Payphones | ACMA

Payphones

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As the primary universal service provider, Telstra has the responsibility of ensuring that payphones are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they reside or carry on business. Privately operated payphones, such as Blue and Gold payphones (often located in hotels and shops), are also available across Australia.

The ACMA has a role in overseeing the provision, removal and relocation of Telstra payphones in Australia. This fact sheet contains information on:

This fact sheet also contains general information for consumers about the payphone service in Australia as well as helpful tips on using payphones.

Payphone service in Australia

What is Telstra's responsibility regarding payphones?

Telstra, as the primary universal service provider, has the obligation to ensure all people in Australia have reasonable access to payphone services on an equitable basis, regardless of where they live or conduct their business. This is part of Telstra's universal service obligation (USO). Telstra sets out how it will meet its obligation to supply, install and maintain payphones under the USO on its Payphones website.  Telstra’s Payphone website also includes information on how to report a payphone fault and how to apply to have a payphone installed in addition to the procedures Telstra follows for the removal, installation and relocation of a payphone.

How many payphones are there in Australia?

As at 30 June 2016, Telstra operated around 17,093 payphones across Australia. There were also around 7,480 payphones provided by other companies, such as hotels, clubs and convenience stores. These services are generally provided using Telstra payphone access lines.

What types of services do payphones provide?

Telstra operates various types of payphone terminals that provide:

  • local, national and international calls
  • 24-hour access to emergency service numbers, free of charge
  • operator-assisted services
  • directory assistance.

A number of Telstra's payphones are Smart Payphones, which accept both coins and phone cards for call payment. Smart Payphones enhance access and usage for people with a disability by providing features such as an adjustable volume control, a built-in acoustic hearing aid coupler, and a tactile orientation mark on the '5' of the dial keypad. SMS text messaging is also available from selected payphone locations. Telstra also provides certain payphones with built-in teletypewriter (TTY) machines for use by the Deaf, hearing or speech impaired. TTY machines are primarily located at high usage sites such as major shopping centres, airports and hospitals.

How can I find out where my nearest payphone (including TTY enabled) is located?

Telstra provides a Payphone Service Locator tool on its website for locating existing Telstra payphones. This facility also shows whether the payphones are:

  • coin operated
  • card operated
  • both coin and card operated
  • SMS enabled
  • Teletypewriter (TTY) enabled.

The payphone maps also provide other useful information, such as community landmarks.

What are the payment options when using a Telstra payphone?

Telstra's Smart Payphones accept a variety of payment options. They accept Australian currency of $2, $1, 50 cent, 10 cent and 5 cent coins, as well as Telstra phonecards with values of $5, $10 and $20. For phonecards, the value is stored in a microchip on the card. When you make a call using a phonecard, the cost of the call is debited and, when you hang up, the phonecard is released with any remaining credit stored on the phonecard for future use.

Requesting a Telstra payphone to be installed

How do I apply for a Telstra payphone to be installed?

Telstra accepts applications for payphones from any person or community group. An application can be made for one or more new payphones in areas where there are currently none, or for additional payphones to meet increased demands on existing payphone services.

The requirements of an eligible payphone request are outlined in the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Location of Payphones) Determination 2011. An eligible payphone request is a request that satisfies the requirements set out in this determination. You must provide supporting evidence that you are an authorised person to make a request on behalf of:

  • five or more individuals who would be directly affected by the operation of a payphone at the particular location that is the subject of the request; or
  • 100 or more individuals who reside in the vicinity of the proposed new payphone site or otherwise have a demonstrated interest in the location of the payphone at the particular location that is the subject of the request; or
  • the local government body with responsibility for the particular location that is the subject of the request; or
  • an authority or institution of the State or Territory in which the particular location that is the subject of the request is located.

In addition, an eligible payphone request must contain:

  • the name of the person making the request
  • the name of the persons, local government body or authority or institution on whose behalf the request is made
  • details of means by which the person or persons, local government body or authority can be contacted
  • details of the site, or sites, at the particular location at which it is requested that a payphone or payphones be located; and
  • reasons why a payphone should be located at the particular location.

An eligible payphone request may also specify the type of payphone that is requested to be located at the particular location, such as whether the request is for:

  • a coin and card operated payphone
  • a card only operated payphone; or
  • a TTY payphone.

