The mobile airtime heist is real – help us end it

11541 active citizens had a say


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.


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    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.

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