The ACMA

My mobile world

Prepaid mobiles

ID checks for prepaid mobiles

The regulatory environment

The ACMA makes the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013 (the Determination) under subsection 99(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Telecommunications Act).

Subsection 99(1) of the Act provides that the ACMA may make written determinations setting out rules that apply to service providers in relation to the supply of specified carriage services or content services, which are called service provider determinations. Subsection 99(3) of the Telecommunications Act provides that the ACMA must not make a service provider determination unless the determination relates to a matter specified in the regulations or in section 346 (which relates to disaster plans).

The relevant enabling regulations are the Telecommunications Regulations 2001 (the Telecommunications Regulations). The Telecommunications Regulations were amended by the Telecommunications Amendment Regulation 2012 (No.2) in December 2012 primarily to:

  • allow the ACMA to introduce new ways in which the identity of a customer of a prepaid mobile carriage service can be verified; and
  • provide the ACMA with a greater degree of discretion in the matters to which a service provider determination can relate.

The Determination revokes and replaces the Telecommunications (Service Provider - Identity Checks for Pre-paid Public Mobile Telecommunications Services) Determination 2000 (the 2000 Determination) with modifications to improve the arrangements for the identity-checking of customers of prepaid mobile carriage services.

Background

Identity-checking requirements for customers of prepaid mobile carriage services were first introduced in 1997 to prevent the anonymous use of such services and to allow law enforcement and national security agencies (the relevant agencies) to obtain information about the identity of customers, where needed, for the purposes of their investigations.

Making the 2013 determination

Before the Determination was made, carriage service providers (CSPs) and third party retailers of the services checked the identity of a customer at the time of sale, primarily using a paper form, in accordance with the 2000 Determination.

Industry and the relevant agencies had long standing concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of those arrangements, especially in relation to the cost of the processes and the quality of the information obtained. Privacy concerns had also been expressed about customers having to provide the same personal information twice, and the risk of loss or mishandling of personal information through the use of paper forms and the provision of identification in a retail context.

Purpose

The purpose of the Determination is to:

  • ensure that there are more efficient and streamlined identity-checking processes for industry and more accurate information is obtained for the relevant agencies by:
    • introducing a range of new methods which can be used to verify the identity of purchasers and service activators; and
    • requiring the collection of information that would assist the relevant agencies in their investigations;
  • enhance the privacy protections afforded to purchasers and service activators by:
    • providing them with a range of choices about how their identity can be verified; and
    • imposing restrictions on the collection, recording and copying of personal information in the identity-checking process.

Consultation on draft 2013 determination

The new methods of identity verification introduced by the Determination were developed as part of a working group led by the Department. The working group included representatives from the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, Telstra, Optus, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, the Attorney-General’s Department, the relevant agencies, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the ACMA.

On 13 May 2013, the ACMA released a consultation paper attaching a draft version of the Telecommunications (Service Provider - Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013 (draft Determination) for public comment. The consultation paper sought submissions from interested parties on the key proposed changes under the draft Determination, including the new methods of identity verification.

The ACMA received submissions from industry participants (including mobile carriers), the relevant agencies, other government agencies (including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), consumer advocacy groups and other interested parties.

Submissions were generally supportive of the proposed rules set out in the draft Determination, including an activation-based identity-checking process.

The key issues to emerge from the consultation process related to:

  • the need for a privacy impact assessment;
  • provisional activation of services in certain circumstances;
  • obtaining additional information about exempt individuals where practicable;
  • the method of identity verification involving delivery by a secure courier; and
  • the definition of a prepaid mobile carriage service.

The consultation paper and submissions received are available here.

Other information

In July 2013, the ACMA engaged Integrated Information Solutions (IIS) to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment of the (draft) Determination. IIS considers that the provisions in the Determination meet its policy objectives in a way that respects privacy and reduces some privacy risks.

2014 amendment to determination

On 19 December 2014, the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Amendment Determination 2014 (No.1) (the Amendment Determination) came into effect. The Amendment Determination amends the Telecommunications (Service Provider - Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013 (the 2013 Determination).

The Amendment Determination amends the 2013 Determination to allow CSPs to use additional methods of identity verification at the time a service is activated.

Background

In moving to implement the new methods introduced by the 2013 Determination, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) identified additional methods for potential inclusion in a further revised 2013 Determination, which would allow:

  • An existing prepaid customer, who has already completed an identity check using one of the ‘time of activation’ methods introduced in the 2013 Determination, to have additional prepaid services activated without the need for identity re-verification.
  • Visual checking of identification documents at a CSP shop front where the service can be immediately activated at the shop front. This would mean that verifying identity by sighting identity documents would not be limited to when the service is initially purchased as it could be undertaken at a later time when the service is activated.

Consultation on draft 2013 determination

On 17 October 2014, the ACMA released a consultation paper attaching a draft version of the Amendment Determination for public comment. The consultation paper sought submissions from interested parties on the key proposed changes under the draft Determination, including the new methods of identity verification. The ACMA also consulted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under subsection 99(4) of the Act.

The ACMA received submissions from AMTA, Optus, the Communications Access Co-ordinator (representing the views of all Australian interception agencies and the Attorney-General’s Department), other government agencies (including the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner) and consumer advocacy groups.

Submissions were generally supportive of the proposed amendments set out in the draft Amendment Determination, although there were some suggestions that it might be preferable to revise the 2013 Determination after the proposed two year review following the making of the 2013 Determination.

The key issues to emerge from the consultation process related to:

  • whether any conditions should apply to the use of type 1 eligible prepaid mobile carriage service accounts for identity verification under Schedule 4.
  • the nature of the identity documents that could be used under the ‘visual identity document check’ method of identity verification under Schedule 4.
  • consistency between the proposed visual identity document check method and the current rules for verifying identity at the time of sale.

In response to those issues, the ACMA made further amendments to the draft Amendment Determination in consultation with relevant parties and in line with the objects of the 2013 Determination as outlined in section 2.1 of the 2013 Determination.

The consultation paper and submissions received are available here.

 

Last updated: 05 August 2016

Most commented

Most read

Back to top