Welcome to our summary of Australian regulatory news for November 2011.
Mobile premium services rules reviewed by the ACMA
The ACMA has released a consultation paper "Premium messaging services: Review of the Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determinations 2010 (No. 1) and
(No. 2)" in order to review the effectiveness of rules protecting premium SMS and MMS customers from rogue operators.
These rules are contained within two service provider determination which came into effect in 2010. The "Premium SMS/MMS Barring Determination" requires mobile carriage service providers to provide customers with the option to bar premium SMS and MMS and aims to protect consumers from unexpectedly high bills. The "Do not Contract/Do not Bill Determination" prohibits mobile carriage service providers from contracting with content providers not included on an industry register and gives the ACMA regulatory options to address consumer problems.
The closing date for submissions to the consultation paper is
22 December 2011.
For further details see:
ACMA Media Release
Do Not Contract/Do Not Bill Determination
Changes proposed for Numbering rules
The ACMA has released its "Telephone Numbering: Future Directions" paper setting out medium to long term proposals for telephone numbering arrangements in Australia. The paper includes 24 specific changes to numbering arrangements and eight overarching future directions intended to guide management of telephone numbering. The ACMA has developed design principles to assist with the evolution of the Numbering Plan - these are:
increasing the broad-based use of telephone numbers;
reducing the degree to which numbers are specified according to the technology by which services are provided;
providing price transparency to consumers, so that, where it is necessary to use numbering to recognise the costs of calls, this is supported; and
achieving clarity in the Numbering Plan, so that it is simple and readily understood.
The paper anticipates an enhanced future role for industry in the administration and allocation of numbers, with a staged migration from procedural rules to codes and guidelines.
The ACMA is seeking feedback on the 24 actions proposed in the paper and accompanying questions. Submissions close on
31 January 2012.
For further details see the ACMA Media Release.
Public consultation on Integrated Public Number Database
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has released a discussion paper seeking comment on potential changes to the "Integrated Public Number Database". The IPND contains all Australian telephone and subscriber information and supports the delivery of a range of critical services including:
the emergency call service;
the dissemination of telephone based emergency warnings; and
the investigations of law enforcement and national security agencies.
The IPND also supports a range of service such as the publication of public number directories and certain types of research. Submissions must be made by 16 December 2011.
For further details see the Minister's Media Release or to view or download the IPND Paper click here.
Final comment on local bitstream access service sought by the ACCC
The ACCC is preparing to regulate the local bitstream access service and is inviting comment on the service description. Local bitstream access services will carry digital data on superfast telecommunications networks and the ACCC's draft final report and draft service description will be the basis for the declaration, that will apply when amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and Telecommunications Act 1997 commence in 2012. These amendments require the ACCC to declare a Layer 2 bitstream service (called the local bitstream access service).
Wholesale providers of Layer 2 bitstream services that are superfast carriage services will be required to provide retailers with access to these services under the standard access obligations in the Competition and Consumer Act 2012. The declaration will not apply to the NBN, wireless or satellite networks.
Once declared, unlike other services, the local bitstream access service will not expire, cannot be varied and cannot be revoked. Within thirty days of its declaration the ACCC must commence a public inquiry into the terms of access to the service, including setting a price or method of ascertaining a price for the service.
Comments on the service description and report will be accepted until 5 p.m. on 8 December 2011.
For further details see the ACCC Media Release or to view or download the Draft final report click here.
Review of operational Guidelines
Communications Alliance has announced a review of the "Telecommunications in Road Reserves – Operational Guidelines For Installations Industry Guideline G591:2006". These operational guidelines cover the installation, use and maintenance of carriers' facilities within road reserves controlled by member authorities of Austroads.
The review is to identify whether the Guideline needs amending. The comment period will close at 5 p.m. on 9 December 2011.
For further details see the Communications Alliance review or to view or download the Guideline G591:2006 click here.
Bytecard directed to comply with TIO determinations
The ACMA has directed Canberra-based internet service provider, Bytecard Pty Ltd (also trading as Netspeed Internet Communications and Leading Edge Internet) to comply with four determinations made by the TIO. These determinations require Bytecard to either refund money to, or waive the debts of, four customers.
