ACCAN and Financial Counselling Australia are celebrating a major step forward in the Fair Calls for All campaign.
Consumer groups are celebrating following an announcement by the telco regulator last week that could signal the beginning of the end to high cost 1800 and 13 calls from mobile phones.
More and more consumers rely solely on mobile phones, but are being stung by high call charges to ring 1800 numbers and 13 numbers. These numbers are free (1800) or are a low fixed cost (13/1300) if you use a landline. Mobile phone callers in contrast are paying up to a $1.78 a minute.
The Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) released a paper called, Numbering: Calls to freephone and local rate numbers—The way forward, which outlines the regulator’s proposal to vary the Numbering Plan so that calls from mobile phones to freephone (1800) numbers are free of charge to the caller—free means free—and that calls from mobile to local rate (13/1300) numbers are limited to the amount a consumer would pay for a local call made from a fixed telephone.
The ACMA has given the telcos 12 months to make the changes necessary to ensure that consumers get Fair Calls for All. This is an issue that affects every Australian consumer with a mobile phone, but the changes can’t come soon enough for people on low incomes.
Fiona Hawkins, a Queensland financial counsellor explained that some people run short on food and other necessities because they have to spend large amounts of money each fortnight in recharging prepaid mobile phones, to ring agencies such as Centrelink or a job agency. “Most of my Centrelink clients cannot afford landlines anymore. This is about equal access for everyone,” said Ms Hawkins.
In 2010, ACCAN, FCA and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) joined together to bring about a solution to this problem. The three organisations lodged Australia’s first ever “super complaint’ with the ACMA. In a cheeky and provocative move, ACCAN also sought the services of Number Woman, the first super hero to ever lend a hand to fight for consumer rights. Learn why Number Woman wants Fair Calls For All at www.accan.org.au/numberwoman
The ACMA has begun a six-week consultation period and ACCAN says it expects the telecommunications industry will strongly oppose these necessary changes to the Numbering Plan. Now more than ever it is important that these changes are important, achievable and much needed, for both consumers and businesses. To find out how you can help achieve Fair Calls For All subscribe for campaign updates by sending an email with the subject ‘subscribe’ to firstname.lastname@example.org
“We’re incredibly pleased that the ACMA is taking this first important step towards fairer calls,” said Elissa Freeman, Director Policy & Campaigns at ACCAN. “But we expect that the industry will put up a fierce fight and we are urging all of our campaign supporters and other members of the Consumers’ Federation to send a submission in support of these changes to the ACMA by 30th November.”
Fiona Guthrie, FCA
Elissa Freeman, Director Policy & Campaigns