Mobile Premium Services Code targets misleading SMS adverts

Terms and conditions of premium services will become easier to understand

The introduction of the Communications Alliance’s Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code is intended to eliminate misleading premium rate SMS and MMS service advertisements.

Effective from 1 June, the new rules are designed to make prices, terms and conditions of premium rate services clear to consumers. The MPS Code was registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 1 March.

It replaces the 2009 Code put in place on 1 July 2009 to address the high level of customer complaints about mobile premium services.

Under the MPS Code, subscription service providers will be required to use the terms 'subscription' or 'subscribe' in sign-up messages, to inform customers of the ongoing charges.

Providers will also be required to inform customers of call costs, terms and conditions before charging, while information about the cost of a service will need to be printed close to the number used to request an SMS or MSS offering in an advertisement.

In addition, the MPS Code requires mobile carriers to monitor and report to ACMA on content providers’ compliance.

"While complaints about premium rate services have dramatically reduced, the ACMA required industry to take additional steps to further protect consumers from rogue operators," said ACMA chairperson, Chris Chapman, in a statement.

"These new rules are designed to make it much harder for mobile premium service providers to mislead customers,” he said. “The new compliance reporting requirements should also make the industry more accountable to the ACMA and its customers.”

ACMA has additional powers to make service providers comply with code obligations. Non-compliance may lead to proceedings in the Federal Court and a penalty of up to $250,000.

The MPS Code operates in conjunction with two service provider rules introduced by ACMA that give customers the choice to bar access to all mobile premium services and require all service providers to be listed on an industry register.

ACMA is currently reviewing the Communications Alliance’s Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code which includes new provisions such as regular customer usage notifications for voice, SMS and data services, stronger controls on telecommunications product advertising, a compliance monitoring body and a unit-pricing regime in advertisements.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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