A Victory for Fair Calls

ACCAN has announced success in their Fair Calls For All campaign!

ACMA has announced that from January 1, 2015, calls from a mobile to a 13, 1300 or 1800 number with be either free or charged at a fixed cost comparable to a local call. This is a significant victory.

The Fair Calls For All campaign - of which Dog and Bone was a part - aimed to reduce the excessive costs incurred by mobile users calling 13 and 1800 numbers. Every time you dial a taxi, call Centrelink, or call a bank, the chances are very high that you are calling a 13 number.

13 and 1300 services are designed such that fixed lines calling them will only incur a 30c cost (on Telstra - other carriers may vary slightly), with the rest of the call's cost being absorbed by the business that runs the number. However, on a mobile phone, these calls are charged at the standard national call rate, including all flag falls. On a typical 'Cap' plan, this will typically result in a flag fall of about 35-40c, and a call rate of 80c - $1 per minute (ACCAN's touted $1.78 per minute was pretty unlikely, to be frank). These calls are also usually charged in either 30 sec or 60 sec blocks, which is considerably more expensive than per second billing.

This means that the costs of accessing essential services could be exorbitantly higher for users that don't have a landline, which is more and more people. I was personally affected by this. Earlier this year our home was burgled - which was bad enough - but dealing with the insurance became even more painful. Across the length of our claim, my partner and I spent approximately eight hours on hold to the insurance company, which of course uses a 13 number (as it should). Since we don't have a landline, and because we are very aware of using our mobile plans sensibly, we were compelled to call the insurance company only when we had access to a fixed line, such as at work, or visiting the houses of friends or family. otherwise the call costs could grow exorbitant. It was frustrating.

I am a telecommunications analyst, so naturally I have awareness in this area. Other do not. It is not uncommon for users to go over their caps, generating exorbitant bills, just from being stuck calling essential services such as Centrelink. Often these are among the most vulnerable members of society.

The success of the Fair Calls For All campaign is thus a significant victory for consumer rights, and ACCAN is to be congratulated.