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Aussies stumped reading the phone bill

Calls? You charge me for calls?

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Australia may enjoy some of the highest teledensity levels in the world, but the more calls made, the less the understanding of pricing and billing information, claims the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

New research from ACMA reveals that the vast majority of Australian telephone consumers have a “patchy understanding” of how their services are charged.

The research also hints at why Australians might be willing to sacrifice landlines for mobile services: the bundling of free call allowances leaves users with less to misunderstand.

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman said that the rise in mobile phone use as a primary communication service (now at 47 percent vs landlines at 33 percent) and the increase in bundled plans have contributed to consumer confusion.

“Both of these trends are major factors contributing to a decline in consumers’ understanding of the price and location information embedded in traditional fixed telephone numbers, meaning that embedding this information may no longer be an effective mechanism to fulfil consumer protection needs,” Chapman said.

Also of concern is consumers’ understanding of less frequently called numbers such as 13/1300 and 1800 numbers. “It seems these are confusing for many Australians compared to more frequently called numbers like mobile and local numbers,” he said.

The research found that one in five Australians was either unable to define a local call from a landline or their explanation was incorrect.

The findings are analysed in the ACMA’s fourth consultation paper in its numbering work program, Numbering: Implications of research into consumer issues. ACMA is seeking feedback on the implications of these findings, including how regulatory arrangements might be adjusted over time to reflect and facilitate changes in consumer communication use including whether telephone numbers remain the most effective strategy for providing price information.

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