Keeping mobile service costs down

  • There are things you can do to keep the costs of your mobile service down.
  • One way is to track and reduce your data usage, and avoid excess data charges

What the ACCC does

  • We provide guidance on how to keep mobile service costs down
  • We accept reports where people consider a business is doing something they shouldn’t do. We use those reports to inform our education, compliance and enforcement work.

What the ACCC can't do

If you’re struggling to pay your bill

If you’re struggling to pay your bill, contact your mobile phone service provider and ask them about their financial hardship policy.

Staying within your data allowance

Most mobile phone services come with data limits. Sometimes there are costs for going over.

There are several things you can do to make sure you stay within your data allowance so you avoid bill shock.

Track your data usage

Most mobile phone providers allow you to track your data usage during a billing period by downloading their app onto your mobile. If you don't have a smartphone, this information may be available when you log into the provider’s website. Keep in mind there can sometimes be a delay in updating the usage information on a provider’s app or website.

Understand data use for different activities

Knowing how much data different activities use — like emailing, browsing the internet, using social media apps, and streaming video or audio content — can help you to keep your data use in check.

For more advice, see the tip sheet on mobile data from the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network website.

Reduce your data usage

There are steps you can take to minimise your data usage.

See tips from the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network about how to minimise data use on your smartphone.

Avoid excess data charges

Data inclusions can vary significantly between mobile phone plans.

Some mobile phone plans will automatically ‘top-up’ your data if you exceed your monthly inclusion. This can be expensive.

Some providers allow you to ‘roll over’ unused data from one month to the next. The amount of data that can be rolled over is usually capped at a certain number of gigabytes. Check the Critical Information Summary to see how this works for your plan.

There are also mobile phone plans available that do not attract an extra charge for excess data, but may limit the download speed after a particular amount of data has been used in the billing period.

Mandatory usage notifications

Mobile phone providers must provide you with usage notifications, also known as spend management alerts, when you reach 50%, 85% and 100%of your voice, SMS and data allowance.

Once you reach 100% of your allowance, your provider must also notify you of the charges to proceed with adding extra data to your service. However, be aware that providers have a 48-hour window in which to send the notification and you could still be charged for any excess data usage during this time.

If you don't want to incur excess data charges, you should consider turning off ‘mobile data’ on your handset when you receive these notifications.

Managing premium SMS subscription services

Mobile Premium Services or 19 SMS Services are information and entertainment services that deliver various forms of content to your mobile phone. These services are created by a content supplier and delivered over your mobile service provider’s network.

Be aware of competitions or quizzes where you enter by sending an SMS to a ’19 SMS’ number, or entering your mobile number into a website. You might be unintentionally signing up to an expensive premium ‘subscription’ service where you must pay an ongoing cost every week.

To immediately stop any premium service subscription, reply STOP to the sender.

Making in-app purchases

Mobile apps are often available to download free in an online store but sometimes require significant in-app purchases to maximise the experience of the app. In-app purchases may include paying to use an ad-free version of the app, buying extra lives in a game, or paying to access extra content.

Not all apps properly disclose at what point the user is making an in-app purchase. Children using their parent’s device may not realise the in-app purchases are spending their parent’s money in the real world.

Preventing an unauthorised in-app purchase

Apple and Android devices require authentication before making a purchase in the online store. Once this is entered, extra purchases can be made for 15 to 30 minutes without requiring authentication. During this time users can make several purchases without realising that they are being charged. This 15 minute rule can be disabled in settings.

Here are a few tips to avoid making in-app purchases:

  • understand the device controls
  • consider setting restrictions, such as passcode, fingerprint lock or face recognition
  • consider downloading apps for parental control of smart devices
  • use gift cards instead of credit cards to minimise the amount of money spent.

How to restrict in-app purchases on Apple devices

You can choose to either turn-off in-app purchases completely, or require a pass-code for every in-app purchase.

iOS: Understanding Restrictions (parental controls)

How to restrict in-app purchases on Android devices

You can help prevent accidental purchases on your device from apps and games by turning on authentication.

Setting password restrictions on your Android device

Applying for a refund

There are several steps you can take to try and recover your money for unauthorised in-app purchases:

  • contact the app store as soon as possible to request a refund
  • contact your bank to discuss any unauthorised charges appearing on your credit card
  • contact your mobile phone provider about unauthorised charges appearing on your bill. If you have a dispute about charges that you can’t resolve with your service provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Contact the app store

Using your mobile phone overseas

Using your mobile phone (or tablet) overseas will usually be more expensive than using it at home in Australia.

Your mobile phone will not automatically work in every country. If you want to use your mobile phone while you’re away, you should check with your mobile phone provider that you will be able to use your mobile phone in your destination.

The Australian Communication Consumer Action Network and Australian Communications and Media Authority have information for travellers who want to use their mobile phone overseas.

See also

Choosing a mobile phone service

Problems with your mobile service

Reporting a problem about your mobile phone service

Contact your mobile phone provider first

If you have a problem with any aspect of your mobile phone service, you should contact your mobile phone provider first.

A complaint handling policy can be found on your provider’s website, which will explain how to lodge a complaint. Providers may have a dedicated phone number or email address for contacting them about complaints.

Make a complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

If you cannot resolve a problem with your provider, make a complaint through the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman website or phone 1800 062 058. The Ombudsman may be able to assist you to resolve your dispute with your provider.

Avoid mobile phone scams

Recognise, avoid and report mobile phone scams by visiting the Scamwatch website.

Report a problem about your mobile service provider to the ACCC

You can also report a problem about your mobile service provider to the ACCC. We may investigate providers that repeatedly break the rules.

Make a report to the ACCC