Optus has suspended operation with a third-party service provider after it found they were not complying with industry guidelines.
- ACCAN found some third party services are not following the code correctly
- 12 per cent of people have experienced unexpected third party charges in the last six months
- The total amount charged is $20 million in six months
Angry customers have complained of racking up bills for “premium SMS” charges they did not sign up for and opt-out texts being ignored.
Research shows one in 10 people have been unwittingly signed up to a third-party billing service, resulting in an estimated $20 million in charges in the past six months.
Optus customer Alex said he never signed up for a premium SMS service and never thought it would be so hard to get rid of.
“It’s a bloody scam,” he said.
When he noticed a $13 charge on his Optus bill for so-called “content services” he was puzzled.
When he called Optus to complain, a call centre operator told him that while the telco bills the service, it does not provide it, and therefore it is not the company’s problem.
“They said that they’re not responsible for these third-party services, and that if I wanted a refund I would have to call the third-party service myself to get a direct refund from them,” Alex said.
‘It’s big money’
A quick trawl through the Optus customer support forums finds page after page after page of angry customers querying premium SMS charges.
They claim they never agreed to the charges, which sometimes reach $10 a week.
Una Lawrence, from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), said there was evidence some providers are not following the code correctly.
ACCAN has recently released research showing 12 per cent of people have experienced unexpected third-party charges in the last six months.
“The total amount they would have been charged is $20 million,” she said.
“It’s big. It’s big money.”
The regulations around so-called premium SMS services often require what is known as a double opt-in.
It occurs when users need to first click on a link, then either click on another link verifying that’s what they want, or replying to a sign-up text message.
Providers are also supposed to unsubscribe people when a STOP message received, but the ABC has seen several examples of when that has not occurred.
After the ABC provided Optus evidence that one content service provider had not been following the rules, Optus temporarily suspended it to check to its compliance status.
The telco said it requires its third-party content providers to present customers with appropriate acknowledgement of charges via a double opt-in process.