Premium services provide access to various types of content or payment services via fixed line or mobile phone. Generally, these services are charged at a higher rate than the cost of a local call or standard text message.
There are two regulatory codes of practice which regulate premium services in Australia. Which code of practice applies to your situation will depend upon the type of services you use and this is governed by the telephone number the service uses to provide their services.
The ACMA offers a range of information on mobile premium services including:
- Mobile premium service fact sheet- industry (including the ACMA service provider determinations)
- Mobile premium services fact sheet – consumers
- Tips to avoid problems with mobile premium services
- Resolving issues with mobile premium service - useful links
- Mobile premium services code investigation reports
- ACMA directions about compliance (Section 121)
Mobile premium services
SMS or MMS-based services which use numbers with the prefixes 191, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197 and 199 are subject to a code of practice called the Mobile Premium Services Code C637:2011.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority strategy for protecting consumers of premium short message services (SMS) and MMS raises the bar in addressing consumer and community concerns about some industry practices concerning mobile premium services. In particular the strategy aims to address community concerns about the unexpected costs of some premium SMS and MMS services.
The package of measures, developed in consultation with the telecommunications industry and consumers, includes:
- ACMA service provider determinations which legislatively mandate specific consumer protections;
- registration of the industry-developed Mobile Premium Services Code; and
- a coherent and comprehensive compliance monitoring framework, backed by legislative compliance enforcement measures.
The ACMA service provider determinations:
- Require mobile carriers to provide the option of barring premium SMS and MMS services on all plans from 1 July 2010. This gives consumers a choice to block such services;
- Require all content providers be registered with Communications Alliance, the industry body responsible for the Mobile Premium Services Code;
- Prevent mobile carriers from contracting with content suppliers who are not on the industry register, thereby preventing the supply of those services to the Australian market; and
- Allow the ACMA to order mobile carriage service providers to not bill customers for services provided by content suppliers who breach the Mobile Premium Services Code in a manner which causes significant consumer detriment.
The ACMA commenced a review of the two mobile premium services determinations on 10 November 2011. A consultation paper was released inviting written submissions by Thursday 22 December 2011. Further information on the review is available at the ACMA’s Issues for comment page.
The Mobile Premium Services Code sets out detailed rules covering a range of important matters including procedures to be followed for subscribing to premium SMS services (including a ‘double opt-in’ requirement); the banning of advertisements targeted at children under 15; strict rules about how advertisements (and charges) are displayed; and improved complaints handling obligations of companies supplying premium SMS services.
The Communications Alliance commenced a review of the Mobile Premium Services Code C637:2009 on 5 July 2010. Public consultation on the draft code concluded on 7 October 2011. The new Mobile Premium Services Code C637:2011 was registered by the ACMA on 29 February 2012. The new code maintains established safeguards from the 2009 code, provides some additional new safeguards and clarifies some of the existing requirements. The new 2011 code commenced on 1 June 2012.
Premium SMS and MMS suppliers who fail to comply with the rules run the risk of penalties of up to $250,000 in the case of a breach of the code or $10 million in the case of a breach of an ACMA service provider determination.
If you have a complaint about a premium SMS or MMS service and have not been able to resolve the matter with the service provider, contact your phone company. If the matter remains unresolved, you can lodge a complaint with an appropriate agency.