Mobile industry groups introduce new consumer protection measures for premium rate mobile services

Members of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) are introducing new consumer safeguards to help protect young consumers from accessing inappropriate content on mobile phones.

They will also implement a scheme to ensure that consumers are informed of the costs associated with premium rate mobile services and of the mechanism to cancel any subscription service.

The introduction of these new consumer safeguards is in line with today’s release of the Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No.1) by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA). Both ADMA, representing the mobile content providers, and AMTA, representing mobile carriage service providers, have worked closely with the ACA throughout the development of the Determination to ensure the most effective regime is put in place.

The Determination introduces high-level obligations that will require carriage service providers and content service providers to introduce consumer protection measures when offering premium mobile services. In conjunction with this, the industry has been developing the complementary Mobile Premium Services Industry Scheme that will give practical effect to the Determination.

Specific elements of the Mobile Premium Services Industry Scheme include:

  • a “stop” command which will ensure that consumers can quickly unsubscribe from a premium messaging service;
  • the inclusion of clear cost information associated with services;
  • a pre-assessment system for premium mobile content to ensure it is rated in accordance with existing community expectations;
  • robust access controls and age verification processes to ensure that age-restricted content is only available to people aged over 18 years who request access;
  • safety measures to protect young people accessing chat rooms from any illegal activities by other chat room users;
  • effective procedures to ensure that, as necessary, material is removed in a timely manner.
  • rules about the information provided to customers for subscription services (eg: ringtones)

Age-restricted premium messaging services will not be available until the industry and regulators ensure that all consumer protection measures are in place.

The introduction of the ACA Determination, along with the supporting Mobile Premium Services Industry Scheme, will help ensure a high level of consumer protection, particularly in relation to the protection of children and the sustainable development of new content services. The two Associations believe that taking a responsible approach to the delivery of new content and mobile services is essential to ensure that public trust and confidence in mobile services is maintained.

Copies of the ACA Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No.1) can be obtained by visiting: www.aca.gov.au

 

To arrange an interview please contact:

ADMA – Lara Shannon on 03 9592 4001, 0415 076 015 or lara.shannon@adma.com.au

AMTA – Randal Markey on 02 6239 6555, 0421 240 550 or randal.markey@amta.org.au

EDITORS’ NOTES

(1) Specific issues covered in the Determination include:

a.     The requirement for a pre-assessment system for premium mobile content that meets community values and expectations. This will use a similar classification system to that currently used by the film and games industries, ensuring that content available on mobiles is consistent with the standards expected and enjoyed by the community in other mediums. The classification of mobile content will have three ratings: Unrestricted (G/ PG/ M); Restricted (MA15+/R); Prohibited (X/RC).

  • “Restricted” content (MA15+/R –rated material) will only be available to consumers aged 18 or over who specifically request access.
  • Fifteen, 16 and 17 year-olds will not have access to MA15+ material on mobile phones.
  • “Prohibited” content (X/RC-rated material) is banned from mobiles.

b.    The requirement to have effective take-down procedures in place to ensure that material of a questionable    nature can be removed in a timely and effective manner.

c.     The requirement for mobile carriers to have robust access controls and age verification mechanisms to   ensure age-restricted content is supplied only to adults who request to receive it. This includes:

  • An opt-in requirement for all customers. This means access to ‘Restricted’ content (MA15+/R) will be blocked by default until they opt-in. This will ensure that restricted content will be available only to customers aged 18 and over who have requested access to these services and have satisfied age verification processes.

d.     A requirement that all premium messaging services rated MA15+ or R are only supplied on telephone numbers beginning with 195 or 196 to ensure it can be easily recognised by the consumer.

e.     A requirement for companies running unrestricted chat services to implement safety measures to protect children accessing the chat rooms from illegal activities by others using the services.

f.     The establishment of a framework for protecting consumers from unscrupulous practices in relation to advertising and supply of mobile premium services.

g.     The requirement for a complaints-handling mechanism giving customers, who believe their complaints have not been properly addressed by their carrier or service provider, access to an independent complaints-handling body. (Note: consumers wishing to complain should contact their carrier in the first instance).

(2) The Telephone Information Services Standards Council (TISCC) has also been working with both ADMA and AMTA to develop industry measures relating to premium mobile services and will soon introduce its own Code of Practice addressing these issues.