Vicky, as you can see on this forum, many people have been charged for something they didn't subscribe to and were unaware of until they received a text message. I think this says something about the way Optus is running this Smartviral thing and how people get subscribed to it; if all they have to do is click a button (nobody on this forum knows what that was, was it an app? a website? Those were the possibilities mentioned to me by the helpline guy today). Clicking a single button does not imply an informed entry into an agreement or contract - where was the explanation of what I was about to subscribe to? How much it cost? The benefits? I will speak further to the Optus person who is supposed to call me within the next few days and see how that goes anyway. This practice is really not acceptable.
The issue isn't directly related to Optus. Its a scam buy some people using a legitimate service to make money.
Think of it as recieving a bill for something you didn't buy in the post. You wouldn't be ringing up Australia Post and complaining about them delivering the bill to you?
This situation is a little different in that Optus also collect the payments. The Premium SMS system is world wide and Telcos are obligated to to collect the money. Things like SMS voting for TV shows etc.
I don't know but I suspect Optus can't really cancel these charges, except that they're a scam. So Optus disputes the charges and the scammers don't bother pushing for payment as they get enough money from people that don't dispute the charges.
Optus should definitely switch to default Premium SMS off and users who want to vote on TV shows can turn it back on.
I also agree with AHLF. While this maybe someone making use of legitimate service / protocol(?), Optus is acting as a channel and collecting the money on behalf of the scamster. I think Optus should atleast do the following:
1. As you suggested, switch the default premium SMS off.
2. Proactively find all the affected customers and initiate a refund - rather than reactively work on specific customer requests.
3. Block this scamster so that remaining customers are not affected.
4. Enhance the way customers subscribe to any such service. At the minimum the customer should login using the optus credentials, and Optus / service provider should notify the high level implication of accepting the service. Something similar to the acceptance you get when you try to install or use a new feature in a mobile app or some service you subscribe using your gmail, facebook etc. Selecting a hidden "Yes" button on a webpage shouldn't be the way to enable something like this - none of the people reported this issue here seem to remember doing this as well!!!
All good ideas Jojee,
My thinking though is Optus don't necessarily have the contol (legally or technically) to do all these things.
Note that it is a scam. People may have left a checkbox checked by mistake, but IMO most of these charges are 100% made up - they just SMS your phone without you doing anything and then start charging you for it.
But there are also legitimate users so automatically quashing/blocking these charges may not be practical.
There is also the problem that once you have been SMS'd you have effectively recieved the "service". So Optus would effectively be stealing money from the scamsters by not forwarding on payments.
Perhaps most importantly Optus may also have international telco obligations to honour these charges.
Really this whole Premium SMS should be dealt with by the industry as a whole. My preference would be something like the Do Not Call Register. If you could select in there that you want no Premium SMS then the Telcos could be required to confirm you are not on that list before accepting charges.
Thank you for that information, interesting to know. I wasn't aware of the Premium SMS system so had a look online and found some very interesting criticisms of it, apparently thousands of people are ripped off like this every year. This in particular makes a compelling argument: www.communityrun.org/petitions/dismantle-the-broken-australian-premium-sms-system-: Here is what it says:
Dear Telco Employees, Telco Executives and Federal MPs
Please support community efforts to dismantle the current Australian Premium SMS system that has, for at least a decade, resulted in unauthorised charges appearing on mobile phone bills of thousands, if not tens of thousands of Australian mobile phone users.
We demand that mobile service providers are legally prevented from adding a charge to a mobile phone bill in respect of a Premium SMS service unless they can provide independently verifiable proof that the customer has used their own mobile handset to opt-in to the service with an SMS text.
We demand that until such proof is obtained by the mobile service provider no such charges should appear in a customer's account, even briefly.
We demand that the burden of proof is reversed from the victim of an unauthorised Premium SMS charge (the consumer) to any entity making a claim that such a charge was authorised.
We demand that mobile service providers are required to follow the same standard of addressing consumer disputes that mature and respected payment processors, like Australian banks, adopt as a matter of course - no questions asked.
We demand compensation for every person who has found the costs of pursuing corrective action in respect of disputed Premium SMS charges far outweighed the initial unauthorised impost, costs which themselves directly benefited the bottom line of mobile service providers themselves.
Why is this important?
The Premium SMS system, as it operates in Australia, is a poor man's payment processing system where the mobile service provider apparently has no legal obligation to obtain positive confirmation of a customer's authorisation to allow a Premium SMS provider to bill a mobile service.
For years, industry standard practice for mobile service providers has been to deny any responsibility for assisting the customer in the resolution of Premium SMS billing disputes and to instead refer all such complaints to the 1300 "help lines" provided by the Premium SMS services themselves.
The costs of the lengthy calls to such numbers are automatically added to customers phone bills in addition to the disputed Premium SMS charges. Sometimes these charges are up to 4 times the cost of the originally disputed Premium SMS charges. Disgustingly, the mobile services have no financial incentive to fix this system since they are direct financial beneficiaries of the current broken state of affairs. Given this, legislation must be introduced to ensure that they have a legally enforceable obligation to pro-actively protect their customers from unauthorised Premium SMS billing attempts.
The present system stinks to high heaven of the lazy complacency indulged in by mobile service providers who apparently see no legal, ethical or moral obligation to proactively protect their customers from unauthorised Premium SMS billing attempts or the predictable and inevitable costs that are then incurred when the customer follows the mobile service providers' own advice and attempts to seek redress from the Premium SMS providers directly.
The current Premium SMS system is fundamentally broken. It has been for years, It is beyond repair. It must be dismantled.
Demand action now - Parliament must act!
Who are the actual people doing the scamming via Premium SMS? Does Optus know? and could they advise of who they are so they can be reported to the TIO or Dept of Fair Trading?
Given that I have been ripped off $7 per week by people via Optus, if not directly, they need to take some responsibility for the issue and refund the money scammed.
Thanks again Peter, are you able to advise on the above? BTW, do you work for Optus (I'm not sure how this forum works, just joining yesterday) - are you a forum moderator?
No I'm not with Optus. They pop in and answer stuff from time to time (You'll see the word MODERATOR) next to there name.
Optus presumably send the money somewhere. But as I said, the "Service" is usually the SMS itself for these scams, so I don't think Optus can unilaterally reverse the charges.
Maybe write to your local politician and maybe they might take up the cause. Needs a bit of public outcry to get going me thinks.
Hi Guys, thanks for your comments and feedback about the Premium SMS and Content charges.
I understand that the charges around Premium Content service can be contentious and to address your concerns about these charges. Mobile services and home phones have had the ability to charge for content that you access for a number of years. Historically this would include access to 1900 and 1300 calls, later with the evolution of mobile phone the content was usually purchasing and subscription to ringtones, information and game services via SMS. Now with the latest evolution Premium Content can subscriptions are often received and registered via in app promotions and links or pop-ups from links that you hit on the mobile browser. Often these subscriptions are inadvertent, but we can help you stop them and also advise you on how to lock your content spend so the subscriptions can’t occur in future. Most of this info is contained here , but if you need us to assist you please just call our customer service team or drop us a chat.
I phoned the 1800793904 number. Had to wait about 5 minutes. Once I was connected, I told him I don't know who you are and I have NEVER subscribed. I told him I was going to report them to the "Department of Fair Trading" and I want to UNSUBCRIBE and receive a text message immediately stating this. They did so and I will keep this on file until I have viewed my next bill.