Carriers and service providers

Prepaid mobiles

New ID rules: Prepaid mobile

Telecommunications service providers and consumers will benefit from additional options for prepaid mobile services identity-checking requirements, effective immediately.

The changes—introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and proposed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA)—allow mobile providers to verify a person’s identity information using two new methods:

  • confirming a customer’s existing prepaid mobile account
  • sighting identification at the mobile provider’s shopfront at the time the service is activated at the shopfront.

‘It’s expected these new types of identity verification will provide greater convenience for customers while providing increased efficiencies and reduced transaction costs for industry,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

Sign-up costs for industry are expected to be reduced because eligible prepaid mobile account holders will no longer have to go through the same verification process for each subsequent purchase. Customers, who are unable to or prefer not to use online verification methods, have the option of showing identification at the mobile provider’s shopfront when activating their service.

The new options add to the six methods introduced in October 2013 that enable identity verification by the mobile provider itself at the time the service is activated, instead of identity checking by third parties at the store front.

The ACMA consulted about the amendments with a range of interested parties including the Attorney-General’s Department, law enforcement agencies, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and consumer advocacy groups.

A key objective of the identity checking rules is protecting the privacy of individuals by requiring that mobile providers only obtain the minimum amount of information reasonably necessary to verify identity.

More consumer information on prepaid mobiles is available here and industry information including an explanatory video here.

At June 2014, there were an estimated 31.01 million mobile services in Australia, of which 11.71 million were prepaid mobile services.

For more information see the Backgrounder and summary of identification methods below or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or

Media release 83/2014 - 22 December


Identity-checking requirements for customers of prepaid mobile carriage services were first introduced in 1997 to allow law enforcement and national security agencies to obtain information about the identity of customers, where needed, for the purposes of their investigations. Accurate information from customers of prepaid services also assists timely responses by emergency service organisations (police, fire and ambulance services) to Triple Zero emergency calls from prepaid services.

The ACMA has made the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Amendment Determination 2014 (No.1) (the Amendment Determination) under subsection 99(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The Amendment Determination amends the Telecommunications (Service Provider - Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013 (the 2013 Determination).

The 2013 Determination allows carriage service providers (CSPs) to verify a person’s identity information through a range of methods. These include confirming an existing post-paid account or using a government online verification service.

In moving to implement the new methods introduced by the 2013 Determination, AMTA identified two additional methods for potential inclusion in a further revised 2013 Determination to allow:

  • An existing prepaid customer, who has already completed an identity check using one of the ‘time of activation’ methods introduced in the 2013 Determination, to have additional prepaid services activated without the need for identity re-verification.
  • Visual checking of identification documents at a CSP shopfront where the service can be immediately activated at the shopfront. This means that verifying identity by sighting identity documents is not limited to when the service is initially purchased as it could be undertaken at a later time when the service is activated.

The Amendment Determination updates the 2013 Determination to allow industry to adopt additional methods of identity verification.

The ACMA regulates and monitors industry’s compliance with the requirements set out in the 2013 Determination. Non-compliance is a civil penalty provision under the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Summary of identity verification methods 

Methods of verifying identity

New or previous method

Confirming the existence of an existing prepaid account where the initial verification occurred at the time of activation

(Conditions apply where the existing prepaid account is not linked to a financial account. The number of additional services that can be verified using an existing prepaid account is capped at five services over a two year period)


Sighting identification at the CSP shop front at the time the service is activated


Verifying the details of government-issued documents using government online verification services

From 2013 Determination  

Confirming the existence of:

  • an Australian financial account (credit/debit card)
  • a trusted email address (,
  • an existing post-paid account (e.g. Broadband Internet)

From 2013 Determination

Using a signed courier delivery to customer’s address

From 2013 Determination

Collecting and, if required, sighting identification at the CSP’s or a third party retailer’s shop front (this is the time of sale method)

From 2000 Determination

Alternative arrangements approved by the ACMA on application by the CSP (no alternative compliance plans approved to date)

From 2000 Determination

Prepaid mobile services

Prepaid mobile phone services enable users to pay in advance for the cost of their mobile phone calls. As credit is reduced, the user has the option of purchasing another prepaid service or recharging their existing prepaid service through the purchase of further credit.

The alternative to pre-payment is post-payment, which typically involves a fixed-term contract with bills being sent to the customer at regular intervals in the same way as for most fixed line phones.

Telecommunications Law

Part 14 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 requires carriers and CSPs to provide assistance to law enforcement and national security agencies. A vital part of each carrier or CSP’s preparations to assist law enforcement agencies is to maintain accurate records of their customers’ personal details.

Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 protects the confidentiality of personal information held by CSPs. The disclosure or use of such information is prohibited except in limited circumstances such as for purposes relating to the enforcement of criminal law.


Last updated: 10 February 2017

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