Your landline service provider must give you a bill in at least one accessible format that can be stored and reproduced. This may be a paper bill, but it can also be provided by email or through an online client account.
A service provider can decide to change the way it provides you with a bill, however they must inform you about the change and your options.
Understanding your bill
All phone bills must be easy to read and understand. They must clearly state the account reference number, issue date, billing period, due date and details of charges.
In addition, service providers must give you sufficient information to help verify charges incurred. This includes itemised details of charges available to you—such as timed call charges, unless you agree otherwise.
You should expect to receive your bill within 10 working days of the end of the billing period.
Service providers must be able to verify and demonstrate that your bill is accurate. In establishing their billing systems for fixed-line services, they must comply with a Call Charging and Billing Accuracy Code.
As well as your regular landline phone charges, your bill may include charges for other communication services used, such as premium charge calls, reverse charge calls and pre-selecting a different service provider for certain calls.
Premium rate or premium service numbers
When you call a premium rate or premium service (for example, to vote for a TV show contestant), the premium service provider will need to collect payment from you for your use of their product:
- If they have an agreement with your telco provider, the charges for these services will appear on your phone bill
- If they have no arrangement with your telco provider, you will get a separate bill from them for using their service.
Reverse charge calls
If a reverse charge call that you accepted was made using another service provider's telephone service, you will receive a bill from the other service provider for the reverse charge call.
Pre-selection and override codes
To take advantage of special offers for long-distance or international calls provided by a service provider other than your usual provider, you may pre-select the other provider by dialing a specific four-digit number starting with '14' followed by the number you want to call. This number is called an 'override code'.
You will not be charged for this call by your usual service provider. Instead, you will receive a bill from the service provider allocated the override code that you dialled.
Bills include all connected calls
If you make a call to a number that is answered by a service such as 'Messagebank' or voicemail, your call will be regarded as having been connected and will be charged for it, even if you don't leave a message.
It's also important to note that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will charge you for a call to a mobile on their network even if it is unsuccessful. For example, if a mobile phone is engaged, switched off, out of range or just goes unanswered, the call will still be regarded as having been connected and a notification of a missed call will appear on the receiver's mobile. You'll be charged for this call, unless the user of the mobile has opted out of this functionality.
Your phone bill may also include charges for calls made before the current billing period. This is known as 'backbilling'. Backbilling may be caused by a delay in:
- your service provider receiving call charging information from overseas telco providers
- transfer of billing information between your service provider and other Australian-based service providers.
However, service providers cannot bill you for charges older than 160 days from the day you incurred the charge.
Paying your bill
To help you pay your bills, your service provider is required to:
- at minimum, offer one free way for you to pay your bill
- record your payment no later than two days following the day it’s notified of your payment
- provide a way for you to easily check that your payments have been received
In addition to this, if you pay your bill on time your service provider must not generate another bill until it has applied your payment.
Paying by direct debit
If you would like to pay by direct debt, you must first provide authorisation for your service provider to automatically deduct money from your bank account.
As part of this authorisation, your service provider must:
- follow all instructions set out as per your authorisation
- allow you to check the terms and conditions
- give you access to billing information (e.g. call charges 10 days before direct debt)
- ensure the direct debit is scheduled as close to the due date as reasonably possible
- make it easy for you to cancel the direct debit authorisation (must take effect within three working days).
Difficulties paying your bill
If you are experiencing financial difficulties and are unable to pay your phone bill, you may qualify for a financial hardship arrangement.
Each service provider has a financial hardship policy, which allows their customers the options for alternative payment agreements.
Eligibility will vary depending on the service provider, so we recommend that you get in contact with them to let them know your circumstances.
Under the TCP Code, all service providers must inform their customers about its financial hardship policy. This includes:
- having the policy on their website
- disclosing the details of trained staff who can discuss policy details with you
- detailing further information on how you can contact community financial counsellors and/or consumer advocates.
When you contact your service provider, they must clearly explain (in summary form) the key terms and conditions of their policy. Summary information must include:
- possible options to help you manage your situation (e.g. monitoring expenditure & use)
- eligibility requirements to asses financial hardship (e.g. income details)
- explanation of how they will assess your application
Once you submit your application, your service provider must assess your eligibility for such an arrangement in a fair and timely manner. For more information, see our difficulties paying your bills page.
Disputing your bill
Before you make a complaint, you may wish to contact your service provider to better understand the charges. They should charge you no more than the cost of a local call, unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions.
For more information, see our seeking assistance from your provider page.