ACMA issues warning to pre-paid calling card providers

Providers fail to make required critical information summaries available to Australian consumers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has today announced it has "taken action" against two pre-paid, international calling card providers, claiming they failed to make required critical information summaries available to Australian consumers.

The 1300 Woolies calling card is one of two services under scrutiny from the ACMA.
The 1300 Woolies calling card is one of two services under scrutiny from the ACMA.

The ACMA, a statutory authority within the Federal Government portfolio of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, revealed today that it has issued formal warnings to Skink Marketing Pty Ltd, which operates the website that sells the 1300 Woolies calling card, and Lime Telecom Pty Ltd.

The regulator said both calling cards failed to make Critical Information Summaries (CIS) available on their Web site, a requirement by the Telecommunications Consumer Protections code (TCP code).

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said none of the cards' actual per-minute rate matched the advertised per-minute rate.

"These formal warnings are a reminder that the TCP code applies to all telcos, which includes calling card providers."

"CIS are important for all telco products, including calling cards, as they allow consumers to understand how charges are calculated, inclusions and exclusions, expiry dates and any additional fees."

The Critical Information Summary is a document that sets out a range of information about both post-paid and pre-paid services.

The document must set out key information about the service, including a clear description of the service, the minimum term for the contract, and any exclusions or important conditions, limitations or restrictions.

The CIS is also required to include key pricing information, such as the minimum and maximum monthly charge for the service, the maximum fee for early termination, and the standard charges.

The ACMA says that both Skink Marketing Pty Ltd, and Lime Telecom Pty Ltd, contravened clause 4.1.2 of the TCP code by failing to provide a CIS for the services offered by the pre-paid calling cards.

The news of the warnings issued to the pre-paid calling card providers in question was welcomed by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said the message sends a "strong signal" to providers.

"ACCAN welcomes this action by the ACMA, which sends a strong message to pre-paid calling card providers that they must comply with the same rules as the rest of the telco industry or face enforcement action from the regulator."

"We believe that unless regulators are prepared to pro-actively monitor the calling card industry and enforce existing consumer protections, consumers can have little confidence they are getting a good deal when they use these products."

"Prepaid calling card providers should be required to register and meet basic requirements so that shonky operators are stamped out of Australia."

ACCAN says it tested 100 Australian pre-paid calling cards used to phone overseas in December last year, and found "significant problems" with over 40 per cent of cards.

It also found that only 28 per cent of cards had in-store information about rates, terms and conditions, while no cards' actual rate per minute matched the advertised headline per-minute rate.

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