ACMA speeds up ID verification for prepaid mobile

Only one check necessary under new rules, but AMTA says still burdensome for industry

Customers no longer have to prove their identity at the store when buying prepaid mobile services, under new identity verification rules that took effect today.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a determination that allows mobile service providers to verify a person’s identity using a range of new methods, including confirmation of an existing post-paid account and, in the future, the government’s online verification service.

A government and industry working group developed the additional methods of identify verification for prepaid services.

The government has more strict rules for prepaid services in part due to law enforcement and national security concerns that a criminal or terrorist could anonymously buy and use a prepaid phone.

Accurate information in prepaid services also assists emergency responders answer triple-zero emergency calls.

“The new methods will enable verification by the mobile provider itself at the time the service is activated, instead of identity checking by third parties at the store front,” ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement.

“The changes remove the need for a consumer to provide personal information twice—at the time of sale and when activating the service online or over the phone. It is also expected the new options for identity verification will provide greater efficiencies and reduced transaction costs for industry.”

Customer privacy was a major consideration as the working group developed the rules, the ACMA said in the announcement of the new rules.

The rules require mobile providers to collect only “the minimum amount of information reasonably necessary to verify identity,” the agency said.

“Personal data is becoming a key asset in the digital economy and the protection of it is crucial to maintaining trust and confidence between mobile providers and consumers.”

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) said the new rules provide more flexibility for industry, but complained that ID check rules continue to burden industry.

"Industry remains concerned that any regulation requiring prepaid ID checks places a significant regulatory burden on industry while concerns remain as to the efficacy of this regulatory approach because of the difficulty in seeking to accurately verify the identity of every registered user,” said AMTA CEO Chris Althaus.

Althaus added that access costs to the government's online verification system should be paid by the government.

"The cost to mobile carriage service providers using the government online verification system is high in comparison with the revenue from many prepaid services, which deliver far lower average revenue per service than postpaid services," he said.

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