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

The mobile telecommunications industry and mobile content providers today welcomed the approval of an industry scheme that introduces a range of safeguards to protect children, gives consumers clear cost information on premium mobile phone services and a “stop” command to unsubscribe.

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association Chief Executive Officer, Chris Althaus, and Australian Direct Marketing Association Chief Executive Officer, Rob Edwards, said the Mobile Premium Services Self-Regulatory Scheme would provide customers with upfront information to ensure they were informed of the costs associated with premium rate mobile services and a mechanism to cancel any subscription service.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today announced that it had approved the Mobile Premium Services Self-Regulatory Scheme. The Scheme, which was finalised after community consultation and work from the mobile carriage service providers and mobile content providers, will come into operation in 30 days.

Mr Althaus and Mr Edwards said AMTA, representing the mobile carriage service providers, and ADMA, representing the mobile content providers, had worked with the Federal Government, ACMA and various consumer groups over the past two years to introduce a range of robust consumer safeguards in relation to mobile premium services.

Mr Althaus said 3G mobile technology was providing a quantum shift in opportunities for the mobile phone industry to service customers with a rapidly expanding array of applications, services and experiences.

“This new Scheme will help ensure that customers have sufficient information, including the terms and conditions for voting and competition services, to enable them to make informed decisions about the use of mobile premium content services,” he said.

“Customers will have access to a ‘stop’ command allowing them to quickly unsubscribe from a premium content service. Any advertisement offering ‘free’ services will clearly state the terms and conditions and whether accepting it requires the customer to accept a premium-rate service.”

Mr Edwards said emerging technology presented new challenges for industry and regulators to ensure that service delivery meets community standards and expectations for responsibility and accountability.

“The Mobile Premium Services Self-Regulatory Scheme is the industry’s commitment to maintaining public trust and confidence in mobile phone services with robust consumer safeguards and standards,” he said.

Under the Scheme:

Premium content rated MA15+ or R is restricted and will only be available to consumers aged over 18 years who specifically request it.

Fifteen, 16 and 17 year-olds will not have access to MA15+ material on mobile phones.

Restricted content will be blocked by default until people opt-in. Consumers will have to provide evidence of age – it could be a driver’s licence, a passport of some other form of ID – to get access to restricted premium content.

X and RC-rated material is prohibited and banned on mobile phones.

All premium content will meet community standards. It will be assessed using a similar classification system to that used by the film and games industries, ensuring that the content on mobile phones is consistent with standards expected by the community in other mediums.

Any material that does not comply with the Scheme will be removed in a timely and effective manner.

Customers, who believe their complaints have not been properly addressed by their carrier or service provider, have access to the independent complaints-handling body, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The Communications Alliance will act as the Scheme’s custodian and mobile carriers and content providers will work in that forum to keep it up to date and in line with industry and consumer developments. The Scheme will be posted on the Communications Alliance’s website.

For more information contact: Randal Markey, Manager, Communications, AMTA, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240550; Jodie Sangster, Director, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, ADMA, (02) 9277 5417