There are a good number of mobile users in Australia who have been stung by premium SMS. Perhaps you’ve bought a ringtone, a stupid wallpaper or bought an app. Regardless of what it is, there’s a good chance you’ve used this at least once, and there’s a growing number of people who find themselves paying repeatedly for content they neither want nor subscribed for. Well, Telstra is doing something about that.
EFTM reports that come December 3 this year, Telstra mobile accounts will no longer be able to be used for third party payments. Rather, if they want your money, they’ll have to do what all other providers do, and that’s offer a way to pay them directly such as PayPal or some other payment method. There are legitimate users of third party billing, and one that comes to mind is the Google Play Store, which offers some carrier customers the ability to charge their purchases to their phone account instead of paying by some other means. We understand that Google Play account billing may not be included in this round-up. On Telstra’s Exchange blog today, it was noted (with our emphasis):
This means, from December 3 2017, third party service providers will no longer be permitted to charge new mobile content subscriptions to our customers’ bills. Customers will be free to purchase subscription mobile content using alternative payment methods, however the current arrangement where a customer can elect to purchase a subscription for third-party content and charge it to their Telstra bill, will end.
Customers with existing subscription services can continue to use these and we will continue to support one-off payments like charity donations and voting for TV gameshows.
Telstra’s Director of Consumer Mobiles Kevin Teoh says
“We know how frustrating it can be when unexpected third party charges appear on our customers’ mobile bills and we have been working for some time to fix the problem.
Last year we made a number of changes to improve the sign up process, but customers continue to tell us the experience is poor. We have taken the decision to withdraw support for new third-party content subscriptions.”
For those currently concerned about third-party content purchases on their Telstra bills, here are five tips from Telstra on managing those costs:
- Be aware of what you sign up to – always read the terms and conditions to understand any ongoing costs associated with an app download or content service.
- If your kids like to play with your smartphone or tablet use parental controls to monitor purchases and access to content.
- If you’re not sure about a charge on your bill, contact us on 132 200 and say ‘Third Party Purchases’ and we’ll help you.
- If you no longer wish to receive a subscription to the third-party content, you can cancel the subscription by texting “STOP” to the number outlined in the confirmation SMS.
- You have the option of barring these services from the mobile number(s) on your account. This will restrict future access. You can contact us to set this up. Call 132 200 and say ‘Third Party Purchases’.
We’d love to see other carriers follow suit and remove third party billing as an option across the board. Sure, there’s some tangible benefit for some, but as a consumer protection measure, I think the small benefits for some are far outweighed by the benefits for the majority.
I’ve read horror stories of users subscribed to $20/week “plans” where all they get access to is ringtones and wallpapers which they could easily have got for free just by using Google. Unfortunately many of the victims of such things are kids and teenagers who are too easily tricked into things they don’t need. Regardless, sham third party billing has to go, and bravo to Telstra for taking the lead in getting rid of it.