Upstream, MTN and WASPA Team up to Protect South Africa’s Mobile Ecosystem from Misleading Ads

Mobile marketing tech firm Upstream and mobile operator MTN have ramped up their fight against mobile-based fraud, announcing a deal with the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) of South Africa that will provide further protection for users engaging with mobile apps.

MTN has been using Upstream’s marketing automation platform security feature, Secure-D, in South Africa since 2018 to defend users against unwanted premium digital subscriptions. Cooperation with WASPA further enhances consumer protection by deploying Upstream’s Ad Monitoring solution to guard against misleading adverts and services and ensuring that all mobile app service providers are aligned to the Association’s Code of Conduct.

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The Code of Conduct sets requirements for the provision of services and strict privacy and confidentiality stipulations to ensure that the public can use mobile services with confidence, assured that they will be provided with accurate information about all services and their pricing. It also aims to provide consumers with a mechanism for addressing any concerns or complaints relating to services provided by WASPA members.

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. This will ensure that all app and content service providers adhere to the WASPA Code and MTN’s business rules.

“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 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 has reached new heights and there are no signs that this will taper off making regulating the provision of mobile applications and services more important than ever.

“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 Upstream’s Ad Monitoring solution, MTN organised the collaboration between Upstream and WASPA to take it one step further.”

Probert believes that MTN’s 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.

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“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.