An application to have a payphone installed can be made in writing to:

Telstra
Payphone Siting Manager
Locked Bag 4850
Melbourne Vic 3001

or an application can be lodged online through the Telstra website.

What criteria will Telstra use to assess an application to install a payphone?

Telstra applies an assessment framework (on a case-by-case basis) to determine whether the provision of a payphone is justified. Under the assessment framework, which is set out below, Telstra is also required to take into account any unique or special circumstances in assessing a request for the provision of a payphone service.

Considerations when siting a payphone

When Telstra makes a decision to provide a payphone, the precise siting of it will be determined by an assessment of factors that include the following:

  • accessibility of the site to customers and maintenance staff
  • location of other nearby payphones
  • visibility of the facility to potential customers
  • the availability of appropriate infrastructure, including power
  • complexity of technical installation constraints
  • potential site rental fees
  • public safety and community consultation considerations
  • minimising environmental impact
  • risk of damage to equipment from vandalism and vehicular traffic or the elements and natural disasters.

Telstra also works with organisations representing people with hearing or speech impairment to find appropriate locations for payphones equipped with a teletypewriter (TTY) machine.

How long will Telstra take to reach a decision on an application and how long will it be before the payphone is installed?

Telstra will acknowledge an application within five working days of receipt and will provide a formal notification of response to an eligible payphone request within 42 days prior to making its final decision on an eligible payphone request for a payphone to be located in a particular place or area. Where a person makes a request for the installation of a payphone and the request is not an eligible payphone request, Telstra must notify the person in writing of the reasons why the provider does not consider the request to be an eligible payphone request.

Installation time frames vary depending on the site of the new payphone and the accessibility of existing telecommunications infrastructure. However, Telstra generally expects installation to occur within the time frames shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Time frames for installation of Telstra payphones

Infrastructure

Location

Likely installation time frame (from notification of decision)

Accessible

All areas

3 months

Not readily accessible

Urban and major rural areas

3 months

Not readily accessible

Minor rural areas

6 months

Not readily accessible

Remote areas

9 months

These time frames are dependent on various factors that can affect Telstra's ability to install a payphone. In cases where the standard installation time frame cannot be met, Telstra will advise the payphone applicant in writing of the reason for the delay and provide a revised date for installation based on the individual circumstances of the case. Due to the need to consult with third parties, the time frame for installation of Telstra-operated payphones is generally longer than that for privately operated payphones.

What about installation of a privately operated payphone?

Payphones can either be operated by Telstra (Telstra-operated payphones) or by other persons, organisations or businesses (privately operated payphones). Most of the privately operated payphones in Australia are operated by small businesses and clubs as part of the overall service offering to their customers. However, some are operated as part of stand-alone payphone businesses. The private payphone operator of your choice should be contacted regarding the installation of a privately operated payphone.

A payphone access line is generally required for connection of a privately operated payphone, regardless of whether the payphone is supplied by Telstra, or another party. If Telstra accepts an application for connection of a payphone access line for a privately operated payphone Telstra will aim to supply a payphone access line within the timeframes set out in the Basic Telephone Service of Telstra’s Our Customer Terms (see section 3).

Where can I find information regarding current payphone proposals?

Information regarding Telstra’s current proposals to remove, relocate and install payphones may be accessed by opening the documents on the Telstra payphones website. Under the Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation (Public Consultation on the Location or Removal of Payphones) Determination 2011 (Public Consultation Rules) Telstra must publish these notices to its website at least 42 days prior to the date by which the it intends to make a final decision regarding the proposal.

Where Telstra proposes to remove the last remaining payphone from a site it is required to publish a Payphone Consultation Document (PCD) to its payphones website at least 42 days prior to the date by which Telstra intends to make a final decision regarding the proposal. In addition, a payphone removal display notice must be fixed to the payphone itself or the structure supporting the payphone and include:

  • a description of the site from which the payphone is proposed to be removed;
  • details of the location of a payphone that is the nearest payphone to the payphone which is proposed to be removed;
  • the date by which the primary universal service provider intends to make a final decision regarding the proposal;
  • an explanation of how a person may make a submission to the primary universal service provider before a final decision is made; and
  • details of the website address for downloading a copy of the payphone consultation document.

