Carriers and service providers

Prepaid mobiles

New rules streamline identity checking

Industry and consumers are set to benefit from new streamlined identity-checking requirements for prepaid mobile services, following the introduction of new rules by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The requirements are effective immediately.

‘The new methods will enable verification by the mobile provider itself at the time the service is activated, instead of identity checking by third parties at the store front,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

The new Determination allows mobile providers to verify a person’s identity information from a range of new methods, including confirmation of an existing post-paid account and from the government online verification service.

Use of the new government e-verification system is expected to be implemented within the next year or so. Once in place, the changes are expected to reduce transaction costs per verification.

‘The changes remove the need for a consumer to provide personal information twice—at the time of sale and when activating the service online or over the phone. It is also expected the new options for identity verification will provide greater efficiencies and reduced transaction costs for industry.’

The new methods were developed through an industry and government working group.

A key objective of the new rules is protecting the privacy of individuals by requiring that mobile providers only obtain the minimum amount of information reasonably necessary to verify identity. Personal data is becoming a key asset in the digital economy and the protection of it is crucial to maintaining trust and confidence between mobile providers and consumers. An industry oriented video explaining the changes, and other materials, can be found on the ACMA website here. Consumer information can be found here.

At June 2012, there were an estimated 30.2 million mobile services in Australia, of which 11.6 million were prepaid mobile services.

For more information visit or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or

MR83/2013 - 1 November


The ACMA has made 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).

The Determination revoked and replaced 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.

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 (law enforcement agencies) to obtain information about the identity of customers, where needed, for the purposes of their investigations. Accurate information from customers of prepaid services also assists timely responses by emergency service organisations (police, fire and ambulance services) to Triple Zero emergency calls from prepaid services.

Purpose of the Determination

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 law enforcement agencies by:
    • introducing a range of new methods which can be used to verify the identity of purchasers and service activators; and yet
    • satisfies the collection of information that would assist law enforcement 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.

Key changes

The key changes in the new Determination include:

  • Allowing mobile providers to verify a person’s identity information through a range of new methods.
  • Introducing special exemptions from the identity-checking requirements during emergencies, such as bush fires. These exemptions are intended to allow individuals who are adversely affected by an emergency to have access to prepaid mobile services, as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • Clarifying the restrictions on the recording and copying of certain information, such as government identity documents. The Determination prohibits carriage service providers (CSPs) from recording the identifying number of a government document (such as passport or driver licence) used in the verification process. They can only use the information to check that the document is valid against a secure database.

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

The Determination allows industry to adopt the new methods or continue with the current time of sale arrangements for a period of time, pending review of the Determination in two years.

Customers who are unable to, or prefer not to use the new online methods to purchase prepaid mobile services still have the option of showing identification at the CSP’s shopfront.

A summary of the identity verification methods under the Determination is provided in this table:

Methods of verifying identity

New or previous method

Verifying the details of government-issued documents using government online verification services

(There could be significant lead-time for those CSPs adopting this new method because of the IT, security and other requirements that need to be met in order to access government online verification services.)


Confirming the existence of:

  • an Australian financial account (credit/debit card) or
  • a trusted email address (, or
  • an existing post-paid account (e.g. Broadband Internet)


Using a signed courier delivery to customer’s address


Collecting and, if required, sighting identification at the CSP’s or a third party retailer’s shop front (this is the time of sale method)

From 2000 Determination

Alternative arrangements approved by the ACMA on application by the CSP (no alternative compliance plans approved to date)

From 2000 Determination

Prepaid mobile services

Prepaid mobile phone services enable users to pay in advance for the cost of their mobile phone calls. As credit is reduced, the user then has the option of purchasing another prepaid service or recharging their existing prepaid service through the purchase of further credit.

The alternative to pre-payment is post-payment, which typically involves a fixed-term contract with bills being sent to the customer at regular intervals in the same way as for most fixed line phones.

Telecommunications Law

Part 14 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 requires carriers and CSPs to provide assistance to law enforcement and national security agencies. A vital part of each carrier or CSP’s preparations to assist law enforcement agencies is to maintain accurate records of their customers’ personal details.

Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 is directed to protecting the confidentiality of personal information held by service providers. The disclosure or use of such information is prohibited except in limited circumstances such as for purposes relating to the enforcement of criminal law.

The ACMA regulates and monitors industry’s compliance with the requirements set out in the Determination. Non-compliance is a civil penalty provision under the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Last updated: 05 March 2014

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