with the full support of the three local network operators: Cell C, MTN and Vodacom. The mobile service provider industry in South Africa is in a key stage of development, with growing public demand for services, and an increasing number of organisations providing mobile services. In order to uphold public perception of these services and to protect against bad practices, it was essential for the organisation and the industry to unite under a common code of practice. It was therefore decided that a strong industry body was needed, with an appropriate Code of Conduct representing the interests of its members and consumers.
The primary objective for WASPA, a self-governing body, is to have its members act responsibly when providing mobile services. The code also addresses common interests and concerns within the industry around the proposed convergence bill and telecom operator charges and services. Providing mobile content services is a multi-million dollar global industry - some claim larger than Hollywood - so it is essential that there is a code of conduct and best practices to ensure that the South African market grows responsibly.
The WASPA Code of Conduct can be broken up into three key areas. Firstly, consumers need to know and understand what they are paying for when it comes to mobile services. Secondly, consumers should know exactly how much these services will cost them. And thirdly, consumers will now have a forum where they will be able to voice complaints such as incorrect billing or receiving content not requested. The code itself is fluid, and will change as new issues and technologies make this necessary. WASPA commended the mobile operator networks for showing their support and backing around the approved code of conduct. This initiative is in line with a growing international trend of other similar organisations such as ICSTIS in the UK. It is aimed at being proactive around relegation for mobile data services in partnership with local mobile operators.
South Africa's newly adopted Code of Conduct is one of the most comprehensive codes available and includes a complete set of advertising guidelines, which will be enforced during the next eight weeks. "The primary beneficiary will be the consumer," said Pieter de Villiers, Vice-chairman of WASPA and CEO of Clickatell. "The industry will benefit by the sustainability of this growing market opportunity created by responsible trading." Leon Perlman, WASPA Chairman and MD Of CellularOnline said: "Our aim is to demonstrate unequivocally that WASPs are capable of cogent and effective self-regulation. The Code shows WASPAs responsibility in this regard." While the code becomes effective immediately, there is a grace period up until 31 August 2005, to allow for new advertisements and new contracts to be drawn up that make provision for strict adherence to the code.