Premium services give access to content or payment services via fixed line or mobile phone. Generally, these services are charged at a higher rate than a local call or standard text message.
There are two regulatory codes of practice regulating premium services in Australia. Which code of practice applies to your situation depends on the type of services you use. This is governed by the telephone number the service uses to provide their services.
Mobile premium services
Short message services (SMS) and multimedia messaging services (MMS) services that 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 (the ACMA) strategy for protecting consumers of premium SMS and MMS aims to address community concerns about the unexpected costs of these 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
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 started 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.
Premium SMS and MMS suppliers who don’t 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
Premium voice, video and fax back services
Voice calls, video calls and fax back services use numbers with the prefix 190. Calls to these services can be via a fixed line service or your mobile phone. These services are regulated under the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).