MTN, Upstream and WASPA Collaborate to Further Protect Consumers

WASPA Code of Conduct takes centre stage

In 2018, MTN appointed Upstream’s security platform Secure-D as their preferred anti-fraud solutions provider at a network level to defend users against unwanted premium digital subscriptions. They have extended that partnership to include The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) to take this initiative one step further to protect consumers and ensure that all mobile application service providers adhere to the WASPA Code of Conduct.

As part of the new collaboration, WASPA will review escalated findings and lodge the necessary complaint against any member found in contravention of the WASPA Code of Conduct, or work with the member to take remedial action, where relevant, to ensure that all providers adhere to the WASPA Code and MTN Business rules.

The WASPA Code of Conduct has set requirements for the provision of services and strict privacy and confidentiality stipulations to ensure that members of the public can use mobile services with confidence, assured that they will be provided with accurate information about all services and the pricing associated with those services. It also aims to provide consumers with a mechanism for addressing any concerns or complaints relating to services provided by WASPA members, and a framework for impartial, fair and consistent evaluation and response to any complaints made.

“Upstream and MTN have been partners in the content space for a number of years,” says Jason Probert, General Manager: Digital Services at MTN South Africa. “They share our philosophy of building a clean content ecosystem that puts customers first and were therefore selected to . developed the technology that we use to detect fraudulent content subscriptions on our network. When they introduced their new ad tracking technology and demonstrated how it could further enhance our ability to ensure customers are not misled by advertising, we jumped at the opportunity to engage further.”

As the proliferation of smartphones continues to grow, so too does the mobile application and advertising market. Mobile app spending and usage hit a record in 2019 and there are no signs that this will taper off as more connection, faster speeds, cheaper data and diversification of streaming services come online – making regulating the provision of such mobile applications and services more important than ever before. In fact, one of the main challenges of the sector is tracking and monitoring advertising flagged as non-compliant – misleading adverts and services which use social engineering tactics to deceive users into making unwanted purchases.

“It was a natural extension to add WASPA to the mix,” says Dimitris Maniatis, Upstream’s CEO. “WASPA was already performing monitoring on the Upstream network to ensure ads are appropriate and when the opportunity arose for MTN to supplement their subscribers’ security by implementing Secure-D’s Ad Monitoring solution, MTN organised the collaboration between Upstream and WASPA to take it one step further.”

Probert believes that MTNs customers will benefit enormously from the ability WASPA now has to proactively identify, track and resolve misleading content advertising. “The entire industry will benefit from us being able to more effectively identify and deal with the few who exhibit bad practises. We know that it is usually unscrupulous affiliates downstream who are responsible for misleading ads, but now we have a platform to more easily identify and immediately stop it when this is taking place.”  

MTN is invested in ensuring both their business partners and customers derive value from the sector – having introduced a number of features over the last two years to ensure subscriber satisfaction and protection and since the further collaboration with WASPA, the mobile operator has already seen a decline in customer complaints.

“We are seeing increasing cases of malware being installed on users’ phones via apps and phishing expeditions which are then used to trigger fraudulent transactions,” says Probert. “Unfortunately, it is usually the networks or the WASPs that are blamed for this. While I believe that the security measures that we have put in place on MTN’s network block most of these attempts, it’s a constant struggle as we are constantly under attack from new variants – making customer education around ‘free’ apps critical.”

“It is little wonder that unscrupulous advertisers are turning to social media and in-app advertising more and more in order to get their misleading messages in front of consumers’ eyes. The battle against mobile fraud is certainly a difficult one, and one that evolves arguably as quick, if not quicker than the new technologies that create the loopholes. It is imperative that we pair the enthusiasm to understand new mobile service offerings, with the enthusiasm to safely navigate the dangers of the digital environment. This collaboration will help the sector remain healthy, deliver educational and entertainment services to only subscribers who want them, while ensuring business continuity to service providers and MTN,” concludes Ilonka Badenhorst, Managing Executive at WASPA.