8 March 2007
ACMA permits additional services on the directory assistance number 12 23
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has amended the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 to allow additional services on the directory assistance number 12 23, including national and international operator-connected calls and other operator services.
‘These changes give phone companies the opportunity to develop innovative value-added services for their customers, while continuing to provide safeguards around the traditional free directory assistance service for fixed phone customers, which continues to be very important for many Australians,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.
Currently the 12 23 number is specified for use as a shared number for directory assistance services. The new arrangements will allow phone companies to also use this number to offer additional related services. It will be a commercial matter for phone companies as to whether to provide chargeable optional services on 12 23. It is expected that providers will notify their customers if and when they are made available.
Telstra has traditionally used the number to enable its customer base to receive directory assistance services, which are subject to price control arrangements set by government. ACMA’s primary objective has been to, and continues to be to, maintain the integrity and prime availability of these arrangements.
Under the amendment to the Numbering Plan, Telstra, which is the only carriage service provider currently subject to those pricing arrangements, will provide for ACMA’s approval an Implementation Operation Plan to ensure that free directory assistance will remain accessible to its customers when additional, optional services are offered on 12 23. Providers will be required to notify their customers of additional charges before optional services are offered.
In particular the Implementation Operation Plan will require Telstra to undertake a consultation process with appropriate consumer groups before any optional services are offered.
ACMA will publish guidelines for the preparation of the plan to assist Telstra in meeting its obligations. The guidelines will also provide further details of ACMA’s policy in respect to the delivery of optional services on 12 23.
A copy of the variation and guidelines can be obtained at ACMA’s website or by calling (03) 9963 6727.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
ACMA manages and administers the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (the Numbering Plan), which sets out the framework and rules for the specification of numbers in connection with the supply of carriage services in Australia.
The telephone number 12 23 is a special services number presently specified in the Numbering Plan exclusively for directory assistance service. In addition, 12 23 is a ‘shared number,’ which can be used by all carriage service providers to provide directory assistance services. The service offered on 12 23 is the means by which carriage service providers (CSPs) meet their obligations under Part 3 of Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 to provide directory assistance services to customers of their standard telephone services.
‘Directory assistance service’ is not defined in the Numbering Plan. It is defined in the Act as services that are:
- provided to an end-user of a standard telephone to help the end-user find the number of another end-user of a standard telephone service; and
- provided by an operator or by means of:
- an automated voice response system; or
- another technology based system.
ACMA has amended the Numbering Plan so that 12 23 can now be used in connection with the supply of a directory assistance service and, under certain conditions, optional services. These conditions will apply to calls to 12 23 from services subject to the price control arrangement pursuant to Part 9 of the Telecommunication (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. In such cases, permission will be subject to ACMA’s approval of an Implementation Operation Plan submitted by a CSP wishing to provide optional services on 12 23.
The plan will contain comprehensive details of the services that a CSP proposes to offer on 12 23. In particular, ACMA must be satisfied that the CSP wishing to offer optional services on 12 23 has arrangements in place to ensure that:
- the applicant will continue to supply DAS when 12 23 is also used to supply optional services;
- the supply of optional services on 12 23 will not diminish access to, or the supply of, DAS; and
- consumers will be adequately informed about the availability of the optional service and any applicable charges.
There are no changes to the existing directory assistance service offered on 12 23. The current policy on the provision of directory assistance on 12 23 and the charging limitation imposed upon that service has not been altered by the variation. The Numbering Plan presently supports the Government’s commitment to directory assistance service by limiting charges for directory assistance on 12 23. Therefore, call charges to directory assistance on 12 23 remain subject to the low charge amount as provided for in Schedule 4 of the Numbering Plan. Any service offered in addition to directory assistance service is subject to a separate and distinct charge.
At present, additional operator services such as through connection services are provided for on the national and international operator connected call service associated with the number 12 34, and the operator service associated with the prefixes 124 and 125. Additional operator services such as through connection services will now be permitted on 12 23 under certain conditions.