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South Africa / Premium SMS Regulations


Networks and network control of messages 

There are four mobile network operators in South Africa. Vodacom leads the pack from a regulatory and quality perspective in that the other networks follow their regulatory and quality procedures, with some lag. The presumption is that if Vodacom are integrated correctly, the platform meets and/or exceeds the quality requirements of the other operators.


Vodacom requires that we retain the subscription initiation text message as proof of subscription – subscribers frequently deny signing up – and to deter services that employ phishing tactics to acquire subscribers. Penalties are severe and in mitigating this risk we require our services to ‘complete the loop’ on our platform in order to expedite requests from Vodacom’s regulatory division. Exceptions can be made, with certain terms and conditions.


Vodacom recently implemented the ‘double opt-in’ requirement on their billing platform. This means that Vodacom themselves complete an MO/MT text loop with the subscriber before authorizing a new subscription, and once for each ad-hoc (non-subscription) transaction. We control only a fragment of the message relating to billing frequency, e.g. ‘R5 per week’.


The other network operators (MTN, CellC) have not implemented this requirement. Since it is not possible for you to tell in advance which network a subscriber belongs to, due to number portability, we ensure consistency by ‘completing the loop’ for the other networks.


The following are text messages that are configured and activated on a typical service:


Opt-in *

Reply YES to this message to complete your subscription to {service name} @R5 every 2 days. For help call {toll free customer support number}.

Welcome **

Welcome to {service name}. You are subscribed at a charge of R5/every 2 days. To unsubscribe reply STOP or SMS STOP to {shortcode}. For help call {toll free customer support number}.


You are subscribed to {service name} SMS at a charge of R5 every 2 days. To unsubscribe reply STOP or SMS STOP to {shortcode}. For help call {toll free customer support number}.


You have been unsubscribed from {service name}. For help call {toll free customer support number}.


* The opt-in message applies to non-Vodacom subscribers only. Vodacom control their own double opt-in.

** The comfort message is a regulatory requirement and is sent once every thirty days for subscription services.


Q: Can you run WAP Billing; MSISDN forwarding in South Africa?


Q: How does the subscription message flow work in South Africa

A:  Subscription services can only be run on a dedicated code, an example flow is as follows:


1. User visits the site and sends an inbound message to your dedicated code.

2. Double opt-in confirmation is automatically sent to the user prompting them to accept the charges.

3. User replies to double opt-in with instructed keyword initiating the subscription service.

4. You receive the users MO with a unique message ID.

5. You receive the first delivery report this lets you know the initial subscription has been billed attached to the unique ID.

6. Every new billing cycle you will receive a new report linked to the unique ID informing you the user has been billed. The billing amount and frequency is programmed into the short code upon it being ordered with txtNation

7. All free regulatory messages are automatically handled, you do not need to manage them.

8. You may send additional free message with content related to the service if needed using the reply=0, network=international, value=0 API call.


Q;  We can bill a user R4.99 per day without sending them any type of content or SMS message - is that correct? Also, you mentioned that proof of delivery of a VAS service is required to be retained - can you explain what that is?

A: 1) Yes.  Presumably the client is joining some Value Added Service that you will bill him R4.99 per day for... So Whatever that service is you need to
keep records and proof of delivery of that service.  Let's say for example that you entice the subscriber to join a club for R4.99/day.  Being a member
of that club allows him access to a Web site where they can d/l unlimited an unlimited amount of video clips for example.  Any visit that the paying
subscriber makes to that site needs to be logged.  Clearly the joining MO SMS, the PIN number SMS; that is sent & delivered and the welcome message that is sent and delivered all need to be retained too. 


Q: The ONLY instance in which we'll have to send a message to alert a subscriber of charges is if we cross R200 in 1 month - correct? Does this mean we don't have to send any other reminder messages if we don't cross that threshold?

A: There is a monthly reminder message that needs to be sent in terms of WASPA COC 11.5


Q: How do users opt-out?

A: You must inform users to send STOP to the shortcode. Stop is a reserved word for opt-out as prescribed by WASPA, so it should only be used for this activity exclusively. 


Q: Can you run adult content in South Africa?

The rules permit adult. Note: Vodacom has a content rating for Adult Content.

WASPA rule 22.4. Promotions for adult services must be in context with the publication or other media in which they appear. Services should be in context with the advertising material promoting them. The content of a service should not be contrary to the reasonable expectation of those responding to the promotion.


WASPA 22.7. A marketing message sent to initiate or re-initiate adult services may not: (a) include any graphical or photographic content that includes full frontal images or portrayal of intimate parts of the body; or (b) include any words or phrases that may be considered profane, including common popular or slang terms for excretory functions, sexual activity and genitalia; or (c) include any links to any content described in (a) or (b).


Example Billing Screenshots of Premium SMS opt in.




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  • Avatar
    Compliance Team

    If you are looking to perform Adult content in South Africa, please see the below restrictions that strictly must be adhered to. 


    1) An adult code is not required however each promotion requires approval before allowing public access to the promotions. 

    2) The referenced ACM WASP Query mechanism in 5.1 is managed by txtNation. 

    3) The other carriers do not have such strict guidelines for allowable adult content as Vodacom do. 

  • Avatar
    AJ Nouman


    Dear WASPA Members,


    During the past year, non-compliant Affiliate Marketing has been the topic of numerous discussions and debates and continues to be a matter that requires the attention of all members that promote their services using third party Affiliate Marketing Suppliers (Affiliate Marketers, Affiliate Marketing Networks and Publishers).

