ACA told to act on internet dumping

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The Federal Government is continuing its attack on internet porn, proposing a new scheme to prevent automatic porn diallers racking up huge phone bills for unsuspecting web surfers.

The practice, known as internet dumping, transfers users from their normal local call ISP to a premium rate or international service, often without their knowledge.

The government will direct the ACA to force carriers to bar premium rate services once the total premium rate bill reaches a set amount per month. Customers will be able to opt out, but the bar will initially be set as the default for all services.

"The ACA will be directed to ensure telephone companies inform their customers about the risks associated with premium rate services and the pre-emptive action they can take to protect themselves from unexpected high bills," said a statement from the office of Communications Minister Senator Richard Alston.

"The ACA will also be directed to investigate as a matter of priority and to report within six months on other measures that could be required of service providers to address consumer concerns about unexpectedly high bills and access to Internet diallers."

ACA executive manager, telecommunications licensing, Paul White, said that while such bars would be possible for some carriers, "we would have to determine whether it is possible for all".

He said the ACA would have to wait for formal regulations and a directive from the Minister to officially move forward, but added that the ACA would informally begin work on the priorities as outlined by the Minister.

The ACA is unaware of when the Minister proposes to introduce the regulations, he said.

The move to bar premium rate services comes after the October announcement by the Department of Communications, IT and the Arts (DCITA) calling for tenders for research into Internet content filtering and media streaming over the Internet.

DCITA called for a review of developments in Internet filtering technologies, with specific reference to whether content filtering has developed to a point where it would be feasible to filter R-rated information hosted overseas.

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