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Telecommunications industry on notice.



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Federal Member for Wannon

Hamilton Office 190 Gray St, HAMILTON VIC 3300 Warrnambool Office 73 Kepler St WARRNAMBOOL VIC 3280 Freecall 1300 131 692 E David.Hawker.MP@aph.gov.au W www.davidhawker.com.au

Federal Member for Wannon

16 September 2008 TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY ON NOTICE

Federal Member for Wannon, David Hawker, last night put the telecommunications industry on notice during a speech to the House of Representatives on the growing problem of text scams.

“Mobile service providers are going to have to sharpen up their game very quickly and stop this ridiculous practice where people are being ripped off quite dishonestly,” Mr Hawker said.

“It is clear that mobile phone service providers have to take a lot more responsibility than they do at the moment.”

Mr Hawker cited the case of a local 15 year old who received an unsolicited text message and quite sensibly deleted it thinking that would be the end to it. Little did she know that by not replying with the word “STOP” her pre-paid account would be charged on an ongoing basis.

“Her father had to get onto the provider to get the money refunded, spending almost an hour in the process,” Mr Hawker said.

“To me it is analogous to getting junk mail in your mailbox: if you do not write back to the person who sent the junk mail and say ‘I do not want your product’ you are going to be billed for it.

“I do not think that is good enough.”

Mr Hawker told parliament that after issuing a press release warning people of these scams his office had been inundated with calls from unsuspecting mobile phone users who suddenly realised that they too were being taken advantage of under this so-called ‘premium phone charge’ that was being added to the bottom of their account.

He said he was particularly concerned that many of these scams are aimed at teenagers and children.

“It seems that there is no level below which some of these people will stoop when it comes to trying to rip off innocent consumers,” he said.

“It is a scam any way you define it, and it really has to be dealt with.

“Consumers who sign up in good faith with providers like Telstra and Optus expect better than they have got so far.

“The communications industry is on notice. I know the federal government is aware of this, but it too has to move a lot faster than it has so far.

“This ridiculous practice has to be stopped.” - ENDS -

Media contact: Jane Templeton (02) 6277 4118

ADJOURNMENT Mobile Phone Scams Speech

Mr HAWKER (Wannon) (9.30 p.m.)—Tonight I would like to raise what is a very vexing matter for quite a number of Australians, particularly in my electorate. Mobile phone users are being ripped off by text message scams. These scams are coming through, users are being charged and they are often quite unaware of what is going on. What happens is that a scam is sent, the user quite rightly says, ‘That’s not for me,’ and deletes it; but apparently deleting it is not enough. At the end of the month, when the bill comes in, if people look closely at the bottom of the bill they will see they are being charged for these messages. Generally, it is around $6 a message. I have had one case where a constituent of mine had $24 added to the bill and could not work out what it was. The real fraud in this whole system is that, unless a person reads through the message and actually replies by typing ‘Stop’, they will be billed. Frankly, I think that is not good enough. It is clearly trying to take advantage of people on the assumption that many of them, when they look down a long list of telephone calls, do not see what that extra bit is because it is not clear. Really, it is nothing short of daylight robbery. To me it is analogous to getting junk mail in your mailbox: if you do not write back to the person who sent the junk mail and say, ‘I don’t want your product,’ you are going to be billed for it. I do not think that is good enough.

I recently had a case where a father of a 15-year-old received a message from a ringtone seller, which she had never contacted at any stage or signed on for. His daughter, sensibly, deleted the message and thought nothing more of it until the amount was deducted from her prepaid account. This continued because his daughter had not sent back the word ‘Stop’ to the seller. So the father had

to get on to the provider and then the ringtone seller to get the money refunded. He spent an hour on the phone to get that done and, if it had not been done, he would not have got the money back and it would have just been deducted. Frankly, I think it is a ridiculous situation where companies can take advantage of people through this scam. It is totally unacceptable.

What is most interesting is that, after issuing a media release in my electorate about what was going on, my electorate office was inundated with calls from unsuspecting mobile phone users who suddenly realised that they too were being taken advantage of under this so-called ‘premium phone charge’ that was just being added to the bottom of their account. The problem is that, as it stands at the moment, people who actually want to stop what is going on have to spend up to an hour on the telephone to stop it. Frankly, this is unacceptable. Even worse than that, as I have said, such things as selling a new ringtone or all sorts of promises about finding new boyfriends or girlfriends and so on are often being directed at young people. It seems that there is no level below which some of these people will stoop when it comes to trying to rip off innocent consumers.

It is clear that the mobile phone service providers have to take a lot more responsibility than they do at the moment. I do not accept their excuse, ‘We have these premium services and we do offer to collect funds on behalf of them on the basis that people choose to use these services.’ I do not think this falls into that category at all. The mobile service providers are going to have to sharpen up their game very quickly and stop this ridiculous practice where people are being ripped off quite dishonestly. It is a scam any way you define it, and it really has to be dealt with. Consumers who sign up in good faith with providers like Telstra and Optus expect better than they have got so far. The communications industry is on notice. I know that the federal government is aware of this, but it has to move a lot faster than it has so far. This ridiculous practice has to be stopped. The people who are running these scams have to be run out of town because, clearly, this is just another form of fraud and innocent consumers, particularly young people, are being ripped off in a totally unscrupulous fashion.

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