Making Free Calls Free

The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) has announced - in response to strong demands from consumer advocate groups such as ACCAN and ACOSS - that it is seeking to introduce new regulations for how calls to 1800 and 13/1300 numbers from mobile phones are charged.

For those who may not have been following the story, as users increasingly move away from fixed line phone services to mobiles, many users are experiencing difficulties accessing essential services due to the prohibitive costs. There are plenty of horror stories going around, such children being cut off whilst accessing the Kids Helpline, and others missing Centrelink payments. ACCAN has tossed around the figure of $1.78 per minute (although this is frankly tabloid reportage. The only people paying this much are on the worst cap plan ever.) Most people will be paying closer to $1 per minute, which is still way too much for a service that was meant to be either free (1800), or about 30c (13/1300). By no coincidence, these are the rates that the AMCA is aiming for in its amendment.