Press release: ISPA Code of Conduct pays off for industry, Internet users

Published on: 2010-05-03

Return to press release index

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) has reported that the vast majority (about 93%) of its members are now 100% compliant with its Code of Conduct. It has also revealed that it has managed to mediate amicable resolutions between consumers and members in most cases where consumers have lodged complaints under the Code.

The information is disclosed in a report that ISPA prepared for the Minister of Communications in line with its obligations as an Industry Representative Body (IRB), as defined in the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.

The ISPA Code of Conduct lays down stringent guidelines for the ethics and behaviour expected from members. The high levels of 100% compliance with the Code among ISPA members, as outlined in the report to the Minister, shows that the Code has real teeth and is taken seriously by ISPA members.

“Our report to the Minister shows that ISPA is doing an effective job of self-regulation for the industry through its Code of Conduct,” said Ant Brooks, ISPA General Manager.

“The Code of Conduct protects the interests of consumers and the industry in a balanced way and is in line with the best practices for ISP ethics and behaviour in the world,” said Brooks.

According to the ISPA Code of Conduct, a service provider must investigate any complaint made in accordance with the Code of Conduct, unless the complaint is frivolous, unreasonable, vexatious or in bad faith.

“What this means for consumers is that they have peace of mind when dealing with an ISPA member,” Brooks added. “If your service provider is an ISPA member, it has agreed to meet certain standards in terms of ethics, behaviour and service levels,” said Brooks. “All formal complaints about members that allegedly infringe the Code are investigated thoroughly.”

During the course of 2009, ISPA invested a considerable amount of effort in encouraging all 158 of ISPA’s members (at the time the report was written) to become 100% compliant with the requirements of the Code of Conduct. At the time the report was written, 142 were rated as 100% compliant; of the rest, six were new members, and most of the others were well on their way to 100% compliance.

According to the report, ISPA received 46 take-down notifications (requests for the removal of illegal Web content eg infringements of privacy or copyright) during 2009. Of these, 30 were accepted as valid complaints about ISPA members. For 26 of these notices, the content was removed or blocked either by the ISP’s client, or by the ISP.

During 2009, 79 Code of Conduct complaints were lodged with ISPA about issues ranging from billing disputes and service level problems through to privacy infringement, domain name complaint and security concerns. Of these, 11 were rejected because the target of the complaint was not a member of ISPA or because the complainant did not provide adequate information.

Nearly half the complaints accepted were resolved amicably between the service provider and the complainant and an additional 20 complaints appear to have been informally resolved. Only six complaints were referred to formal adjudication, and of these, only two were upheld by an independent adjudicator.

To highlight a few clauses from the Code of Conduct, ISPA expects its members to:

– Respect the constitutional right of Internet users to personal privacy and privacy of communications. Respect the confidentiality of customers’ personal information and electronic communications. They may not gather, retain, sell or distribute this information to any other party without the written consent of the customer unless required to do so by law.

– Have prominent links to ISPA’s Code of Conduct on their websites and include Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) documents on their websites.

– Refrain from sending unsolicited bulk email and take reasonable measures to ensure that their networks are not used by others for spamming. They must also provide a facility for dealing with complaints about spam originating from their networks.

– Provide clear and accurate pricing information to current and potential customers. Take all reasonable measures to prevent unauthorised access to, interception of, or interference with any data on their networks and under their control.

– Take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not offer paid content subscription services to minors without written permission from a parent or guardian.

Further Information

For further information, please contact the ISPA secretariat on the Contact ISPA page.