    Non-compliant Affiliate Marketing has been identified and highlighted as an extremely problematic area by WASPA, the members, the press, consumers and the Mobile Network Operators.


    The MNOs have informed WASPA that non-compliant Affiliate Marketing has been identified as a red flag area. The MNOs have received a steep increase in consumer complaints being lodged with their customer support departments, but more importantly, consumers are instituting legal action against the MNOs and related parties regarding misleading, fraudulent and/or non-compliant marketing campaigns and associated subscription services.

    The severity of the matter cannot be emphasized enough. The reputation damage suffered by the MNOs and our members, loss in consumer confidence and overall damage to the WASP industry could result in disastrous consequences if not resolved immediately. If WASPA, in collaboration with its members, cannot provide a workable solution to the problem, the MNOs are considering taking action to combat the negative affect of non-compliant Affiliate Marketing, which could include deactivating silent billing for subscription services etc.


    Areas of immediate concern is non-compliant Affiliate Marketing that incorporates the intellectual property rights of popular applications like WhatsApp, Instagram and other social media platforms and applications. Another area of concern is non-compliant Affiliate Marketing that offers vouchers or gift cards linked with major retail businesses, for example Spar and Woolworths. Non-compliant campaigns that rely on ‘Win a prize’, ‘Claim your prize’ and/or ‘Prize subscription services’ that are utilized as the marketing hook or lure are also causing extreme damage.

    Members are requested to ensure that their Affiliate Marketing Suppliers do not make use of any of these misleading, fraudulent or non-compliant assets to promote services provided by members.


    There has been a dramatic increase in non-compliant Affiliate Marketing campaigns associated with adult content services. These campaigns are in breach of the WASPA Code of Conduct, MNOs business rules and the provisions of the Film and Publications Act.


    WASPA has identified a number of sites where adult content services are regularly being advertised in a non-compliant manner. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however we have highlighted these sites as a point of departure.

    WASPA would like to inform its members of these problematic sites in order to give them an opportunity to take the necessary action, as will be set out below.



    1. Review the list provided that contains problematic sites;

    2. Undertake internal compliance testing to determine whether any of your services are being advertised on any of the listed sites;

    3. Contact your respective Affiliate Marketing Suppliers and determine whether they advertise on these sites;

    4. Request your Affiliate Marketing Suppliers to remove all non-compliant advertisements linked to any of your services;

    5. Request your Affiliate Marketing Suppliers to refrain from linking your services to any non-compliant advertisements;

    6. Assess how many campaigns have been affected by non-compliant Affiliate Marketing activity and implement the necessary procedures to eliminate future non-compliant exposure on the listed sites:

    a) Determine whether you will continue using the identified Affiliate Marketing Suppliers or whether you will terminate your agreement;

    b) In the event that you continue to make use of their services, ensure that you adequately inform them of the requirements set out in the WASPA Code of Conduct and ensure that they agree to be bound by them;

    c) Review your current contractual arrangements with your Affiliate Marketing Suppliers to ensure that they are contractually bound to adhere to specific requirements and provide for any situation where they are in breach of the agreement;

    d) Implement internal compliance policies to monitor these (and other) sites to ensure that only compliant marketing assets are being utilised;

    1. Monitor these sites to ensure that your services are not linked to non-compliant Affiliate Marketing campaigns.


    1. WASPA hereby formally notifies all members about the listed sites where non-compliant Affiliate Marketing advertisements have been identified;

    2. Please note: any complaint submitted by a consumer will still follow the procedure as set out in the WASPA Code of Conduct and this notice has no relevance to those matters;

    3. Therefore, the members are provided with an opportunity to remove all non-compliant Affiliate Marketing campaigns and/or services during this period;

    4. Any breach or non-compliant activity on these sites will be dealt with according to the WASPA Code of Conduct and relevant internal procedures.


    Non-compliant Affiliate Marketing has caused severe damage to South African industry. WASPA request all members to participate in this exercise as a starting point to find a workable solution to the immediate problem. The goal is to work with WASPA members to address non-compliant Affiliate Marketing.

    The list focuses on sites where Affiliate Marketing is being used to promote adult services. The list is not exhaustive, and WASPA will add sites as they are found and inform members accordingly.

    Non-compliant non-adult Affiliate Marketing is being investigated and a similar list will be provided to members in due course for review and to take the necessary action.



  • Avatar
    txtNation Support

    Example Web Billing Call to Action



    Full Terms and Conditions Requirements

    As per section 5.8 of the Code of Conduct - The full terms and conditions page of each service, must include the following points:

    (a) a customer support number;

    (b) unsubscribe instructions (for subscription services);

    (c) any handset compatibility requirements for the service;

    (d) an indication that network fees may apply;

    (e) an indication of how billing errors are handled;

    (f) a statement that the service must only be used with the permission 

    of the bill-payer (for services);

    (g) a statement that the service must only be used with the permission 

    of a parent or guardian (for children's services); and

    (h) Description of the service



    Common Issues found when reviewing promotions:

    • No terms and conditions 

    • Terms and conditions do not contain contact numbers and are not specific to the service being offered.

    • Subscription details are not clearly stated (e.g. Subscription: 6za/SMS / daily (1 content every days)).

    • Different provider names are mentioned and is not clear to readers.

    • Missing a description of what content is being provided.

    • The text states 18+. There are strict guidelines regarding Adult Content and will affect the outcome of the approval process (see above).

    • The shortcode for unsubscribing is not stated.

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