ACMA whacks Optus for premium SMS delay

Premium SMS barring service coming 11 October for Optus subscribers, behind other telcos

Optus will be the last major Australian telco to implement premium SMS barring when it activates the service on 11 October this year.

The barring service will allow users to set a maximum amount able to be spent on premium SMS services on their account through the Optus Zoo site, while also being able to resolve issues with premium SMS messages through the telco’s dedicated staff.

Optus subscribers can currently pre-register for the service by calling the telco’s customer care line.

Optus’ service comes three months after the 1 July deadline set by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for all telcos, which the industry watchdog reiterated in March.

As a result of its failure, Optus has submitted to an enforceable undertaking with ACMA to implement and activate the service. The watchdog has indicated that other measures will be put in place as part of the undertaking, but has not disclosed those “for sound commercial reasons”.

Optus initially welcomed the Barring Determination, but in a submission to ACMA last year outlined concerns surrounding the specific policy objectives of the barring service and additional obligations burdened on telcos as a result.

The telco also rejected the 1 July timeline its submission.

“As ACMA would be aware from its engagement with Optus on this issue, upgrading our mobile network such that we can offer our customers premium SMS/MMS barring functionality is a substantial and complex initiative,” the telco’s submission reads. Based on the current status of our development program, Optus cannot commit to introducing barring before 1 July 2010."

“The ACMA considers compliance with this Determination very seriously,” an ACMA spokesperson told Computerworld Australia in July 2010. “Clearly, any delay is unacceptable. It is in discussions with Optus as to its timetable for ensuring its full compliance and will take this into account when considering its formal enforcement action.”

The other major telcos - Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) and Virgin Mobile - were all confirmed to have met the deadline set by ACMA. However, while technically meeting the watchdog’s requirements, VHA’s implementation of an automated system to cope with the extra obligation had delayed a full rollout of the service.

“However, the ACMA understands that a manual work-around is in place for customers connected to the former Vodafone network, and that all VHA customers are able to activate barring if they wish to do so,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier in the year ACMA claimed a 50 per cent reduction in premium SMS-related complaints to the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman following the introduction of its Mobile Premium Services Industry (MPS) Code in July last year.

It also launched an anti-SMS spam hotline this year, enabling users to forward offending messages directly to an SMS number - 0429 999 888 - rather than having to submit a query through a call centre or online.

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Tags premium smsAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)optus

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