The South Australian government has warned consumers about the danger of calling premium rate 190 numbers. Many people, it said, are running up huge phone bills.
The main cause of problems was numbers which offer mobile phone ring-tones and logos at high rates of about $2.95 per minute.
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Michael Atkinson, said many mobile phone users, particularly young people, were being caught with hefty phone bills as a result of downloading the new ringtones and logos.
“The products are usually advertised in magazines and TV guides and appeal to young mobile phone users,” he said.
“What most people don’t realise is that the call cost to download this feature from a 190 number can be very high.”
Most of the advertisements state the call per minute cost, but they do not always clearly indicate the length of time the call will take.
Atkinson said, in many cases, people dialled the 190 number from their mobile to download the ringtone or logo and did not realise the mobile call rate was much higher than that which was advertised.
The call rate is high and because it takes so long to finalise a selection over the phone and then download the product, consumers can end up with a charge of up to $30 on their next phone bill. It rarely takes just one minute to complete the call.
The emergence of Internet diallers and the high costs associated with calling premium rate numbers has resulted in many complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
In the quarter to June 30, the TIO received 1039 complaints about Internet diallers. The majority were about premium rate 190 numbers. In the previous quarter, the ombudsman received 921 complaints.
Internet diallers transfer dial-up internet users from their usual ISP call number to a premium rate or international number, resulting in large phone bills.
The use of internet diallers is often associated with the delivery of pornography. Many industry bodies have advised that the best way to prevent this occurring is to block access to a 190 number altogether.
Telstra was the only Australian carrier providing 190 services, but the company ceased providing them in August.
Atkinson said the costs were normally very high and users should think about what they were getting for their money.