ACMA cracks down on SMS spam

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ACMA cracks down on SMS spam

Biggest rise in unsolicited mobile ads since 2003.

Australia's media watchdog has used the tabling of its annual report to Parliament to put SMS marketers on notice that it will crack down on the rising tide of mobile spam in the year ahead.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said spam increased by about a third in the 2008-09 financial year to 3947 complaints but SMS-spam complaints lifted 71 percent in the year to 992, the biggest rise since the federal Spam Act was enacted in 2003. Email spam complaints rose by 21 percent to 2955. The authority said in three years it received nearly 50 million items of spam from 376,240 users under its SpamMATTERS programme that links users' Outlook email software with the regulator.

The growth of complaints against SMS was due in part to increased public awareness, said authority chairman Chris Chapman but was a " growing concern requiring increasing enforcement activity".

"This year, ACMA implemented a number of measures to educate and protect consumers from fraudulent spam activity, while continuing to enforce the act with seven infringement notices issued for the period totalling $376,200," Chapman said.

That included the lodgement of the first Federal Court action involving SMS spam.

Other measures to protect consumers against sharp practices by premium SMS providers included:

  • legislative protections and industry monitoring;
  • Mobile Premium Services Code including how such services can be subscribed;
  • banning ads to minors;
  • rules governing display of ads and charges;
  • improved complaints handling obligations by those supplying the services.

Australians are signing on to the Do Not Call register in record numbers, logging 1.12 million new phone numbers in the period bringing the total to 3.54 million at June. More than two billion phone numbers were "washed" against the register and 3705 telemarketers registered to access it.

Chapman said the authority said was wrestling with the implications from the $43 billion National Broadband Network due to be completed by 2017 that will "highlight the convergence of these traditional telecommunications concerns with regulatory aspects of spectrum management and broadcasting".

Other highlights of the authority's work last year:

  • Working on the switching over from analogue to digital TV spectrum to start from the first half of next year in the Mildura-Sunraysia area of north-west Victoria.
  • Spectrum planning, especially a harmonised 400 MHz band for government use and licensing the 2.5 GHz band and discussion of releasing the 3.6 GHz band for wireless broadband in regional and rural areas.
  • "Relatively high numbers of complaints about online content" - 1182 complaints (a rise of 60 from the year before), of which 99 were found invalid, 142 terminated and 618 resulted in prohibited or proscribed content under the Broadcasting Services Act.
  • Participating in International Telecommunications Study groups.
  • Undertaking an iterative five-year review of spectrum use.
  • Issuing 22 carrier licences and receiving 94 carrier licences, resulting in 175 carriers at the end of the period.
  • Education of VoIP providers about their regulatory responsibilities.
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