In addition, the PCD must comply with the Telecommunications (Payphone Consultation Document) Guidelines 2012 prepared by the ACMA.

Payphone location and removal complaints

What do I do if I have a complaint about a payphone removal or would like a payphone relocated?

You are able to lodge a complaint with Telstra regarding the proposed location or removal of a Telstra payphone. If your complaint is in relation to the removal or of a payphone it must relate to a decision where the removal would result in no other payphone remaining at that location. You must lodge a complaint with Telstra about its decision within 20 working days from the date when Telstra provided written notification of its final decision.

Payphone location and removal complaints may be made to Telstra by:

  • Writing to: Telstra Payphone Siting Manager, Locked Bag 4850, Melbourne Vic 3001
  • Email: payphone.solutions@team.telstra.com
  • Payphone enquiry line 1800 011 433, Option 2 (free call from fixed phones)

Following the completion of the consultation process, Telstra will provide any complainants that made a submission with a letter or email advising them of the post-consultation decision. The letter will include information regarding the basis for the decision and a statement that the complainant can contact the ACMA if they have concerns that Telstra has not met its Universal Service Obligation. It should be noted that Telstra will take into account any objections before making a final decision about the removal or relocation of a payphone service

How can I contact Telstra to lodge a complaint about a payphone?

If you disagree with Telstra's decision about a payphone location, re-location or removal you must lodge a complaint with Telstra about that decision within 20 working days from the date when Telstra provided you with its written notification of the final decision. Within 5 working days of receiving your complaint Telstra will provide you with an acknowledgement and a complaint reference number. Telstra will then provide a response, in writing, within 20 working days of receiving your complaint.

If the complaint is in relation to a decision to remove a payphone, then it must relate to a decision to remove the last remaining payphone at that site. If you are dissatisfied with Telstra's response to the complaint in relation to a final decision regarding a payphone removal proposal, you may lodge an objection with the ACMA within 10 working days from when Telstra provides you with its written response to your complaint.

Comments, enquiries and complaints about Telstra payphones should be made directly to Telstra through the Payphone Enquiries/Applications page or by calling Freecall 1800 011 433. Make sure you provide your contact details if you would like to be notified of Telstra's decision regarding your complaint. The Telstra website also provides information on Telstra's complaints policy. Payphone faults can be reported to Telstra by calling its payphone fault reporting service on 180 22 44 (a free call from Telstra payphones).

What to do if you are unsatisfied with Telstra's response to your complaint?

If you have made a payphone-related complaint to Telstra and are not happy with the response, or you did not receive a response, you may contact the ACMA to take further action. The ACMA will consider your complaint if you:

  • are complaining about the provision of payphones in your local area; or 
  • have already complained to Telstra and are not happy with the final response you received.

In addition, you may make a complaint if you believe that Telstra is not meeting its legal obligations under the USO and/or any of the following payphone instruments:

The ACMA will investigate your complaint to ensure that Telstra is meeting its obligations under the USO and that it is providing payphones in accordance with the legislative requirements.

To lodge a complaint with the ACMA regarding a payphone, please download and complete the ACMA's payphone complaints form (PDF). Alternatively, you can call the ACMA on 1300 850 115 or email telephone.service.regulation@acma.gov.au to have a complaint form forwarded to you. Upon submission of a payphone removal or relocation complaint, the ACMA will acknowledge your complaint within five working days. The ACMA's reply will include the name and contact details of the investigating officer assigned to your complaint, and information about how the complaint will proceed.

Tips on using a Telstra payphone

Choose the right coins

Payphones will not provide exact change when you use coins to make calls, they only return unused coins. For example, you will not get any change back if you use a $2 coin to pay for a 50 cent local call. If there is remaining credit displayed on the payphone screen when you hang up, you only get back those coins that the payphone did not use. However, you may wish to make another call using the credit you have left. This is explained below in the section about the 'follow on' button.

