ACA drafts rules protecting consumers from high bills

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has released a draft set of rules designed to protect consumers using new premium mobile services from unexpected high bills.In rules proposed in the ACA discussion paper, mobile phone service providers would be required to inform customers of the financial risks of accessing services on 191, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197 and 199-prefixed numbers or services accessed through proprietary networks.

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has released a draft set of rules designed to protect consumers using new premium mobile services from unexpected high bills.

In rules proposed in the ACA discussion paper, mobile phone service providers would be required to inform customers of the financial risks of accessing services on 191, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197 and 199-prefixed numbers or services accessed through proprietary networks.

Proprietary networks are telecommunications networks used by a mobile carriage service provider to enable its customers to access a premium content service by using a mobile device. Content services from proprietary networks usually range from sports scores, short videos of sporting games or downloads of games.

At present, the 188 number range is being used for a trial of premium rate SMS which are popular for competition entries and voting for interactive TV shows and also to access sporting results, weather forecasts and astrology services. It is also used as enabling m-commerce to purchase low-cost commodities such as paying for parking or soft drinks billed to the customer's mobile service.

"What we're proposing is that service providers tell their customers exactly what financial risks they're facing if they use these services," acting ACA chairman Bob Horton said.

The ACA is proposing that consumers be provided with information such as the types of content and information services that may be supplied as premium services, charging information, the financial risks associated with the use of premium services, and the type of action a customer can take to reduce those risks.

The ACA is also tasked to report to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Daryl Williams by October this year on actions that has been taken by the carriage service providers to address unexpected high bills across all telecommunications services for consumers.

The ACA had previously consulted the industry, the public and consumer groups on the provision of information to consumers of these services as part of the consultation requirements required by a previous direction from William's office in March 2003 which has subsequently been revoked.

The ACA is inviting interested parties to send a written comment before 19 July 2004.

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