Phone bills and charges

Access to telecommunications services is important to everyone. There are a range of measures supporting access to reasonably priced services as well as ways you can avoid unexpected high charges.

Access for Everyone—Telstra's package for low-income consumers

Telstra's Access for Everyone was developed for anyone on a low income, including holders of the Pensioner Concession Card and other cards.

This package is a requirement of Telstra's licensing conditions. It was endorsed by low-income consumer advocacy groups through the Low-income Measures Assessment Committee (LIMAC). Representatives on the Committee include the Australian Council of Social Services, the Smith Family, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army, Jobs Australia, Homelessness Australia, Anglicare Australia and the Council on the Ageing. The package is updated by Telstra and reviewed by LIMAC on a regular basis.

Unexpectedly high bills

Unexpectedly high bills, also known as 'bill shock', come with using more services, including data and calls, than are included in a phone plan. Simple ways to avoid bill shock include:

  • Know your allowances or 'quota' for voice and data services.
  • Be aware of the data consumption associated with web browsing, social networking, gaming, music downloads.
  • Use your service provider's online usage meter to monitor downloads.
  • Factor in the extra charges when limits are exceeded.
  • Understand the advertising terms of capped, free and unlimited.
  • Consider using pre-paid plans.

International mobile roaming

International mobile roaming lets people use a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, when travelling overseas without having to buy a local service. These services can be expensive. Mobile phone carriers must:

  • send SMS warnings of high mobile roaming charges to people when they arrive at their overseas destination
  • send SMS notifications with pricing information for using roaming services
  • provide timely and accurate advice to customers about how to stop international roaming
  • provide spend-management tools, including usage notifications.

Find out more:

Trans-Tasman mobile roaming

Trans-Tasman mobile roaming services let Australians to use their mobile device in New Zealand, and vice versa. These services have been expensive, but costs are coming down.

The draft Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Mobile Roaming) Bill proposes to let the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) work with the New Zealand Commerce Commission (the NZCC) on international mobile roaming services to:

  • monitor the wholesale and retail prices and margins for these services
  • publish an annual report on retail prices and margins as well as industry compliance with price-control arrangements
  • impose price-control arrangements, e.g a price cap, on services between the two countries, where appropriate and subject to public review.

Exposure draft of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 2014

Published 24th Jun 2015

Download PDF (582.1 KB) Download DOC (138.97 KB)

Explanatory Material for the International Mobile Roaming Bill

Published 24th Jun 2015

Download PDF (51.92 KB) Download DOC (28.04 KB)

Options-stage RIS for coordinated action on trans-Tasman Mobile Roaming services

Published 24th Jun 2015

Download PDF (677.61 KB) Download DOC (110.46 KB)

Consumer protection

The Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code C628:2012 sets the rules about how phone companies must treat their customers, including:

  • sales and advertising tactics, including pre-sales disclosure information, contracts, retail sales, and any penalties for the late payment of accounts
  • letting customers see their account balances so they can better manage spending
  • helping people resolve disputes with the phone company
  • having a financial hardship policy to help manage their customer's individual circumstances
  • providing expenditure and usage management tools so people can monitor their phone costs and data usage
  • telling customers with post-paid services when they have reached 50, 85 and 100 per cent of their monthly SMS, voice and data allowance.

If you believe a phone company has not met its legal obligations, you can:

  1. Contact the phone company first and try to resolve your problem with them. If you aren't satisfied, ask to have the complaint escalated—this means a more senior person will look at it.
  2. If you still aren't satisfied, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (the TIO) for a free and independent dispute resolution service.

The ACMA can also investigate breaches of the consumer safeguards, enforce regulatory requirements and issue remedial directions.

Telstra retail price controls

Retail price controls applied price caps to Telstra's fixed-line services. They were introduced in 1989 when Telstra was the only Australian telecommunications provider. Recent reviews of retail price controls found that price controls are unnecessary in today's market. Telstra retail price controls were removed on 18 March 2015.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) still monitors prices for telecommunications services. Retail price controls can be reintroduced should significant price increases or differentiated pricing in regional areas occur.