Those Sneaky 13 Calls

Outbound Calls to 13 Numbers are among the biggest hidden costs on your fixed line phone bill, and are all the more insidious for being hidden in plain view.

A 13 number, as you may have guessed, is any phone number that begins with 13 (1300 numbers can be slightly different). Calls to 13 are typically charged at a fixed flat rate (around 30c - a little less on some carriers, and a lot more on others), which seems reasonable enough, and would be reasonable but for several factors:

  1. Cost. 30c is considerably more than a local call, which will cost a medium to large business anywhere from 6c to 15c per call.
  2. Volume. Few businesses have any awareness of just how many 13 calls they make in a given month. Often there are security lines making regular calls. There are EFTPOS facilities. Every time a staff member dials a taxi, or uses phone banking, or calls a customer service line. 30c isn't much for a call, but you would be amazed at just how quickly the cost of Calls to 13 adds up.

The following break downs are taken from a quick sampling of a number of Dog and Bone clients' fixed line bills, representing about 211,000 calls, and about $50,000 in call spend.

Table 1. Call Volume by Standard Call Type


Table 1. reveals that Local calls comprise approximately 56% of total calls made. Calls to Mobiles make up about 22%, while STD calls and Calls to 13 total 11% and 10% respectively.

Table 2. Call Costs by Standard Call Type


Table 2. reveals that Calls to Mobile phones is by far the highest call cost category, accounting for almost 52% of total standard call spend. (The average cost of a call to a mobile is 49c). Meanwhile, despite their high volume, Local Calls only account for a quarter (25%) of spend. This is due to the relatively low fixed cost of local calls. STD calls only account for about 9% of call spend, due to low volume and generally very low rates. Nevertheless, STD rates are invariably used by telcos to make their offers look attractive. (It's important to realise that this is on average the least important standard call rate.To put it another way, knocking 1c off the Calls to Mobile rate will generally save your business more than knocking 2c off the STD rate.)

Calls to 13, however, account for 14.3% of standard fixed line call spend, and yet this rate is almost never divulged by carriers unless you request it of them. It is also the rate that they are least willing to negotiate on, even though it is a category that generates greater costs than STD. Due to its 'hidden' nature, it remains the only rate to which economies of scale do not apply. A multinational corporation generally pays the same for a 13 call that a small home office customer does.

Please bear in mind that these figures are an average derived from a cross section of different organisations. Individual cases should be approached on a case-by-case basis, meaning it is essential to know your own spend patterns before entering into any negotiations. As ever, knowledge empowers. Nonetheless, it is food for thought, and we encourage all users to look a little more closely at the Calls to 13 category on your bill.