Services like the telephone and internet help us connect, communicate, learn and do business. In Australia, these services are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
This page includes information on:
Who can help?
There are a few different government agencies and organisations looking after the different aspects of your phone and internet experience. Find out which one is looking after your concern below.
Your service provider or retailer
In the first instance, contact the service provider or retailer.
Keep records of your conversation including the name of the person you spoke to, the date and time of the call, and what you talked about.
If the matter is complicated and not urgent, you could write an email or letter. We have tips and sample letters to help you.
If you are still unable to resolve the issue with them, try the appropriate authority below.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) can help you with:
- problems with your landline, mobile or internet service
- excessive bills
- connection delays
- faulty or damaged telecommunications equipment
- issues regarding pre-paid calling cards
- disputes with your network service provider (internet or phone).
TIO is an independent industry-based ombudsman for the telecommunications sector. By law, service providers are required to be TIO members. For more information, contact TIO on 1800 062 058 or visit the website.
Telephone Information Services Standards Council
The Telephone Information Services Standards Council (TISSC) manages complaints about the message content or advertising of any 190 phone, fax or internet service.
190 service content includes technical software support, directory inquiries, weather forecasts, horoscopes, voting (especially relating to television shows), competitions and adult chat lines. They may involve listening to a recording, talking to a live operator, or selecting options from a recorded menu.
NSW Fair Trading
We can help you understand your consumer rights and protections under Australian Consumer Law.
This means we can help you when a phone or internet service you purchased isn’t of acceptable quality and/or what you asked for. For example, if you purchased a mobile phone contract and it came with a broken handset, we can help ensure the business gives you an appropriate replacement.
Learn more about your consumer rights below.
Your consumer rights
Australian Consumer Law guarantees your rights when you buy goods and services.
In fact, most products and services purchased after 1 January 2011 come with an automatic consumer guarantee that the product or service you purchased will work and do what you asked for. This includes phone and internet services.
When you engage a business to provide a service, you have the right to expect ‘acceptable quality’. Services must be:
- provided with due care or skill (taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage)
- fit for any specified purpose (express or implied)
- provided in a reasonable time (when no time is set).
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the nature of the service, the difficulty of the task and other relevant factors.
Proof of purchase and documentation
You have the right to receive proof of purchase (like an invoice, cash register receipt, handwritten receipt or lay-by agreement). Suppliers must provide proof of purchase for goods and services worth $75 or more (excluding GST).
Phone and internet services in Australia are supplied under a contract. A written copy of the contract (including its terms and conditions) must be supplied to you. Keep this for your records and in case you need to refer to the contract terms during a dispute. For more information, refer to our contracts page.
If the service has a warranty, it will give you some extra protection against faults. Warranties generally have terms and conditions attached - it’s your responsibility to be aware of these.
Advertising can be a powerful means of persuasion, so it’s important it is truthful, accurate and easy to understand. Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from deceptive advertising claims and conduct.
Businesses are not allowed to make false or misleading representations about their products or services. This includes advertising for phone and internet services.
Learn more about advertising standards.
Remedy when things go wrong
You are entitled to an appropriate remedy from the business when the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
This might be a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some cases, reimbursement for damages and consequential loss. The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is minor or major.
The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is:
If the problem is minor and can be fixed, the business can choose how to fix the problem. You cannot cancel and demand a refund immediately. Instead, you must give the business an opportunity to fix the problem. However, if repairs take too long, you can get someone else to fix the problem and ask the business to pay reasonable costs or cancel the service and get a refund.
If the problem is major or cannot be fixed, you can choose to:
- terminate the contract for services and request a full refund
- seek reimbursement for the difference between the value of the services provided compared to the price paid.
For more information, see repairs, replacements & refunds.
A problem is considered ‘major’ when it:
- would have stopped someone from purchasing the service had they known about it
- is substantially unfit for purpose and can’t be fixed in a reasonable timeframe
- creates an unsafe situation
- doesn't meet the specific purpose or achieve the specific result that the consumer requested.
