Mobile porn sites thrust themselves on unsuspecting South African users

Posted In Mobile Web - By Kim On Saturday, August 20th, 2011 With 0 Comments

Many South African mobile users have recently been inundated with saucy images sent to their phones without the handset owners ever subscribing to the porn services sending them.

The problem seems to boil down to the point at which the Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPS) approve the charge to a mobile subscriber, with many South Africans claiming to have been completely unaware of the charge or porn service until their cellphone bill arrives at the end of the month. Because some WASPS don’t implement a double opt-in process (which would require the user to confirm a subscription request after the first request is received by the WASP), the gates are wide open for those with less-than-ethical intentions.

Two of the companies allegedly signing up users without their permission are Erotic Tube and Adult Zone. The cost for subscribing to these services is R10 a day, with some users charged this amount several times in one day. So it’s not hard to understand why this is a worthwhile venture for shadier content providers and WASPS.

One customer, who was charged more than R8 three times in one day, explains the confusing barrage of porn messages from out of the blue: “I had no recollection of subscribing to this service, but then I remembered that a couple of weeks ago I received an MMS from an unknown number, which I opened, and saw that it was adult in nature, so I closed the page and deleted the MMS. I didn’t click on a checkbox saying that I subscribe to this service or that I agree to their terms and conditions or anything like that. They have been taking money from me for something I never gave them permission for, for a service I have not even used.”

After kicking up a fuss with the WASP involved, that customer was refunded for all the charges but the bigger question is how many users are being affected in the same way without checking their bill on an itemised basis. To help prevent these types of situations, there is a South African industry watchdog in place to help identify and eradicate fraudulent activity. It’s called the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) and has a code of conduct for WASPS that stipulates that the double opt-in process is mandatory. But while this isn’t being adhered to by the dodgier providers, it’s difficult for WASPA to enforce the code across every single mobile content transaction. There are thousands upon thousands of premium-rated mobile services in South Africa.

The code is even stricter when it comes to adult content but still Erotic Tube and Adult Zone managed to bypass the rules completely. The WASP involved in the delivery of these services, Smartcall, said that it contracted some services out to third party service providers. A spokesperson for the company, Lorinda Wepener, said that “a third party mobile advertising company was commissioned to acquire customers on behalf of the service, using another gateway. As we had no control over the advertising platform, the complaints we received assisted us to identify a possible issue with the service offered by the third party. In the meantime, Smartcall has suspended the service in question pending an investigation.”

Ultimately the responsibility for enforcing this code of practice lies not only with the watchdog body but with customers themselves. Reading and acting on messages sent to your phone is worth the effort, even if you end up being overly paranoid. You should be reading your bill item by item, checking that everything you’re being charged for directly relates to a service or call that you know about and approve. If not, the onus is then on you to pick up the phone and it take it further. Because if you don’t, the Adult Zones of the world will only multiply – and possibly catch you too one day when you least expect it.

About - She isn't easily won over by the latest and greatest, but when she gets her hands on a phone that performs like a workhorse while delivering useful features and cool aesthetics, Kim's ready to wear her fingers down. Right now she's using a Blackberry Bold 9700.

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