Internet & phone services vary according to your location and the type of connection you have. Shop around for a service that fits your needs and budget and know your rights if you have a problem.
Internet plans usually include a monthly data allowance measured in megabytes (Mb) or gigabytes (Gb).
Before you sign up to an internet plan, it’s important to check with the internet provider what happens if you use up your allowance.
Some internet providers may simply slow down your connection for the rest of the month (called ‘throttling’ or ‘shaping’).
However, others may charge you for any extra data you download or upload, which can quickly add up. For example, if any data you use over your limit costs $2.00 per megabyte, downloading a single 4 Mb song could cost you $8.00.
Make sure the provider offers you an easy way to check how much of your allowance you have used. Also check that they alert you if you get close to your limit.
Choosing an internet service
Consider the following questions when choosing an internet service:
- do you want to lock into a long contract and if so, what is the monthly fee and does it cover all the browsing, downloading and uploading you wish to do? Are there any fees for leaving the contract early to switch to another provider?
- if you bundle your service with your mobile phone and / or landline service, will it save you money? Are there any hidden costs in bundled services you’re considering?
- would you prefer the flexibility of a pre-paid account that sets a value limit and enables you to top up the account as needed?
- if using a wireless broadband provider on your mobile phone or tablet, are you permitted to also use a roaming network when you leave your house or business and what would this would cost in addition to your usual monthly fee?
See also: Switching internet & phone services
Internet phone services, also known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, allow you to use your internet connection as a telephone service. Calls are often cheaper than those on the normal phone network, particularly for long distance and international numbers.
Some service providers offer VoIP services which may be supplied with a special phone handset. Other VoIP services operate through your computer or device and may require special software and equipment, such as a microphone headset.
While VoIP services can be cheaper than other phone services, services that operate over fixed lines do not work during power outages.
A small number of internet phone providers don’t allow you to make calls to numbers beginning with 13 or 1800 or charge different rates for these calls.
Choosing an internet phone service
Consider the following questions when choosing an internet phone service:
- do you want a computer internet phone service that also allows you to make video calls?
- do you have a mobile phone back up in case of power outages?
- what are the set-up costs and will your current broadband capacity cover your internet phone calls?
- are there any limitations on numbers you can call, or extra charges for particular numbers, including dialling ‘000’?
- do they have support services, such as a helpline and a good complaints handling policy?
Consider the following questions before signing a landline phone contract:
- How long is the contract and do you want to be locked in for that period? Are there any costs if you switch to another provider before the contract ends?
- Is there a plan that offers an included amount of calls that would cover your usual usage?
- Are there special discounts for calling people with the same company or at particular times?
- If you bundle your landline service with your internet and mobile phone service, will it save you money?
If there is a problem with your handset, you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. If there is a problem with your service, you may be entitled to cancel it. You may also be entitled to compensation for damages and loss.
Internet & phone providers must:
- provide clear and accurate information in advertising, contracts and bills
- give you help if you’re having problems paying bills and take steps before disconnecting your service
- provide good service and deal quickly with complaints
- provide a repair, replacement, refund, compensation or cancellation, depending on the circumstances if the phone or service fails to meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
Phone provides must also:
- ensure people who are hearing impaired or cannot communicate using voice have access to a fixed line service
- set and meet timelines for connections, fault repairs and meetings with customers and pay compensation if they fail to meet those deadlines.
Additional consumer protections
The Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code gives you rights to clear information and help if you’re struggling with bills.
The Customer Service Guarantee is a regulation that requires landline phone service providers to meet timelines for connections, fault repairs and meetings with customers and pay compensation if they fail to meet those deadlines. This guarantee does not apply to mobile or internet services.
Your right to a telephone service
Telstra is required to ensure that standard telephone services are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they are. This means you have rights to a telephone service even if you live in a remote part of Australia.
Information on the ‘universal service obligation’ is available from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and Telstra.
Industry code of conduct
An industry code of conduct was designed to ensure good service and fair outcomes for consumers of telecommunications services. The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code sets out expectations of industry behaviour in relation to matters such as providing information to consumers, advertising, billing, credit management and complaint handling.
Be aware of competitions or quizzes where you enter by sending an SMS to a ‘19’ number or entering your mobile number into a website. You might be unintentionally signing up to an expensive premium ‘subscription’ service where you have to pay an ongoing cost every week.
To immediately stop any premium service subscription, reply STOP to the sender.
See also: 19SMS
Phone cards may seem to offer cheaper rates for calling local and overseas destinations, but you need to be aware of extra fees and charges.
Before buying a phone card, read the details in the conditions and check for possible hidden costs, such as:
- a daily charge or fee after you first use the card, whether you use the card each day or not
- a connection and disconnection fee for each call
- extra charges for calls to mobile, 1300 or 1800 numbers.
Phone cards have a limited life and may expire before you get the chance to use all of the credit.
Also note that phone card calls often use internet technology resulting in sound quality that is not as good as what you might get on a landline.
If you cannot resolve the problem with your provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on 1800 062 058.