Waspa warns on spam SMS

2011-06-22 10:27

Cape Town - The incidence of spam SMS is growing and an industry association believes that South Africans have the right to be protected from unsolicited messages.

"I would say it is a common problem, but certainly not at the same level of e-mail," managing director of, which is a member of the Wireless Application Service Providers Association (Waspa), Dr Pieter Streicher told News24.

He said that while unsolicited SMSes were becoming more common, e-mail was the predominant vehicle for spam, accounting for a major share of total internet traffic.

"If you look at your own phone, I think almost everybody has received the spam SMS before. With e-mail the levels are: 90% of all e-mails are spam; with SMS I think it's below 4%."

Many firms send cellphone users commercial messages where the user has to "opt out" in order not to receive them. Waspa has insisted that members provide an "opt out" mechanism in its new code of conduct that excludes all marketing from a company.

Unsolicited marketing

"You do not pay to receive any SMS messages, however, if you wanted to opt out, then you would have to pay. That's a key difference there," said Streicher.

Waspa does not allow unsolicited marketing to non-clients because the organisation wants to eliminate the cost attached for users to receive or opt out of receiving spam.

"For that reason, our industry association and also the Internet Service Providers Association, for e-mail and SMS, do not allow unsolicited direct marketing to non-clients. For e-mail, the reason is the receiver pays to receive the message, for SMS, the reason is there's no free way to stop those messages.

"That's why the respective codes of conduct do not allow unsolicited messaging to third party databases, even though the laws of the country do allow it," Streicher said.

The Consumer Protection Act came into effect this year and it makes provision for people who receive unsolicited messages to opt out, but does not impose any liability on the sender of the marketing material.

"If you look at the Consumer Protection Act and the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, they all work on an opt out basis. That means anyone can send you anything until you opt out.

"That's why Waspa's different. Because there's a cost to opting out, we say 'No'," said Streicher.


Waspa's code also prohibits spam from being sent during specified times.

"The code also highlights that direct marketing messages may not be sent on Sundays or public holidays, nor on Saturdays before 09:00 or after 13:00, or between 20:00 and 08:00 on all other days," the organisation said.

Streicher said that where consumers have not given their details to a company for the purpose of receiving marketing, that firm should not be able to send unsolicited SMSes.

"You have to opt in first when you haven't directly given your name to a company," he said.

Waspa is concerned about messages that are sent to consumers, particularly from companies that purchase details from third parties.

"That is a lot more problematic because that means they have bought your details somewhere. It involves the buying and selling of personal details."


Waspa's code of conduct differs from existing legislation in the country, but is aligned with similar regulations in Europe and the UK.

Streicher warned consumers that they should report the practice to Waspa as it contravenes the organisation's rules, even though it does not break any South African laws.

"It's for that reason that Waspa says: 'If a company that you've never dealt with sends you an SMS message, you should report that to Waspa because it's not allowed.'

"You shouldn't use opt out or anything because it will cost you money, you should report that directly to Waspa because that practice is not allowed," he said.

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  • bradleykronson - 2011-06-22 10:56

    The idea of WASPA is nice, but in reality, they are pretty useless. They only have jurisdiction over their members and here's a small surprise, none of the real spammers are members of WASPA.

  • HowardX - 2011-06-22 10:59

    WASPA is a toothless organisation desperately trying to justify their continued existence in the context of the new consumer protection act which supercedes most of their halfhearted private member only regulations. What the article does not make clear is that membership of WASPA is voluntary and their rules only apply to their members. In addition, WASPA's board exclusively comprises members of the same companies that it allegedly polices, and in my opinion they are more focused on protecting their revenues and putting up barriers to entry than they are in supposedly protecting the consumer - for example, you can send an SMS for a few cents from an international SMS provider, but this threatens their revenues so they do everything they can to force users to use their extortionately expensive local SMS services.

  • Brolloks - 2011-06-22 12:04

    Our government unfortunately does not take the constitution and specifically the right to privacy seriously. As far as I know, not a single person as ever been prosecuted in terms of the ECT act. What is the point of making laws that will not be enforced? During the previous elections, for example, both the ANC and DA were themselves spamming on a massive scale. What message does that send out? That you may SPAM anyone and everyone as much as you like in this country.

      HowardX - 2011-06-22 12:07

      There's a specific exception to the rules for political parties.

      Brolloks & Bittergal - 2011-06-22 12:42

      I don't think there is. And if there is, then there shouldn't be. Either way, the point remains.

      HowardX - 2011-06-22 12:47

      Yes there is. The Electoral Act trumps the CPA.

      gcr - 2011-06-22 15:58

      Howard X - it is wrong that the electoral act trumps CPA - spam is spam. The bigger question which needs to be answered is where did the ANC and DA get my cellphone number from as I have not provided this detail to either of them

  • Mark V - 2011-06-22 12:25

    Most of the SPAM SMSes I get are because Vodacom has sold my details to 3rd parties. How do I know this? I have 2 cell phone accounts, one for me and one for my wife. My wife constantly gets unsolicited phone calls and SMSes addressed to me. The only place I am linked to that number is with Vodacom. So they make money by selling our details, then they make more money with the calls and SMSes, and we have to pay to SMS stop - which usually doesn't work. And don't think the other cell companies are any better... I've had nightmares with the lot of them.

      Xavier - 2011-06-22 15:50

      So true..... a few years ago while I studied, my cellphone contract was on my fathers name and the same with my brother. We have been contacted by people who always want to speak to my father...

  • Francois - 2011-06-23 12:43

    While not as prevalent as email spam, it surely is more annoying! My Gmail spam filter is good enough to make them unobtrusive. But a cellphone that beeps when a spam SMS arrives distracts me a lot more.

  • info - 2011-06-23 14:32

    An OPT OUT option message should be charged back to the sender. This way they will make sure they do not send unsolocited messages. What is WASPA doing...protecting the interest of the industry players and do not have any interest in the consumers!

  • Bruce - 2011-07-03 08:38

    What does WASPA say about the sudden increase in spam messages since we RICAed our phones?

  • Quartus - 2012-08-03 08:57

    how can you report these people to WASPA without it costing you money?

  • bmaestro - 2012-08-08 15:02

    SPAM SMSes is big a big uncontrollable problem

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