Free means free calls from mobile phones to 18/1800 freephone numbers | ACMA

Free means free calls from mobile phones to 18/1800 freephone numbers

Media release 30/2013 - 22 May

Australians would be able to call ‘freephone’ (18/1800) numbers from their mobile phone at no charge under a draft variation to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Numbering Plan, released for comment today.

While calls from fixed phone services can already be made to freephone numbers at no charge, calls from mobile phones are generally charged at a timed rate. This can lead to high costs for long calls, including those where the caller is placed on hold for an extended period. The ACMA’s Numbering Work Program (see Backgrounder) identified the need for reform in this area.

‘The ACMA welcomes the unanimous and unambiguous support shown by all stakeholders for the introduction, by no later than 1 January 2015, of free calls from mobile phones to freephone numbers,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

‘The release of this draft variation is a step towards another important outcome from the ACMA’s Numbering Work Program. It reflects changing consumer use of telecommunications services and improving price transparency, with benefits for industry, consumers and government agencies. While there is still significant work ahead to realise these benefits, including the renegotiation by industry of interconnect agreements for calls to freephone numbers, I would very much welcome efforts by service providers to enable these benefits to be realised earlier than 1 January 2015,’ Mr Chapman added.

With respect to a related potential reform under consideration from the Numbering Work Program, the ACMA continues to consider future arrangements for the cost of calls from mobile phones to local rate (13/1300) numbers. In its December 2012 Discussion Paper, the ACMA set out two different approaches to reforming the cost of calls to these particular numbers. The ACMA has received a number of submissions about this body of work and is continuing its discussions with stakeholders.

Written submissions on the abovementioned draft variation concerning the cost of calls from mobile phones to freephone numbers are welcome. The deadline for submissions is 23 June 2013. Information about making a submission can be found on the ACMA website.

To arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.


Backgrounder

Since 2010, the ACMA has been conducting an extensive review and consultation program about various telephone numbering arrangements. Detailed information about the program is available on the ACMA website

For the ACMA, the review has been one of a number of vital components of its approach to telecommunications reform and is its response to issues raised by consumers and industry through the ACMA’s Numbering Advisory Committee. These issues reflect the deep changes in industry structures, service offerings and consumer behaviour that have occurred since the Telecommunications Numbering Plan 1997 (the Numbering Plan) was made.

The review’s vision is to make numbering flexible, so that new technologies, uses and potential markets can be more readily accommodated as they emerge.

A number of issues identified by the ACMA have already been addressed, including:

  • providing additional flexibility for the use of general (geographic) numbers within capital cities
  • removing unused service types and redundant legislation from the Numbering Plan
  • ensuring additional capacity for the ever-expanding demand for mobile numbers.

One of the more significant issues still being examined by the ACMA is the charging arrangements for calls from mobile phones to telephone numbers commencing with 18, 1800, 13 and 1300. These services are known as ‘freephone’ and ‘local rate’ services and are used by businesses to provide a single inbound number on which their customers can call them.

Freephone and local rate numbers are commonly used by businesses and government agencies to provide a single contact point for customers or other callers from around Australia. They often form easily memorised phonewords or patterns, and provide advanced call-handling facilities to enable organisations to better manage inbound calls.

Currently, calls from fixed phone services can be made to freephone numbers for free and to local rate numbers for the cost of a local call. In contrast, calls from mobile services to freephone and local rate numbers are generally charged on a timed basis. This can lead to high costs for long calls, including those where the caller is placed on hold for extended periods.

The increasing proportion of consumers who use their mobile phone as their primary or sole communications service potentially increases the quantity of calls being made to these numbers from mobile phones, making this a large and indeed growing issue for many consumers.

On 20 December 2012, the ACMA released a discussion paper proposing two different approaches for calls from mobile phones to FLRNs. Under both approaches the Numbering Plan would be amended so that calls to freephone numbers would be free. For local rate numbers, one approach would see the cost of calls limited to a low fixed amount through a change to the Numbering Plan.

The second approach would rely on the increasing number of local rate ‘friendly’ plans, where the cost of these calls is included within the plan’s ‘included value’.

Submissions on the paper closed on 28 February 2013. After considering the submissions it received in response to the paper, the ACMA has now released for public comment a draft variation to the Numbering Plan which, if made, would mean that calls from mobile phones to freephone numbers were free to the caller.

Last updated: 11 October 2013