Unsubscribe requests for mobile content services plummet

By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of

Read time 2min 10sec

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 consumers are only billed for subscription services they consent to use, says Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of

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 they hadn't subscribed to these services. These complaints are fielded by the networks and passed on to 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 100 000 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. is a leading SMS messaging service provider offering two-way SMS communication services in South Africa and globally. The BulkSMS gateway connects to over 700 mobile network operators worldwide.

The company was launched in 2000 and is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. It was one of the first commercial Web-based SMS messaging platforms to be launched globally. provides application-to-person (A2P) messaging services to large and small businesses, public benefit organisations and individuals. These services include: bulk SMS messaging, mobile marketing, premium rate SMS services and an EAPI to SMS-enable software applications. BulkSMS' flagship SMS communications solution is the BulkSMS Text Messenger, a desktop application that allows clients to quickly deploy an SMS service. is a division of Celerity Systems, an IT services company focusing on the marketing and management of Internet-based business solutions. In 2007, Celerity Messaging UK, a division of, set up offices in the UK to further the company's global messaging footprint. supports the use of social texting by offering discounted bulk SMS prices to NGOs, not-for profits, schools and faith-based organisations via its Community.BulkSMS messaging service.

The company is a member of the following industry associations: the Wireless Application Service Provider Association (WASPA) and the Mobile Marketing Association.

Editorial contacts
Red Ribbon Communications Sannika Jansen van Vuuren (022) 433 3684 Dr Pieter Streicher (021) 552 6321
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