The TIO provides a free dispute resolution service for small business and residential customers who have a complaint about their telephone or internet service in Australia. Service providers are required to comply with this scheme under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999. Failure to comply may result in the ACMA seeking orders from the Federal Court as well as civil penalties.
For further details see the ACMA Media Release.
TPG broadband advertisements found false and misleading
The Federal Court has found that advertisements for TPG Internet Pty Ltd's A$29.99 Unlimited ADSL2+ campaign were false and misleading. The court found that the advertisements represented that consumers could acquire the ADSL2+ service for A$29.99 per month without any additional service or any additional monthly charge, when the plan was actually A$59.99 per month because the ADSL2+ service was only available when purchased with home line rental from TPG at an additional monthly cost of A$30. TPG's campaign included television, newspaper, radio and website advertisements.
For further details see the ACCC Media Release.
Do Not Call Register reaches seven million
Over half of Australia's fixed line home numbers have been added to the "Do Not Call Register" which now lists more than seven million numbers. More than three million mobile phone numbers have also been added to the register with these numbers accounting for 75 percent of new registrations in the last six months. 88 percent of those on the register have reported a reduction in telemarketing calls.
The ACMA has also announced that it has strengthened the "Telemarketing and Research Calls Industry Standard", setting enforceable rules about the way the industry can contact Australians regardless of whether they are on the register. The revised standard ensures that when requested, industry must advise call-recipients the source of their number within seven days instead of 30 days. There is also a "Fax Marketing Industry Standard" with similar rules.
For further details see the ACMA Media Release.
Record number of consumer complaints made to the TIO
The TIO has released its "2011 Annual Report" which shows that 197,682 new complaints were made in 2010-11, an increase of almost 18 percent on the previous year. The increase has been attributed to mobile phone service faults and increased smart phones use. More than half of new complaints received by the TIO were about mobile phone services, an increase of 51 percent.
The most common mobile phone complaint was service faults with consumers most concerned about poor mobile coverage and service drop-outs. Other common complaints were attributed to inadequate information provided to consumers about the costs associated with smart phones and related billing disputes. Disputes about internet charges on mobile services also increased 26 percent to 4,222.
The TIO received 10,469 reports of inadequate spend controls, of which 7,844 were exclusively about mobile services, an increase of 119 percent compared to the previous year.
Complaints about landline decreased by 1.7 percent, internet complaints decreased by 13 percent, and mobile premium services complaints decreased over 45 percent. Investigations by the TIO also decreased by almost 15 percent.
For further details see the TIO Media Release, the TIO Annual Report Fast Facts and the TIO Annual Report.
New strategic advisory group to join discussions on ICT standards
The DBCDE has announced the formation of a new high-level strategic advisory group to contribute to international discussions on ICT standards issues. The "Strategic Advisory Committee on ICT and Digital Economy" will include representatives from Commonwealth and State Governments, industry, small business, research and academia communities and consumers. It will be administered by Standards Australia and will advise on the strategic direction of ICT standards development at a national level. The Committee will also provide a focal point for industry, government and other stakeholders to discuss and prioritise standards and related issues, and will initially focus on cloud computing, e-health, smart infrastructure including sensor networks and smart grids, and accessibility matters. The Committee will coordinate Australian positions for submission to the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee. The Commonwealth Government will contribute A$100,000 towards the establishment and operation of the Committee for the first year.
For further details see the DBCDE Media Release.
Changes to triple zero services
Police and Emergency Management Ministers from Australia and New Zealand have agreed to implement improvements to the national Triple Zero service in order to provide a single national State and Territory Emergency Services phone number (132 500) and non-emergency Police Assistance phone number (131 444). Recorded voice announcements for Triple Zero will also be introduced directing people to call State or Territory Emergency Services, or Police Assistance national numbers if they do not require urgent assistance. These measures are designed to ease the burden on Triple Zero, as nearly half of all calls to Triple Zero are non-urgent.
The Ministers have also agreed to look at:
setting up an all hazards Emergency Information hotline to give people a single number to call about information for floods, bushfire and other serious events;
developing national standardised qualifications for police, fire and ambulance Triple Zero call takers; and
improving the operability of communications systems to assist Triple Zero services at times of high demand.
For further details see the Attorney-General Media Release.