The mobile airtime heist is real – help us end it

11533 active citizens on this campaign, so far.


Mobile phone network providers are robbing us blind and no-one seems to care – except for Noseweek. The providers are illegally charging customers for services they’ve never signed up for through shady third party content providers (WASPs), raking in possibly billions of Rands.

Whether you’re a victim or not, help Noseweek put an end to these charges by joining the civil action campaign to hold the mobile operators to account. It will only take you a few minutes and won’t cost you a cent. All information provided will be treated as confidential.

Should you be unsure, please read the live comments, summary, media or resource documents below.

Closing date is midnight 30 November 2018.


It is time to hold South Africa’s mobile phone networks to account.

Mobile phone network providers, in cahoots with a steady flow of shady “third party content providers”, many of them offshore, are illegally charging customers for services they’ve never signed up for, raking in possibly billions of Rands in spoils, with the lion’s share going to the network providers.
It is possibly the greatest theft being committed on the South African population – and Noseweek is taking the fight to them.

There is no written contract. Nothing is sent to your email or delivered in your post. You don’t even get a reference number. All that you apparently get is an SMS – if you’re lucky.

And many South Africans have no idea they are being saddled with these costs, sometimes on a daily basis – eating away their airtime or being buried inside their itemised billing accounts.

We are asking you to help us create a living database to help South Africans hold Vodacom, MTN, CellC and Telkom to account for allowing this fraud to be committed against its customers. Tell us your story by filling in the form.
All your private data will be kept confidential. We want to build the biggest, independent database on this fraud being committed on the South African consumer and use it to:

  • To lobby both the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority to pursue criminal action against the CEOs, boards and senior management of the South African network providers for allowing this fraud to continue;
  • To lobby Parliament to review legislation governing the shady third party providers;
  • To possibly launch a Class Action Law Suit against one or all network providers to help consumers get back their money stolen.

The con is simple – the “third party content providers”, known as Wireless Application Service Providers – or WASPs for short – illegally charge mobile network customers for services they have not signed up for. It could be horoscopes, pornography, gambling, sport results or weather updates. Sometimes the customer receives an SMS which is opaque, often saying “SMS Stop now to opt out” or something similar. Many of us ignore these messages as spam. Other times they simply don’t tell you that you’re paying for a service you’ve never accessed or heard of.

Our concern is that the likes of Vodacom are openly allowing third party providers to add charges to their billing systems without any obvious customer consent. We believe this is a massive infringement of privacy and a fraud against their customers that can only happen with the networks willingly allowing it to happen. Worryingly these WASP services seem to have unfettered access to the account databases of South African network providers, being able to easily add charges without any form of contract between the subscriber and the content provider.

In recent years Noseweek has received scores of complaints about this fraudulent practice indulged in by all South Africa’s cellphone service providers. Many have appeared in our letters columns. Available evidence suggests the companies themselves receive hundreds of complaints each day. They are routinely answered with a computer-generated, standard “it’s not our problem” letter.

More persistent complainants get a cheery “you have been unsubscribed” follow-up message or email – with no mention of a refund. Others are told, such as female pensioners, that they signed up to the porn site and should be responsible for paying for the service.

The reason is obvious: the companies are sharing in the vast sums being pocketed by the fraud operators.

Noseweek has written extensively on this topic. Normally our articles are behind a paywall but we feel so passionate about this issue we have opened them up to the public. You can find our articles below. We urge you to read them.

You can also listen to Noseweek editor Martin Welz talking to CapeTalk radio on this very issue here

WARNING! Your cellphone is a pickpocket  #Nose118 August 2009

Stung by a WASP  #Nose216 October 2017

Bidvest boss to sue Vodacom over fees scam  #Nose217 November 2017

Vodacom’s fraudulent charges – the saga continues  #Nose222 April 2018

MyBroadband – Vodacom and MTN’s dirty money-making scheme

MyBroadband – Fraudulent WASP subscriptions are a major problem – MTN



Do you have unknown charges on your cellphone bill?
Yes I haveNo I have not

Have you reported the “third party content providers” charges to your provider?
Yes I haveNo I have not

What are the names of the companies providing the services you never signed up for?

What services are/were you being charged for?

How much in Rands are/were you being charged a month for the services (if charged weekly or daily please calculate an approximate monthly charge)?

If you have reported the abuse to your service provider, was your complaint resolved?
YesNonot yet resolved

If yes, who resolved the complaint?
Network providerWASPAboth

Were you blamed for the charges?

Were you fully refunded?

Did your network provider send you any written correspondence after your complaint?

Should Noseweek pursue this matter on behalf of all South Africans?
yes, take action!no, don't take action.

Check your details are correct then hit send!

A copy of your message will be sent to you along with an automated proof of receipt. Check your junk mail folder if you can’t find it.


Displaying newest 5 comments.

yes, take action!
Mobile phone network providers are robbing us blind and no-one seems to care – except for Noseweek. The providers are illegally charging customers for services they’ve never signed up for through shady third party content providers (WASPs), raking in possibly billions of Rands.
no, don't take action.

I don't want to ruin your day,
but I have a few pictures of your employees,
I don't think they are doing a good job.

Yours sincerely

"Sent from my iPhone"
no, don't take action.

I just want to say what a appealing website you have!.
I am a regular customer of your webshop.
I had visited your shop last month, and I saw a very nice product i wanne buy.
But I have a question! today I wanted to order it, but can not find the product anymore in your store.
The item looks like this picture
i wanne buy from you.
I'll wait.

yes, take action!
They dont care at all cause they take our money even without ou consent
yes, take action!
I am getting as many as many as three sms messages per day from MTN saying i can get this extra bundle at this reduced cost by replying to this number which will automatically connect me. When I clear the sms it is not deleted as it appears on my message program where it can thereafter be deleted by my Samsung program. I am paying unwanted data costs for these messages that cannot be blocked. When going into the Mtn walk in shop in Sasolburg they tell me they are not authorised to act on it and I must contact customer services. Free sms messages in my contract are now shown as nil without being used and no explanation follows the given reference number. Telephone calls are to costly to follow up the unproductive matter! The latter give me their name with reference number and the unwanted stressing messages continue with added unwanted sales messages following without my consent from other unwanted strange sales providers following up at times, I as a pensioner cannot live safely without my cell phone and Telkom took 3 months to cancel the landline with a superficial apology. Their walk in shop is full of complaints such as paying for a contracted landline that doesn't exist due to cable theft for six or so months. Law and order is in the hands of these unscrupulous service providers!
Noseweek mobile operators

Important to note; this is not a petition but is the first step in an essential Participative Democracy process protected under the SA Constitution. Your comment is immediately registered as a unique entry and must, by law, be individually acknowledged and considered. Had this been a petition, all comments would be seen as a single submission. This process forms a solid foundation for a legal case should the necessity arise.

By using this service you ensure an accurate record is held by civil society (on our encrypted database).


There’s no time better than now for you to sign up to Noseweek. For a limited time only we’re offering a 20% discount on online subscriptions. You get to read 12 issues for just R244 (R21 per issue) and can access our entire 25-year searchable archive at your convenience and at no extra cost! Click to visit Noseweek.