Premium Mobile Services Code a Win for Consumers

The introduction of the new code for mobile premium services sees consumers better protected from an industry which has, in the past, shown few scruples when dealing with its customers.

A revised and much improved Communications Alliance Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code came into effect on the 1st of June and sees new obligations placed on providers to ensure positive consumer experiences.

Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said that the code, which was recently registered by ACMA, ‘requires carriage service providers to report quarterly to the ACMA on their compliance monitoring activities and imposes additional obligations to ensure greater clarity in advertising, including online ads’.

Along with the requirement to provide quarterly reports and the obligation to ensure greater transparency, the new code includes a streamlined Double Opt-in sign up procedure, stipulates that specific information must be provided to consumers in subscription messages, and adds new protections relating to the supply of Reverse Charge Billing Services. The double opt-in procedure will ensure that consumers understand  the services offered and the often very high charges that apply before subscribing.

These improvements have come on the back of a long campaign for better standards by a number of consumer organisations.

CFA member CHOICE completed a consumer survey in 2009 which displayed overwhelming levels of dissatisfaction with premium mobile services. At the time CHOICE called for a code of practice which would deliver ‘real customer protection’.

ACCAN – the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network – has long fought for better consumer protection on MPS. In 2009 ACCAN called for rules which would require consumers to give their expllicit consent before receiving Mobile Premium services.

In 2010 ACCAN criticised ACMA for not listening to consumer bodies when it decided not to implement a default bar on subscription text message services.

And in 2011 ACCAN noted that the previous Code was a step in the right direction, but that it was ‘weakened by the Code’s weak approach to compliance monitoring and enforcement’.

As a result of this long consumer campaign, the new Code now empowers ACMA to hold to account companies that take advantage of everyday consumers as well introducing measures which work to ensure that consumers are protected better than ever from being charged for services for which they are not subscribers.

This new code is not only a win for the consumer organisations, but for consumers as a whole. ACMA has published more information on Mobile Premium Services in Australia.