Choosing a mobile phone service

  • We provide information on how to understand different mobile phone plans, and how to pick one that is right for you.
  • The right plan for you will depend on your situation and the way you use your phone.

What the ACCC does

  • We provide guidance for consumers on choosing a mobile phone service.
  • 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

Types of mobile phone plans

Mobile phone plans are available at different price points and have a range of features.

These can be:

  • how and when you pay for the service
  • whether you have an ongoing contract
  • what happens once you exhaust your plan’s inclusions.

Some plans also include a dollar value of included usage. Check the Critical Information Summary for how your usage will be charged against this.

Prepaid and post-paid plans

Many providers refer to their plans as either prepaid or post-paid plans. Prepaid plans require you to pay up front for your service, while most post-paid plans will issue a bill at the end of the month.

Choosing the right mobile phone plan

When considering what plan to choose, there are a few things to think about.

The right plan for you will depend on your situation and the way you use your phone.

The Critical Information Summary can help you choose a plan. It includes key information such as:

  • call and SMS inclusions
  • data inclusions
  • termination fees
  • the length of any contract.

Most mobile phone plans include unlimited calls and SMS

Most mobile phone plans, both post-paid and prepaid, offer unlimited national calls and SMS inclusions.

There are also a very small number of prepaid plans that offer an included number of calls and SMS. For example, you may get 500 minutes worth of voice calls and 500 SMS each month.

There are also some prepaid plans that are pay-as-you go. For example, you may buy $20 of credit and each time you make a call or send an SMS, the provider will deduct that credit at a certain rate.

Post-paid plans may come with a handset or other accessories such as watches or earphones

Post-paid plans often give you an option to buy a mobile phone handset to go with your service contract.

If you choose to buy a handset, you will pay the handset off in equal monthly instalments over the term of the contract. Once your contract is finished, you will own the phone.

Providers may offer a handset and other accessories on a 12 month term or longer, but with a service contract that is month-to-month. Although this allows you to change service providers easily, you will have to pay off the balance on the handset or other accessories before leaving your provider.

If you already have a handset, many providers also offer SIM-only plans on 12 month or month-to-month contracts.

Extra services may be included in a mobile plan

There can be extra services and offers included in mobile phone plans, for example:

  • international call minutes, usually to select countries
  • calls to 13/1300/1800 numbers
  • calls to special services numbers – 12, 14, 15 numbers
  • international roaming inclusions – calls/text made and received while overseas
  • content and entertainment inclusions, such as free or discounted streaming of music, subscription video services such as Netflix or Stan, and content deals for sporting events, such as AFL, NRL and English Premier League.

Check with your provider to see if streaming this content counts towards your data quota.

See also Keeping costs down on a mobile service

How much data you may need

The amount of data you need depends on how often you want to use the apps and features on your phone. Some apps or features use a lot of data. These include:

  • streaming TV and video, such as YouTube, Netflix and Foxtel
  • playing online games
  • downloading music, photos, movies and software
  • uploading photos and videos to social media apps, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat
  • music streaming, such as Spotify and Apple Music
  • FaceTime and video calling
  • making voice and video calls through communication apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype.

If you plan to do any of these things regularly, a larger data allowance may suit you better. If you mainly browse the internet and send emails, a smaller data allowance may be enough.

Comparing geographic coverage between providers

Quality reception and mobile network performance are key issues when considering a mobile phone service. Not all providers offer the same coverage.

Check coverage between providers

Look at the information on a mobile phone provider’s website. This will include a coverage map. It’s often possible to enter a postcode into a provider’s coverage map to see the approximate coverage and download speeds in that area.

Contact a provider if you want more information on how certain factors may affect coverage on their network. Some providers will allow you to cancel your plan at no cost and refund your last month’s payment if your coverage is not satisfactory.

Improving your coverage

If you’re having problems with your coverage, you should contact your mobile phone provider. They should assist you to resolve the issue, particularly where they have not delivered the coverage promised. In some instances, the provider may also offer products that can increase your coverage on their network.

Find out more about optimising mobile reception at the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association website.

Check if a product is legal before you buy

Before buying a product aimed at improving network coverage, it’s important to check it can be legally used in Australia. For example, while mobile phone boosters and repeaters are available online from overseas suppliers, they’re banned in Australia due to the serious interference they cause to mobile networks. There are large fines and possible imprisonment associated with using these devices.

Find out more about mobile coverage for consumers at the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association website.

Switching mobile services

Early termination fees

If you're thinking of switching plans, you may need to sign a new contract. Check for any charges for ending or leaving your current contract early.

Before you switch or cancel your contract, check the critical information summary or ask your provider if you will be charged an early termination fee.

Keeping your mobile number

When you switch to a different mobile phone service provider, it is possible to keep your existing phone number. This is called number porting.

Service providers are required to port your mobile phone number if you request it. Only an active number can be ported to another provider, so it’s important that you do not cancel your existing service.

If you would like to keep your number, you should inform your new provider as soon as possible.

See also

Problems with your mobile service

Keeping mobile service costs down

Consumer rights & guarantees

Contracts

Helping students be mobile savvy

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 make a complaint to 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 can’t 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