[LINK] mobile premium services - new code

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Wed May 20 10:39:55 AEST 2009

New rules bring premium SMS services to heel

Phillip Hudson
May 19, 2009

MOBILE phone users will be told the true cost of "premium" message 
services under sweeping new rules from July 1 that aim to prevent 
teenagers running up huge bills.

Suppliers of the premium content, which includes ring tones, games, 
chat lines, voting for reality TV shows, sports scores, novelties and 
adult content, will face fines of up to $250,000 if they fail to 
comply with the new code announced yesterday by the Australian 
Communications and Media Authority.

Premium message services use a 19-number and can typically cost as 
much as $5 a message, compared with up to 25 cents for a standard SMS.

Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reached 3000 
a month last year and a study by the Ombudsman found one disputed 
bill as high as $2325. One in five complaints was about bills worth 
more than $100.

More than 90 per cent of people said they did not knowingly sign up 
to subscription services and 55 per cent said they had been 
unsuccessful in trying to cancel the messages.

Teenagers and young adults are among the most frequent users of these services.

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said the new rules were 
a warning to the mobile phone industry to purge misleading practices.

"Providers must ensure better protection and complaint handling 
procedures for consumers," Mr Conroy said.

A new "double opt-in" clause will be used to deal with the central 
problem of unauthorised or inadvertent purchases leading to large 
bills. It will require mobile phone users to provide two independent 
confirmations when joining a service.

Customers must be told how much messages and services will cost and 
whether it is one-off or a subscription.

The new rules also:

ban advertising premium messages to children under 15;

require an alert with the sign "$MSG" to precede any content charged 
at a rate higher than a standard SMS;

give customers a monthly SMS alert about the services they have 
signed up to and an alert whenever they spend $30 or more on a service;

set a one-day limit for requests to unsubscribe from a service to be met;

prevent charges for services from accruing after the credit on a 
prepaid account has been used;

force content suppliers to provide a business hours helpline for customers;

require all providers to be registered and rogue operators banned.

The authority chairman, Chris Chapman, said the mandatory code, 
developed by the industry, would be enforced by rigorous monitoring.

 From July 1 next year, mobile phone companies will also be required 
to give customers the option to bar premium message services on all 
phone plans.

Telstra already allows customers to bar premium SMS and has moved to 
introduce monthly spending limits. The company has also suspended 
some SMS providers with unacceptably high numbers of complaints about 
their services.

The Communications Alliance, which includes phone companies, 
manufacturers, service providers and consultants, said the new code 
would increase confidence in mobile phone services.

"Consumers can be secure in the knowledge that the standards and 
protections outlined in the code are mandatory and will be enforced," 
the chief executive of the alliance, Anne Hurley, said.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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