Mobile premium services
What are mobile premium services?
Mobile premium services include news, financial data, weather information, horoscopes, mobile ringtones, adult services, games, competitions and chat services provided via mobile phones. They are offered from numbers starting with 19 and are often provided at a much higher cost than a standard mobile call.
Mobile premium services code
The mobile premium services sector is governed by an industry code which sets out detailed rules and procedures to protect consumers. Communications Alliance conducted a review of the code in 2010 and early 2011. A revised code came into effect on 1 June 2012.
The code requires premium content service providers to supply consumers with clear information about the costs and terms and conditions for using a mobile premium service. In addition, it sets out the procedures for when consumers subscribe to, or unsubscribe from, a premium service. The code also contains a number of other important consumer protections including the ban of advertisements targeted at children under 15, strict rules about how advertisements (and charges) are displayed and complaints handling obligations on companies that supply these services.
Compliance with the code is not optional. It is enforceable by the industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). To complement the code, ACMA is implementing a comprehensive monitoring regime to ensure industry compliance with the code, and take enforcement action when required.
A person can cancel any service by replying STOP to the number that sends the premium service. Content service providers are obliged to comply with the stop command and any failure to do so should be reported to the service provider immediately. Service providers must also provide consumers with the option of blocking mobile premium services if consumers wish to do so. A regulatory requirement on all carriers to provide this option to block mobile premium services came into effect on 1 July 2010.
Mobile premium service complaints
Consumers who wish to dispute or complain about charges on their bills for mobile premium services should contact the service provider first. Each service provider has an obligation to assist consumers with complaints.
Consumers who are unable to resolve their concerns with a service provider may wish to contact the TIO. The TIO offers a free and independent dispute resolution scheme for small business and residential consumers and is independent of industry, the Australian Government and consumer organisations. It can investigate complaints about the costs and terms and conditions applying to mobile premium services.
Consumer fact sheet
The ACMA and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have released a mobile premium services fact sheet to assist consumers. It includes information on risks associated with mobile premium services, how to cancel or stop a mobile premium service and how to contact the ACCC if a consumer believes an advertisement for mobile premium services was misleading or deceptive. The fact sheet and information on mobile premium service issues can be found on the ACMA website.
The Communications Alliance has also launched a website, www.19sms.com.au, to inform consumers about mobile premium services and how to seek help when problems arise.