Aust govt cracks down on «rogue» SMS providers

Dylan Bushell-Embling
19 May 2009

The Australian government is cracking down on dodgy premium SMS providers.

The industry regulator ACMA yesterday unveiled tough new rules that put "rogue operators" off the air or fine them A$250,000 ($191,000).

The new measures, developed in consultation with the mobile industry, come after consumers made 14,000 complaints to the national telecom ombudsman last financial year.

ACMA now requires premium SMS service providers to register before launching service and has the power to revoke registration for "rogue operators", the authority said.

Under the new measures, which take effect by July 2010, premium SMS providers face fines of up to A$250,000 for false advertising or other misleading behavior or billing practice.

A new version of the industry-developed Mobile Premium Services Code has also been registered, requiring a "double opt-in" - two independent confirmations - before customers can subscribe to a premium SMS service.

It enforces strict rules about how advertisements and charges are displayed and bans targeting advertising at children under 15.

"Compliance with the Mobile Premium Services Code is not optional," ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said. "A key element of ACMA\'s strategy will be a rigorous monitoring regime - [we] will be taking compliance with the new code rules very seriously."

Industry lobby group Communications Alliance welcomed the decision to ratify the code. "The industry fully supports this Code and has already begun incorporating its obligations into contracts and modifying advertising and service delivery mechanisms," CEO Anne Hurley said.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy also lauded the new rules. "The government put industry on notice to improve its act, and industry has responded by cooperating in the development of these measures," he said.

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