Aussie Story - Permitted Attachments
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 99 19:49:54 -0800
Subject: Aussie Story - Permitted Attachments
Forwarded-by: Robin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
No Minister - The Story so far:
Sun 14 Feb 1999
I'm not an avid TV watcher. Saw advert for a phone company called Primus
Telecom. It displays a man holding a telephone receiver up to a TV set
which plays the dialing tones for the company sales number. It urges
listeners to do the same, thereby violating the law on "Permitted
Attachments" Later on that night, while out of room, heard an ad which said
that they would be playing the advert again in the future. After some
thought and a few phone calls to other technically-minded people am
concerned at advert.
Technical: Random users using random TV sets at random volume setting and
holding phone at random distances from speakers, will in some cases generate
excessive volume level which may overload the phone system and cause bleed
through between lines. This is the reason stated in past why any device that
used any sort of acoustic generating device (eg a loudspeaker) to
"acoustically couple" info to a phone line was illegal without a "Permitted
Attachment" Permit from AUSTEL (now the ACA). Gaining such approval was
expensive and time consuming.
The Apple Newton (you could dial a phone number by holding your telephone
receiver near the computer's loudspeaker) languished for months while
I don't believe that all TV sets in Australia have "Permitted Attachment"
Permits from AUSTEL (now the ACA) - mine doesn't.
Breaches for people using non-permitted devices in the past were liable for
fines up to $50,000.
Under Australian Law entrapment by the police is legal, regularly practised,
and help to keep the criminal system (including the jails occupied). By
accessing the call record information, Telstra (currently major provider of
local calls) can identify who in Australia dialed that number at that time,
and that can be used as evidence.
Mon 15 Feb 1999
Sally at ACCC 07 3835 4666 apparently not interested as their definition of
misleading or deceptive conduct apparently does not include trying to get
people to break a law.
Sheryl Kernow (local Member of Federal Parliament) 07 3881 2200 unavailable
- left telephone message on answering machine.
ABA phone line machine voice tells you to write to the Television Station,
and if they do not reply in writing in 60 days, then write to the ABA.
Mark Cummings at ABA not able to help as he or none of his managers seemed
to know anything about the law about "Permitted attachments" to phone
services. If it was dialling a 1900 number, maybe he could help. Told me
to write to the
Advertising Standards Board
Suite 2 level 5
99 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Gary Ryan at ACA (taken over from AUSTEL) 07 3238 6322 had heard about the
ad, and was waiting to see it played again. He was interested if it had
anything to do with mobile phones. He was non-committal, and be-mused that
I believed that a TV loudspeaker was (as it was in the past) still defined
as a "non-Permitted Attachment", thus the ad was enticing people to break
After 6:10 PM: Channel 9 plays ad again. Part of full campaign
1) get your phone ready
2) the ad itself
3) you missed it - we'll do it again
Tue 16 Feb 1999
Sheryl Kernow (local Member of Federal Parliament) 07 3881 2200 - phone now
gives tones - line apparently now connected to a fax or modem.
Attourney General Dept don't give advice to other than Government
Departments I said I wasn't after advice, I was more interested in seeing
somebody prosecuted for inducing people to break the Law on Permitted
Attachments. Said to Ring Telecom Ombudsman.
Telecom Ombudsman gives name of AMY Lawson at PRIMUS TELECOM on 1800 811
Maree at PRIMUS stunned when advised that the advert appears to induce
people to break the law on permitted attachments. She says she assumes that
they got permission to do what they are doing, and is apparently be-mused
when I point out that would not have been possible in the past. Each person
who holds up the phone to the TV would have to have a permit (different for
each brand and model of TV ever sold) else they would be liable for a
$50,000 fine. I point out that I have no hassle with PRIMUS: if the law has
been changed, then many Australians will be delighted.
Amy is busy, she will ring back later when properly briefed.
Passed details of matter so far on to newsgroups aus.tv aus.radio
Nice man from Sheryl Kernow (local Member of Federal Parliament) office
calls. Apparently he has been unable to get thru as my phone has been busy
or not answering (got to buy bread occasionally!). After giving him a
little bit of detail he said that the PRIMUS advertising agency may also be
responsible for inducing people to break the law. Told him the full story
about run around from Public service, etc. He said he would pass the matter
on to the opposition spokes-person for Communications. He could not
guarantee that a question would be asked in Parliament, but it could happen.
Amy from Primus called back. Wanted to know what company I was from. Just
me. The technical stuff seemed a bit too deep for her. She was very definite
that "PRIMUS had obtained all the necessary legal permissions" before
running the ads. Pointed out to her that PRIMUS may only be in danger of
being found guilty of inducing others to break the law on permitted
The people dialing the PRIMUS number with help from PRIMUS were the ones
breaking the law on permitted attachments, making them liable for fines up
Amy wanted to know how I knew what I claimed - probably suspected some
elaborate form of prank. i told her about 30 years experience, including
working in the Telecom Industry, and also electronic construction experience
in the field of amateur radio, hifi computing, etc. I agreed that the law
may be ridiculous, but it should be enforced, or else made to go away
properly for ever. Pointed out to her that if PRIMUS had made the law go
away properly, then many thousands of technical Australians in the
communications field would be grateful, and want to know how PRIMUS did it!
I pointed out that I had no love lost for Telstra, or any wish for harm for
PRIMUS, was just concerned about people being induced to do something
apparently illegal. Amy and I felt it best that she find someone with a
more technical background and have them ring me back.
Rang ABC Journalist. Interested, but at first did not seem to get the point.
Explained it simply in more detail. We agreed that this was not earth
shattering and would most likely not make the 7:00 o'clock TV news tonight.
I pointed out that the Labor Party was now aware of the matter, so if a
question was asked in Parliament, then someone in the ABC may recognise the
Tried to connect to http://www.electronicsaustralia.com.au/ but net
connection so slow it keeps timing out. Eventually give up as net address
allegedly not reachable!
© 1999 Peter Langston