The Australian Communications and Media Authority today announced a new framework for call charges from mobile phones to 1800 and 13/1300 numbers.
Developed in close consultation with the telecommunications industry, the new arrangements take account of market changes in recent years and are intended to deliver a range of consumer benefits:
- Individual mobile operators have made separate plans to make all calls to 1800 numbers from mobile phones free of charge and will be advising their customers about these plans in due course. These calls will be free for pre-paid mobile customers (even when they run out of credit but only until their service expires);
- Mobile operators will offer ‘13-Friendly’ mobile plans in accordance with a guideline developed by Communications Alliance. Under these plans, calls to 13 and 1300 numbers will be charged against the included-value allowance on their plan, rather than billed separately. These plans will be available across all price points, so that all consumers can benefit from them;
- The industry is implementing an information campaign to alert consumers to consider whether a ‘13-friendly’ plan is appropriate for them when choosing their provider.
‘Individual mobile operators are finalising the arrangements to give effect to these initiatives and we look forward to all mobile customers realising the benefits of this approach in the near future,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.
‘The ACMA is particularly pleased that these clear consumer wins have been achieved without direct regulatory intervention. Industry is to be congratulated for not only coming on board with updating the arrangements, but for adopting a leadership role that aligns with the importance of mobile phone services to so many people,’ said Mr Chapman.
These initiatives will work in conjunction with other protections – notably call and data usage alerts from mobile providers – which are now required under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.
In developing its approach, the ACMA has considered the particular issues confronting vulnerable consumers who often need to contact government and support agencies. Vulnerable consumers should benefit from the broad initiatives outlined above and additional initiatives which include:
- Acommitment from industry to communicating about those plans in ways that specifically take account of the needs of vulnerable consumers; and
- The introduction of ‘call-backs’ by high transaction government agencies such as Medicare and Centrelink, which enable consumers to avoid spending long periods waiting in call queues.
‘Both the ACMA and industry will monitor how these issues work out in practice. We consider this mix of actions currently represents an appropriate, pragmatic and balanced strategy that is most likely to result in short and long term improvement in consumers’ experiences,’ said Mr Chapman.