What is direct carrier billing?
Direct carrier billing (DCB) is a service that allows you to make content purchases (for example, apps, games and entertainment) on a mobile device or network-connected tablet without the need to enter your bank details. It is also known as ‘premium direct billing’, ‘direct operator billing’ or ‘direct account billing’.
These types of purchases are charged directly to your mobile account and displayed under ‘content charges’ or ‘third-party purchases’ on your bill. Additional information about the purchase date, time, cost and third party provider’s contact information should also be listed on the bill.
There are two types of content purchases, those that involve a one-off content charge (non-subscription), such as to download a game, or those that charge on an ongoing basis (subscription), such as to receive daily horoscopes.
How does the DCB service differ to other online purchases?
If you make a purchase using DCB you won’t need to enter your bank account details through the traditional payment gateway process. Instead, your mobile provider will disclose some of your personal information, including your mobile phone number, to the third-party provider selling the content, to enable that third party to provide you with the content. Your mobile provider pays the third party provider, and then charges you for the content purchase
All content charges are set by the third-party provider supplying the content, and charged to you via your mobile provider.
When you go to download a game or make a music purchase using DCB, you will be presented with the purchase terms and conditions. Read carefully as this may be in very small writing, and will explain important information, such as if you are signing up to a subscription or one-off purchase. You will then be asked to agree to the content purchase by selecting a ‘buy now’, ‘purchase now’ or ‘subscribe now’ prompt. Once selected, you should receive a text message confirming the purchase. This message should provide a description of the service, pricing, how to stop the service and a contact phone number.
What options are available to consumers?
If you want to use DCB but you are worried about overspending, you can always request your mobile provider to apply a limit to your monthly spending.
The availability and arrangements relating to DCB services vary between mobile providers. Both Telstra and Optus allow their pre-paid and post-paid customers to use DCB (with preset limits that can be adjusted by the customer).
If you don’t want to use DCB, you can ask your mobile provider to disable it, or for access to be barred to DCB on your mobile.
Some telecommunications providers automatically enable DCB for new mobile customers. So while it can be convenient for some consumers to use DCB, you may also need to be careful not to overspend on your monthly limits or not to accidentally make any purchases.
This could be as easy as a child inadvertently making an in-app game purchase while they are playing a game. All that could be required is 1-2 clicks from a banner advertisement that has appeared on the screen.
How to manage your purchases
- If you are worried about over-spending, ask your mobile provider to put a limit on your monthly spending.
- Regularly monitor charges by carefully reviewing your bill (pre-paid customers can log in to view their account via their mobile providers portal).
- Familiarise yourself with the purchasing terms and conditions. This will help you understand pricing and whether a purchase is set as an ongoing subscription or a one-off content purchase.
And remember, if you don’t want to use DCB, you can always ask your mobile provider to disable it.
Where to go for help
In the first instance, contact the third party provider named on your mobile bill to see if you can find a resolution. If you have trouble contacting the third party provider, you should contact your mobile provider and if your issue is not resolved, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on 1800 062 058 or http://www.tio.com.au.
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