An announcement by Vodafone in May 2015 that it would make calls to 1800 numbers free of charge for all of its customers was excellent news for telecommunications customers. From today, the overwhelming majority of mobile operators, including Vodafone, Optus and Telstra, will be providing their customers free of charge mobile calls to 1800 numbers.
Vodafone had made this announcement notwithstanding its concerns that providing free of charge mobile calls to 1800 numbers unfairly disadvantages mobile providers because of the way interconnect charges are calculated. The Australian Communications and Media Authority understands this is an area of continuing negotiation within industry.
The ACMA considers the ongoing reform of charging arrangements for mobile calls to 13/1300 and 1800 numbers over the last several years, without the need for direct regulatory intervention, to be a significant achievement and acknowledges industry’s leadership role in delivering this reform and its associated consumer benefits.
The ACMA also wishes to acknowledge the positive advocacy role played by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), particularly on behalf of organisations that represent vulnerable consumers.
The ACMA is aware however that a small number of mobile providers have yet to implement this capability for their customers. The ACMA will continue to work with Communications Alliance and ACCAN to encourage these providers to implement free of charge mobile calls in a timely manner.
In the interim, if making mobile calls to 1800 numbers is important to you and your provider has not yet announced that it has (or will) make calls to these numbers free of charge, you should consider the large range of providers and mobile plans which do offer calls to 1800 numbers free of charge.
The ACMA and industry will continue to closely monitor how these arrangements work out in practice, particularly for vulnerable consumers.