When you make a local call from a Telstra payphone, it costs 50 cents no matter how long you talk for. Payphones can be operated on a pay-as-you-use basis. It is recommended that when using a payphone, you do not load up a payphone with coins to make calls to mobile phones or long distance numbers. National and international long distance calls and calls to mobile phones are charged in blocks of 50 cents. Unless you have some idea of the length of time you are going to talk, it is best to start the call by inserting the minimum call fee of 50 cents and then adding more blocks of 50 cents as you talk. The screen display on the payphone will show how much credit is left for the call as you talk. Paying for calls in blocks of 50 cents means you are less likely to load up the payphone with credit that you cannot use at the end of the call.

Adding credit during a call

If you are using a Telstra Smart Payphone, you can extend a call by adding more coins or by inserting a phonecard. It does not matter what you started your call with (coins or a phonecard) you can add more credit using either coins or a phonecard. If your phonecard is running low on credit while you are making a call, you can replace it with another phonecard by pressing the 'card changeover' button. Doing this releases your old card and allows you to insert a new card without interrupting your call. Any remaining credit will be stored on your phonecard when you hang up.

'Follow on' button-using the leftover credit when using coins

Many Telstra payphones have a 'follow on' button. This button is usually located below the handset hook or cradle and has the words 'follow on' written on it. The 'follow on' button is useful if you want to make more than one call or if you have a credit the payphone cannot return to you. For example, if you put in a $2 coin and make a local call (call cost of 50 cents), at the end of the call you would still have $1.50 credit. If you hang up at this stage, the payphone will be unable to refund you the $1.50. If instead of hanging up, you pressed the 'follow on' button, your first call would be disconnected and you would get a dial tone allowing you to make a second call using the remaining credit. It is important to remember to not hang up, rather just press the 'follow on' button to continue making calls.

Adjusting the volume on payphones

Most Telstra payphones are equipped with a volume control button. If you are having difficulty hearing the voice on the other end of your call, the volume control button may help. The volume control button is usually located beside the number keypad. There are two volume settings, 'standard' and 'high'. You can switch between 'high' and 'standard' volume by pressing the volume control button. The handsets of all Telstra payphones also have built-in hearing aid couplers to assist people who wear hearing aids.

Echoes or hollow sounds during a call

If you find there is a strong echo or a hollow sound during your phone call, it might help to place your hand over the mouthpiece end of the handset while you are listening. The echo may be caused by feedback from background noise circulating through the handset. By blocking off the mouthpiece with your hand while you are listening, you reduce the amount of feedback and this may reduce the amount of echo you hear.

Alternative languages

All Telstra Smart Payphones have a language button (usually marked with a flag symbol and often located to the left of the number keypad). By pressing this button you can change the language of the instructions shown on the screen display. English is the default language and the payphone will include at least three other languages, selected from the following: French, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. These languages will be displayed with each press of the language button.

Reporting a damaged or faulty payphone

Faults can be reported by calling Telstra's payphone fault reporting service on 180 22 44 (a free call from Telstra payphones).  Telstra is required to repair a faulty payphone within the following time frames, depending on the location of the payphone:

Payphone service location category

Time for repair

Urban area

End of one (1) full working day after being notified of the fault

Major rural area and minor rural area

End of two (2) full working days after being notified of the fault

Remote area

End of three (3) full working days after being notified of the fault

If you are not satisfied with Telstra's performance in repairing a faulty payphone (or incorrect charging), contact Telstra in the first instance. If your complaint cannot be resolved with Telstra, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or TTY 1800 675 692 and seek an independent review. The TIO may also be able to assist you with complaints regarding privately operated payphones.

The ACMA reports on Telstra's payphone performance-including, overall availability of payphone services and the time taken to repair faults-through its annual Communications Report, which are available on the ACMA's website.

Payphone contact numbers

Telstra payphone enquiry line—1800 011 433 (free call) (Contact this number to register a complaint about the removal or relocation of a payphone or to request the installation of a payphone)

Reporting payphone faults to Telstra—180 22 44 (a free call from Telstra payphones)

Dedicated Indigenous Australian Telstra enquiry/service number—1800 444 403 (free call)

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)—1800 062 058 (free call) (The TIO can also assist with complaints about incorrect charging by payphones)

The ACMA—1300 850 115 (the ACMA can investigate payphone removal or relocation complaints after the matter has been referred to Telstra in the first instance).

More information

For more information about the provision of payphones under the Universal Service Obligation in Australia, please contact the ACMA's Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or info@acma.gov.au.

Last updated: 09 April 2017