Regulator Cracks Down On Premium Mobile Services

smsaargh1From the beginning of July, new and more stringent rules will be applied to 'premium' SMS services (that's the dodgy ones that advertise on TV and like to set up recurrent billing in the fine print) by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). However, there's plenty you can do to avoid getting rorted by such services right now.

From July 1, ACMA will have new legislative powers that enable it to stop dodgy operators from continuing their services, require all providers to be registered, and require all carriers to allow the option of blocking premium services on all plans. The most welcome feature of this package will be a double opt-in provision, meaning that it will be harder to "accidentally" sign up for a subscription service, as two separate confirmations will be required.

In Lifehacker's humble view, there's not much on offer from premium SMS that you can't get better and freer online, with the possible exception of voting in TV talent shows. If you are tempted to sign up, check out ACMA's guidelines for avoiding problems. They're mostly common sense, but we have to remember that hormonally-oversurging teenagers are sometimes involved. If you're trying to work out which particular service an item on your bill comes from, check out previously mentioned 19 SMS.

Tips to avoid problems with premium SMS/MMS services [ACMA]


Comments

    Not that it's a bad thing for the rouges to be reined in, but these changes are nothing more than pandering to Senator Conroy's 'Tough on Everything' stance.

    As per usual, the efforts are misdirected. The biggest bug-bear with premium SMS services is complaint levels. All the recent changes in guidelines are aimed squarely at the content providers, without any interest in the true origin of most consumer complaints.

    This can be levelled fairly and squarely at Telstra.

    Telstra have a 16% marketshare in Premium SMS yet their customers are responsible for over 50% of complaints.

    This is down to two factors:

    1) Telstra's sub-par customer service
    2) Telstra's sub-par network protocols for handling SMS communication on their gateway.

    Telstra's own representatives have admitted that they do not and will not use tools provided by the industry to discover the owners of shortcodes. As rightly pointed out in this post, 19SMS provides detailed information on how to contact shortcode owners. Telstra staff frequently tell customers to simply take it up with the TIO - which wrongly inflates statistics as the TIO are not supposed to become involved until *after* an attempt at resolution has been made with the service provider. Many times the SP never even hears from the customer before receiving a TIO complaint forwarded from Telstra. Telstra's bills are confusing and do not list the data needed to identify service providers.

    2) Telstra's ageing infrastructure means that many, many messages fail to make it through their gateway. A recent analysis was done of instances where customers claimed they had sent in 'STOP' to a service but where that message was never received. In over 94% of cases, customers claiming that stop was sent in were on the Telstra network. This from a company with just 16% market share.

    As someone from within the industry I don't expect our services to garner much sympathy. There are too many dodgy operators out there and they should be reined in.

    However, you simply cannot determine who they are until the industry is rid of the complaint 'noise' generated by Telstra. Once they've been brought to heel then we can truly find out who's not playing nice - and I guarantee that the truly legit players in the industry, the ones who follow the guidelines and maintain their own customer care; they'll welcome the shutting down of the rogues.

    19sms is good if you are on a plan but what about prepaid? If someone takes your phone to sms something on tv you are left without any clue to what is eating up your credit.

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