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ACMA registers new rules for fighting spam calls

Telcos will need to detect, trace, and block scam calls originating from or traversing their networks.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has registered a set of rules developed by the Communications Alliance that will force Australian telcos to detect, trace, and block spam calls.

The rules apply not just to calls originating on a telco's network, but also those transiting the network.

"Where scam calls are confirmed, [carriers] must as soon as practicable take action to block the scam calls being originated and/or carried over their network," the code states.

Under the code, carriers are required to look for characteristics of scam calls, share information with other telcos and regulators, block numbers being used for scams including those from overseas, and take measures to combat number spoofing.

ACMA said over 30 million scam calls were blocked in the last year as telcos undertook trials to combat internationally inbound scams, ATO impersonation scams, and wangiri one ring and drop scams that trick users into calling a premium line when they return a missed call.

"The code is a unique and ground-breaking contribution to global regulatory efforts to prevent the harms caused by scammers. It is a holistic, end-to-end framework for effective scam reduction activity," chair of ACMA's scam telecommunications action taskforce Fiona Cameron said.

"There is no silver bullet to reduce scams, but these new rules place clear obligations on industry to do more to protect their customers and build confidence that it's safe to answer a ringing phone."

The code will apply to calls in the traditional sense and do not cater to those delivered via over-the-top services. After two years, the code will be reviewed, with further reviews to be pencilled in for five-year intervals unless "significant developments" force an earlier review.

In September, Telstra announced it was piloting a program to block fake messages claiming to be from myGov or Centrelink.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn told ZDNet at the time that the program has completed its proof-of-concept stage and would be fully rolled out across its network by the end of the year.

If the pilot is successful, it would then be rolled out to other Australian telcos, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds told ZDNet.

"This is a national problem that requires a truly collaborative national approach," she said.

ACMA unveiled its plan to crack down on scams in November last year.

Earlier in the week, ACMA and Comms Alliance opened a consultation period on allowing a pair of determinations made by the regulator in relation to premium mobile services to sunset on April 1. The consultation period was opened on the proviso that the industry makes a variation to the relevant code to allow customers to bar all premium services, and not to charge a fee for that action.

Submissions are due by January 17.

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