He said carriers had suspended and fined content service providers, such as premium mobile services, which continued to breach standards for honesty and accountability in using the carrier networks.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, Graeme Samuel, said he expected carriers to adopt rigorous standards and procedures to close off their networks to “rogue operators”.
“It is no longer acceptable for carriers to wash their hands of responsibility as operators use their networks to entrap phone company customers with unwanted, expensive and difficult to unwind subscription services.” he said.
“If all carriers do not exhibit a responsible attitude to closing down rogue operators, they must expect the ACCC to pursue remedies available to under the Trade Practices Act.”
Mr Althaus said carriers had developed conduct policies for service providers and suspended services which were subject to high complaint levels. The ultimate sanction was banning the services from the networks.
He said the telecommunications industry last week, at the invitation of the ACCC, joined its National Consumer Fraud Week to increase public awareness of scams and how consumers could take steps to protect themselves from such practices.
Mr Althaus said the industry is finalising a new mobile premium services code that includes input from consumer groups.
Once registered by the Australian Media and Communications Alliance (ACMA) the new code would be mandatory for the industry and enforceable with penalties for companies that were in breach of its provisions.
“Our Members carry premium services on their networks for third parties and we acknowledge our responsibility to help minimize any problems associated with such services.” he said. “We believe the positive aspects of mobile premium services far outweigh the negative, however, we are committed to providing practical advice to help prevent misuse and promote safe, responsible and affordable use of mobile telecommunications.”
“Prevention is the key to protecting consumers and we stress not to use premium services unless consumers have found the full costs involved – the cost per message, the frequency of the messages and the total cost.”
The industry has also developed a website www.19sms.com.au designed specifically to provide consumers with comprehensive, easy to use advice on mobile premium services.
Mr Althaus said: “The bottom line is that customers need to be very wary of any unsolicited messages that have been sent to them without their consent; unidentified messages sent without clear identification of the sender; and unstoppable messages that don’t have a working ‘unsubscribe’ facility.”
AMTA’s consumer tips on premium services can be viewed at www.amta.org.au