ACMA kicks off Scam Technology Project

The ACMA is looking into how to implement new networking technologies to prevent scam calls from coming through to Australians.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced that it will be looking into "practical technical solutions" to prevent scam calls.

The Scam Technology Project will "investigate what can be done to disrupt scam call activity", ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said, including consumer or network-based solutions such as using traffic authentication protocols and blocking calls.

Representatives from the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will assist the project, as will members of industry.

"Scam calls are more than a nuisance. They pose a real threat, particularly to those in vulnerable circumstances such as older people," O'Loughlin said.

The ACMA said recent research found that 50 percent of adults in Australia receive scam calls weekly or even daily.

"Three quarters of Australian adults believe not enough is done to protect individuals from scam calls," the ACMA said on Monday.

According to the ACMA's research, scam calls made up 50 percent of all unsolicited calls to mobile phones, and 72 percent to landlines.

In addition, 54 percent of unsolicited calls to mobile phones and 71 percent of unsolicited calls to landline numbers are coming from telemarketers; 36 percent and 69 percent, respectively, from charities; 30 percent and 51 percent from social or market research organisations; 13 percent and 34 percent from political parties or candidates; 8 percent and 16 percent from government agencies; and 6 percent and 5 percent from educational institutions.

Of all unsolicited calls from telemarketers, 84 percent of consumers did not have an existing relationship prior to receiving the call. Of those who received a scam call, 23 percent were extremely concerned; 14 percent were very concerned; and 19 percent were moderately concerned.

"The level of consumer concern about unwanted telemarketing supports the strong enforcement action the ACMA is taking," O'Loughlin said.

"The ACMA remains concerned about how these sectors deal with consumers, particularly how they obtain consent. We will continue to keep a close eye and take further action where warranted."

The ACMA has also been looking into compliance with telco rules across the National Broadband Network (NBN), last month finding that 41 telco were not providing consumers with the minimum complaints-handling information required under a new standard.

Between July and September, the ACMA said it increased its audit and compliance activities, launching 59 new investigations, 41 of which were related to the new standard that came into effect in July.

Of these 41 telcos, two had no written complaints-handing processes on their websites; seven had "substantial deficiencies in their written processes" numbering 15 or more; and multiple did not classify their complaints or have processes for classification set out.

The report also detailed how three telcos -- Digital Technologies and Telecommunications, Vocal Channels, and Southern Phone -- were directed to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code; three telcos -- MyRepublic, Peak Connect, and Red Telecom -- were formally warned to comply with the TCP Code; Telstra was given remedial direction over its priority assistance obligations and failed to put through 1,400 Triple Zero calls; and Lycamobile was fined AU$12,600 after failing to comply with the TCP Code.

In August, the ACMA announced being able to directly enforce its new NBN migration rules, with the federal government agency's powers backed up by the ability to commence court proceedings to seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

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