- The regulatory environment
- ID checks for pre-paid mobile services regulation
- Discussion paper - Improving the ID check processes
- Other information
The Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) is the primary legislative instrument for the telecommunications industry. It imposes a range of obiligations on carriers and carriage service providers (CSPs), including internet service providers, and requires ACMA to monitor compliance with those obligations.
Part 4 of Schedule 2 to the Act requires that CSPs contribute to the populating and maintenance of the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), an industry wide database of all listed and unlisted public telephone numbers.
The IPND is managed by Telstra as a condition of its carrier licence. It contains customer data including public numbers and associated information such as the customer’s name and address and the name of the service provider providing the carriage service. This data may only be accessed and used for certain ‘approved purposes’ such as providing directory services, producing public number directories, and assisting law enforcement agencies or emergency service organisations.
The Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2002, an ACMA Determination made under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 which supports the operation of the 000 emergency call service, requires CSPs to ensure that the IPND Manager receives correct information about their customers.
Part 14 of the Act requires carriers and CSPs to provide assistance to law enforcement and national security agencies. A vital part of each carrier or carriage service provider’s preparations to assist law enforcement agencies is to maintain accurate records of their customers’ personal details.
The Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Pre-paid Public Mobile Telecommunications Services) Determination 2000 (the Determination) was made under subsection 99(1) of the Act and sets out rules that apply to CSPs in relation to the supply of pre-paid public mobile telecommunications services.
Since 1997, the Determination has provided for a point-of-sale process that requires CSPs to collect information about purchasers of pre-paid services at the time the service is purchased, prior to its activation. CSPs are then required, for all purchases made other than by credit or debit card, to verify the person’s identity by viewing identifying documents such as passports or birth certificates.
The Determination provides for three alternative methods of identity checking:
- a point-of-sale process that requires carriage service providers to collect information about purchasers of pre-paid services, including name and address, at the time the pre-paid service is purchased; or
- a post-sale process that requires carriage service providers to verify collected identity information against a database or from documents seen by the carriage service provider; or
- a process whereby a carriage service provider could comply with an ACMA-approved compliance plan.
Accurate information about customers of pre-paid services supports law enforcement and national security agencies in their investigations and assists timely responses by emergency service organisations (i.e. police, fire and ambulance services) to emergency 000 calls from pre-paid services.
Information relating to Compliance with identity check process for pre-paid mobile phone services is also available on the ACMA website.
In March 2006, the ACMA released a discussion paper: Improving Identity Check Processes for Pre-paid Mobile Services (the discussion paper), as some stakeholders had raised concerns about the current regime
The changes proposed in the discussion paper involve a shift away from identity checking by third party dealers and agents at the point of sale to verification by the service provider itself. The proposal suggested in the Discussion Paper was to provide a single, flexible identity verification process to replace the three alternative processes currently allowed under the Determination.
The ACMA sought submissions from interested parties in response to the proposals in the discussion paper. The ACMA is approaching this process with an open mind and sees the submission process as an opportunity to gather as much information as possible from a broad range of sources regarding concerns that may exist about the current regime and how to improve it.
The ACMA is considering these submissions and will decide on an appropriate way forward in coming months.
Twenty four (24) submissions were received from a range of contributors. Some of the submissions received contain confidential information and, therefore, cannot be published on this website.
- Attorney-General's Department
- Australian Consumers' Association
- Australian Communications Industry Forum
- Australian Federal Police
- Australian Federal Police - Telecommunications Interception Division
- Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA)
- Australian Privacy Foundation
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
- Consumers' Telecommunications Network
- Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority
- Dr Gordon Gow
- New South Wales Crime Commission
- New South Wales Police - Telecommunications Interception Branch
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner
- Victoria Police
- Virgin Mobile
- Vodafone Australia
A study on privacy rights and prepaid communication services was completed recently by Dr. Gordon Gow, Research Associate at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The study specifically looks at policy surrounding identity checks and prepaid phones from countries in the OECD, including Australia. The report from this study can be viewed here.
Background research and documents related to the study can be found here.