Telecommunications

Buying a mobile phone

Before you buy a mobile phone think about why you need it. This will help you choose a handset and a call plan that best suits you. Shop around, compare prices and services offered by the different network providers, before making a decision.

Shop around

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 what calls, texts and downloads you would 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 call plan or cap.

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.

Check and pay your bills

Before signing your mobile phone contract find out what your monthly payments will be so that you don’t get an unexpectedly high bill. If you don’t receive a bill or have problems paying it, contact the 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

Beware of ringtone offers

Before downloading a ringtone, check the seller’s terms and conditions to make sure that you’re not agreeing to anything else.. Find out if it is a one-off download or a subscription service, how much each download will cost and what you’ll have to do to cancel it. Visit www.19sms.com.au for information on mobile premium services.

Phone coverage concerns

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.

Mobile phone scams

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.

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.

Your phone’s warranty

Read what’s covered by the manufacturer’s warranty in the warranty paperwork. Remember that regardless of the warranty, you automatically get a consumer guarantee with every phone you buy, which means that you are entitled to ask for a refund if the phone is not of acceptable quality and fails soon after you buy 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. Or 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.

Mobile operating systems

The mobile operating system, also known as a ‘mobile OS’, is the most important piece of software that runs 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 more information about mobile operating systems and how to avoid using your mobile data allowance when you update.

What if things go wrong?

Contact the retailer or network provider to try and sort out the problem. If you’re unsuccessful, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for problems with a network service provider or Fair Trading for problems with a retailer. The TIO will also examine complaints about faulty handsets where the handset was bought as part of a contract or bundled deal.

Internet Service Provider

If you’re unable to resolve a dispute with your internet service provider contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

Excessive bills

If you have a problem with your bill, contact your service provider first. If you still cannot resolve the issue, contact the TIO.

Connection delays

In you’re having connect issues, you should contact your service provider. If your complaint is not resolved, contact the TIO.

Pre-paid calling cards

Pre-paid calling cards are a great idea and 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 e.g., 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 purchasefor any connection or disconnections fees.

If you have a problem with the card, call the provider’s customer service line. If you’re not satisfied with their solution, call the TIO.

Visit the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) website for more information on pre-paid calling cards.

190 numbers

To inquire or lodge a complaint about the message content or advertising of any 190 service, contact the Telephone Information Services Standards Council (TISSC) by email info@190complaints.com.au or visit www.190complaints.com.au

If things go wrong

If you have an issue with a telecommunications provider, contact the provider first and try to resolve the matter.

If you’re unsuccessful, contact the TIO who can assist with complaints concerning:

  • Telephone accounts (landlines).
  • Mobile phone accounts.
  • Service difficulties.
  • White pages entries.
  • Privacy issues, for example – nuisance calls.
  • Internet access and billing by service providers.
  • Land access by telecommunication carriers.
  • Mobile premium services.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)

Tel: 1800 062 058 (free call)
www.tio.com.au

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