New laws for SMS Scams

Reporter: Helen Wellings

They seem innocent but messages on your mobile phone for competitions or free ringtones could cost you a lot of money.

A recent Choice survey shows two out of three people receive these mobile premium services without their consent and are charged for them.

One out of two of those people say their attempts to cancel the expensive subscription did not work.

New laws introduced just this week will help stamp out the rorts and what you need to do from now on so you are not billed.

Sometimes advertised as free, these offers just pop-up on the screen and you usually know nothing about them and never agreed to them.

The companies responsible have continued to get away with it.

Teresa Corbin from the Consumers Telecommunications Network investigates complaints and problems about the industry.

"You are charged between $5 and $10 a message so if you are getting more than one message a day or more than one a week, then you are racking up quite a large bill," she said.

Under a new Industry Code services providers will not get away with billing you when you have not agreed to a service.

The rule is you have to give two confirmations that you want to subscribe, a double opt-in, before they can join you up and charge you.

CEO of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Chris Chapman, said the service providers are going to have to clean up their act dramatically.

"They are going to be on the register. There will be details of their subscription service, contact numbers, contact desk in Australia, irrespective of whether they are overseas or not," he said.

He promises ACMA will to take rogue premium SMS service providers to court to face fines of $250,000.

Now the onus is also on carriers like Telstra and Optus not to deal with shonks.

"We can direct the service provider to not contract with these rogue operators, we can direct the service provider to not pass on the monies they collect on behalf of these service providers and not bill it to the customer or consumer," Chris said.

"This is a big step forward."

Also by next year, mobile phone users will be able to put a bar on premium SMS, which Telstra allows now.

In the meantime if you do receive an unwanted premium SMS do not just delete them, find out what they are about, find out if you are getting charges from them by checking your mobile phone bill.

"If someone has entered into a subscription service and they want to get out of it and they send STOP, then from that point on their service provider will not be able to bill for the service from that point on," Chris added.

If you still have trouble, immediately contact your service provider and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Contact details

Visit the ACMA website www.acma.gov.au

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman can be contacted at www.tio.com.au