Friday, July 22, 2011

Time for an industry "Do Not Subscribe or Contact" List

It's time the mobile phone industry woke up to the fact that their networks are wide open to abuse. I experienced it recently when random sums of money were deducted from my phone bill, after being "subscribed" without my knowledge to some "premium content" services. In this case they were run by Opera Interactive, who initially refused a refund and referred me to "Go Go Mobile", a UK/Hong Kong based company. Later they refunded me several times, presumably because they really have no idea what they are doing.
"Go Go Mobile" decided that I was a disreputable liar, and accused me of trying to make money out of my complaint to WASPA. They also brought up the matter of my legal dispute with a timeshare company, without the foggiest notion of what it was about, or how it was resolved. Clearly they seem to think that attack is the best form of defence, even when they are in the wrong.
My complaint with WASPA was lodged on 10th June 2011, i.e. 42 days ago. It was only "received" by WASPA on 22nd June (12 days later) and "resolved" on 30th June, i.e. 3 weeks after the initial complaint. I informed WASPA that I was not satisfied with the response from "Go Go Mobile" and pointed out the security holes in their system. This was sent to them on Saturday 2nd July, i.e. 20 days ago.
I would have expected this to be passed on to "Go Go Mobile", but a week later they had still heard nothing, so I sent it to Steve Hunt and Trevor Louw and asked what was being done about it. They declined to say, so a few days later I posted a note on the MyBroadband forum to add a bit more pressure. Now, finally, the server is offline. Hopefully they have fixed the problem, although I doubt it.
WASPA seems to think that their members don't need a "Do Not Subscribe or Contact" list, but clearly the public has no protection against spammers and lax security. Had I been able to add my number and my wife's number to such a list, I would not have been hassled by having random amounts of money deducted from my account, and I would not have had to visit MTN or waste money on the phone to the Opera Interactive call centre. WASPA even have an unsubscribe system ( but you don't remain unsubscribed. They just don't get it.
Now the whole industry look like morons because of bad security, poor customer relations and lax or arrogant management. I guess they get what they deserve. In the meantime WASPA has yet to make up their minds about my complaint(s), or punish the offenders. What's taking so long?
Update 11th August: After 9 weeks my complaint is "pending" adjudication. Meanwhile, the MyBroadband web site has published a stinging rebuke of the entire industry called "Is your airtime quietly being stolen?" pointing out that this problem has been going on for the last 3 years and nothing has been done. They just announced in a press release that they plan to do nothing in spite of rumours that they might be doing something useful. Needless to say, consumers are fed up. Even East Coast Radio's Consumer Watch has an article about it.
Update 23rd August: After 74 days my complaint is still "pending" adjudication. It's been under consideration for 3 weeks already. Perhaps its just languishing at the bottom of a very large pile of papers while more money gets sucked out of the accounts of unsuspecting phone subscribers. There is one complaint "pending" since October last year. I wonder whether anyone takes these complaints seriously?


Anonymous said...

If you were on the global block list then you wouldn't have discovered the security hole. Thanks for finding it.

Anonymous said...

you shouldnt have been looking at blue mate...

Donn Edwards said...

My phone display is 240 x 320 pixels, 2.0 inches, so I think you're being a tad optimistic. %)