As a parent you wouldn’t be alone in expressing concern over the amount of money spent by children using their mobile phones today. Expensive applications, or even many cheap ones, available for download with mobile broadband data plans and premium rate SMS services that allow the purchase of ringtones, can all cumulate to create enormous phone bills at the end of the month. This worry could soon be at an end however, with the recent announcement that users will soon have the ability to request that such high-cost SMS services be barred.

Consumers have been complaining in force when it comes to the expense generated by these premium rate services. Adverts attractively displaying the latest ringtones and novelty games for today’s mobile phones often hide an ongoing weekly or monthly charge in particularly small fine print, luring children into purchasing without an awareness of the cost. As these services can be signed up with a simple text message, there have been many occurrences of end of the month bill shock.

Although the ban takes great strides to counter the often voiced problem, the solution is far less hardline than the original recommendation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Their desire was to create an automatic ban on all premium rate services, meaning that a phone would need to be unlocked before any of these services could actually be used.

This result is a pleasing one for the mobile phone companies who were worried about an automatic ban making it too difficult for users to actually sign up for any services that they might wish to. It is also likely to appease parents who will at least be satisfied that they will now have the ability to prevent their children from signing up without any understanding of what they are signing up to. Anyone simply attempting to manage their mobile phone budget will also be helped by the ability to bar any expensive services.

Following the decision, the Australian Communications and Media Authority are suggesting the use of SMS messages as a means of barring, or of course unbarring, the premium rate services from a particular mobile phone. Although this would be an easy enough process, the ACCC insists that this model of prevention will not be effective enough. After all, why would mobile phone service and mobile broadband providers wish to advertise to their clientele that there is a method to ban expensive services?

Vodafone Hutchison, Telstra and Optus mobile phone and mobile broadband providers are all backing this new model; however other consumer groups are standing alongside ACCC saying that the decision simply does not go far enough.

At present this move stands only to place a bar on premium rate SMS services, but with this new venture launched it may not be long before more stringent controls are requested regarding mobile broadband data plans in terms of download allowances for costly applications.