Australian telcos to provide roaming alerts beyond SMS

Rules to enter into force from mid-next year for devices incapable of receiving SMS alerts.

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has announced from July 2020 that Australian telcos will need to alert users of roaming charges through alternative means as well as SMS.

The authority said in a statement on Thursday that examples of alternative means could be in an app, or email, with the new rules designed to make sure users on devices that cannot receive text messages, such as tablets or laptops, but are able to connect to overseas roaming servers, are able to be alerted.

ACMA will enforce the changes from 1 July 2020 under the Telecommunications Service Provider (International Mobile Roaming) Determination.

Currently, telcos only need to send roaming alerts to devices capable of receiving SMS messages.

"These new rules will close some gaps in the system and ensure people are better informed of the costs associated with using mobile data overseas, particularly for those using tablets or laptops," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

"Anyone travelling overseas will now have a choice over how they receive international roaming alerts."

Earlier this year, ACMA introduced a revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code which required new customers signing up to a plan with a commitment of over AU$1,000, around AU$45 a month for 24-month contracts, to have a credit check from an external party, and customers would need to prove to the telco they are able to pay the bill.

ACMA said at the time repeat non-compliance would lead to 'significant consequences' with penalties up to AU$10 million for not following directions from the ACMA.

"The new TCP Code puts the onus on telcos to ensure customers understand what they are buying. We will be subjecting telcos to close scrutiny as to how well their practices conform with the new Code," O'Loughlin said in July.

As part of the changes, the Communications Alliance's Complaints in Context report was expanded to include the nation's 10 largest telcos.

In the first instance of the expanded report, the perennial chart toppers, Optus and Telstra, were replaced at the top by a pair of TPG telcos in form of TPG and iiNet, Vocus-owned M2, Southern Phone, and MyRepublic.

MyRepublic led by a significant margin with 42.2 complaints per 10,000 services, followed by Southern Phone with 25.3, M2 Commander at 17.2, iiNet saw 15.9 complaints per 10,000 services and TPG reported 9.8 complaints per 10,000 services.

Optus reported 7.3 complaints per 10,000 services, and Telstra was 0.1 behind on 7.2 complaints per 10,000 services.

Also on Thursday, ACMA revealed the top phone scams reported to it over 2019. Leading the way was NBN impersation scams, followed by tech support scamming, do not call register registration scam, accident claims scam, and the "so called Chinese" scam.

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