How much are you paying for free calls?

Did you know that ‘free calls’ when made from your mobile may not actually be free? Thanks to a ruling by The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), this mobile rort will soon be outlawed.

What do you mean it’s not free?
Currently mobile providers can (and do) charge you for calls from your mobile phone to supposedly ‘free’ or low-cost 1800 and 13/1300 numbers. It can cost more than $1 per minute to call the free and local-rate numbers from your mobile, and often the cost of these calls is not included in your plan.

How does that affect me?
Calls to 1800 numbers from a landline are free, and calls to 13/1300 numbers from a landline cost the same as a local call no matter where you are dialling from. It is, often, however, children and low-income earners who do not have access to landlines who are being charged high fees for calls to government services and help-lines. Many people are unaware that they pay more to call these numbers from their mobiles than their landlines, and get caught out at the end of the month when their mobile phone bill comes in.

Is anything being done?
ACMA has announced plans to ensure that calls made to these numbers really are free, or the cost of a local call, when made on both landlines and mobile phones. This may take some time, as phone companies will have to restructure the way they charge calls. ACMA has proposed a 12-month grace period, after which the changes will be brought in across the board.

What can I do until then?
Make all calls to 1800, 13 or 1300 numbers from a landline to keep costs down. You should also read the fine print on your contract, or call your mobile phone service provider, to find out exactly how much calls to those numbers cost from your mobile phone. Also be aware that although ACMA is proposing a 12-month period, it may take longer than that to effect the changes, so keep checking to find out when your phone company makes the switch.