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Moves to fix ‘free call’ discrepancy

Saturday, 22nd October, 2011

Mobile users may soon no longer be charged for calling freephone and local rate numbers under changes proposed by the communications regulator.

Now mobile users who use 1800 services - including support lines for gamblers, addicts or the abused - can be charged at a timed rate of over $1.70 per minute.

The same calls are free if made on a fixed line phone.

Under changes proposed by the Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), calls from mobile phones to freephone (1800) numbers would be free.

And calls from mobiles to local rate numbers (13 and 1300) would be limited to the amount that a consumer would expect to pay for a local call made from a fixed line phone.

The ACMA said the proposed changes to the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 would “reflect current consumer preferences and market realities”.

An ACMA spokesman said they would ensure that ‘free means free’ when dialling help and support numbers.

“The changes are expected to make a difference to those consumers who contact freephone and local rate numbers using mobile phones, as they currently pay mobile terminating rates for calls to these numbers,” the spokesman said.

ACMA said that while the changes would help ensure equity, it was not known whether it will improve an individual’s ability to access resources.

“It is difficult to know what impact the proposed change will have on the number and duration of calls to these numbers and to this end the ACMA is seeking additional information through this consultation process to assist it in considering this matter.”

The ACMA is taking submissions until the end of November and expects the changes to take place over 12 months.

A local health service spokesman said that the changes were a good idea.

“Any initiative which takes away some of the barriers involved in accessing resources for people who need help is welcomed,” he said.


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