'Free Calls' that aren't free.

Consumer groups want the Australian communications watchdog to regulate the prices charged for so called "free call" numbers when they are dialled from mobile telephones. Currently mobile users are charged per minute to call these "free" numbers, which are often the only point of access to essential services such as Centrelink and some energy providers. Welfare agencies says the extra costs hurt those who can't afford a landline.

For many low-income people in order for them to manage their budget, they can't afford to have a landline so they are relying on a pre-paid mobile phone. Yet the reality is many people don't even know that when they make these calls to these kinds of numbers, they don't realise that they are being charged.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is leading what it calls a "super complaint" to the communications watchdog (ACMA). ACMA says it takes the issue seriously and has been assessing matters relating to call costs from mobile phones to 1800 and 13 numbers. ACMA says a consultation paper will be issued in coming weeks.