For more information, see repairs, replacements & refunds.
Be a savvy consumer
When buying a mobile phone
Before you buy a mobile phone think about why you need it. This will help you choose a handset and plan that best suits your needs.
Read below for more advice:
Look at all different types of plans, pre-paid, capped and monthly, as call costs and deals vary dramatically.
Do your sums and look at the calls, texts and downloads you normally make to work out the best deal.
Penalties can apply if you change plans before the contract expires and some contracts last up to three years.
Voicemail, call forwarding, premium SMS, internet browsing and international roaming are often additional charges to your plan or cap.
Buying from an international website or private seller
Be aware, if you buy from an overseas business or a private seller, Australian Consumer Law might not apply or may only offer you limited protection. This could make it difficult if you need repair, replacement or a refund. Read the terms and conditions of the sale before you commit to buy so you know what you are getting.
If the overseas business offers refunds, repair or replacement and you need one of these remedies, you should contact them in writing. If that doesn’t resolve your problem, you could ask the consumer protection agency in their country for help.
Learn more by visiting our ways to shop page.
Believe the contract, not the salesperson
Don’t take the salesperson’s word for it. Always read mobile phone contracts thoroughly and don’t sign anything unless you fully understand what you are getting for your money.
Be careful ‘going guarantor’ on a phone for someone under 18 as you’ll be responsible for paying the bills if they can’t pay.
Before signing your contract find out what your monthly payments will be, so you’re not surprised by a high bill.
Look at the coverage maps on the provider’s website or contact them to find out the quality of reception in the areas you’re likely to use the phone.
Check your bills
If you don’t receive a bill or have problems paying it, contact your service provider to negotiate a new payment plan. If you don’t keep up with your bills you might be listed with a credit reporting agency.
To get a free copy of your credit file call Veda Advantage on 1300 762 207 or visit www.mycreditfile.com.au
Your phone’s warranty
Read the manufacturer’s warranty to see what is and isn’t covered.
Remember that regardless of the warranty, you automatically get a consumer guarantee with most goods and services you buy in Australia, which means that you are entitled to ask for a refund if the phone is not of acceptable quality and fails soon after you purchase it.
Make sure you keep your receipts and network service connection agreement as proof of purchase.
Downloading data to smartphones
Monitoring your data allowance can help you avoid big bills.
Some phones monitor your data usage automatically in ‘Settings’, but you may need to reset these at the start of billing periods.
You can call or SMS your service provider to regularly check on your data usage or log into your online account. This service may cost extra, so check with your service provider.
If your phone is lost or stolen
Contact your mobile phone company immediately to suspend the service. This will stop unauthorised calls being made.
If you’re on a plan, you’ll still need to pay the monthly contract fee.
Some network providers offer insurance for your phone but make sure you read the conditions and any exclusions before buying it.
If you receive an SMS from an unknown number, urging you to enter a competition or to answer a quiz to win a prize, don’t respond!
By responding you could unintentionally sign up to a premium service you don’t want, with a call rate of around $6 per minute or more. It may be hard to unsubscribe without further costs and you might need to change your phone number.
Mobile operating systems
The mobile operating system, also known as a ‘mobile OS’, is the most important piece of software on your device.
Updating your mobile operating system will provide you with the latest enhancements, bug fixes and important security patches.
Visit the ACMA website for information about mobile operating systems and how to avoid using your mobile data allowance when you update.
Pre-paid calling cards
Pre-paid calling cards can save you money on international phone calls. Be sure to check:
- the terms and conditions that apply to the card as there may be hidden costs
- for any daily charge that diminishes your credit – you may need to use the card in a few days to get value for money or face having a worthless card if you don't end up using it straight away
- the units by which the card charges – if the minimum block is three minutes and you talk for three minutes and five seconds you could pay for a six minute call
- if it covers the countries you call and the rates for them (for example, the rate could be great value for Vietnam but expensive for France)
- for an expiry date – you may need to use the card within four weeks of purchase
- for any connection or disconnections fees.
Can’t find the information you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law?
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.