If you think your phone and internet plans are too expensive or giving you problems - don't think you're the only one. In the past year the Telecommunications Ombudsman has copped a record number of complaints, almost half a million, about costs and faults to do with mobile phones, landlines, internet companies and services. So tonight, continuing Helen Wellings series on slashing your household expenses - how you could halve your phone and internet bills.
Our telecommunications bills are blowing out to glory. Mobile phones now out-number people in Australia, 25 million plus - but convenient and fantastic as they are, iphones, ipads, blackberries are eating up 20% of the average family bills, $500 to $600 a month, about the same as food .. often far more.
South Australian Member of Parliament, Russell Wortley, copped a $10,000 phone bill on his iPhone. His 13 year old son had downloaded free footie games for about an hour, totally unaware of the massive costs. While the iphone had the capacity to download all sorts of applications, his phone plan did not.
“It's something that I call iShock, people who get whacking big bills for their new device” says Allan Asher.
Like Jim Slater who was hit with a massive bill for simply downloading a $12 album from iTunes onto his new blackberry - $26,000.
And Rebecca Gardner, $8,421 for iTunes download. 19 year old Tegan Fazackerley, a bill for $9,560.
Allan Asher of Australian Communications Consumer Action Network says there are traps galore in the new phones. His No 1 tip for slashing your bills - check your plan before you download any data.
“You go above a nominal limit, and the rates can go up by a factor of ten. You can pay an absolute fortune for not much data” says Allan.
“People can save hundreds of dollars, look some people are spending you know, $20 or $30 too much each month on their mobile phone bill, and that adds up to a lot of money, $360 a year” says Doug Purdie.
The keys to slashing your home phone, mobile and internet costs, first check out other deals, alot of the hard work's already been done. Doug Purdie of one2one marketing runs phonechoice.com.au, a free website that compares different companies call costs, monthly access fees and lots more - to slash your bills up to half. But cutting phone bills to the bone; ditch the land-line and go for this:
“Using voice-over IP or Skype, or VOIP as people call it, the device is as simple as this, it will allow you to make very, very cheap phone calls” says Doug.
You just connect the device to your ADSL internet connection unit, put telephone account details inside it and make calls.
“Here is our old Telstra bill for about $90 and this is our current voip bill for about $40.” George Luchesic more than halved his family's bills, saving $360 a year on line rental, and with voip - 10 cents flat per call anywhere in Australia, just 1.9 cents overseas and calls to mobiles 24 cents per minute, no flag-fees.
“I think 80% of people are paying about 30% too much on their phone bills and that's purely because they haven't looked at what the call charges are” says Doug.
Savings on mobile phone plans - for low call rates, prepaid is best. If you're on a contract, monitor your call times and switch to the cheapest and best plan for you. Doug's tip - watch your increment charges.
“Some of the providers are now switching to what is called a 60 second increment, and that means that if you make a 61 second phone call, you're going to get charged for 2 minutes. So you've really got to look at that one and look for a provider that gives you, if possible, per second increments, or at least 30 seconds” says Doug.
Review your broadband and mobile phone cap value to save you from costly penalties for exceeding the limit.
“Most of the telephone companies will sell mobile plans with caps, $29/$39/$49, they're not really caps at all, and that if you go over that cap, say over $29/month, you pay a huge amount more” says Allan.
“Just because you're getting $300 worth of value doesn't mean it's $300 worth of value. It's usually broken down in some ways such as on-net and off-net and all these other provisos that go with it” explains Doug.
A great savings tip - look at broadband deals that include "throttling".
“Throttling where they reduce the amount of download once you've reached your cap rather than charge you extra” Doug says.
“Have you ever wondered why the phone diverts to messagebank so quickly” questions Allan.
Watch hidden charges, like message bank at $1.50 a message .. ditch it and save up to $500 a year or more.
“At the extreme, people could save more than half of their bills if they plan much more carefully and avoided some of the shocking bills” says Allan.
PhoneChoice helps you compare plans and save money.
Australian Communications Consumers Action Network investigates telecommunications problems and recommends government and company action.
Tel: 02 9288 4000
Handles complaints and enquiries about telecommunication problems.
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Tel: 1800 062 058 for enquiries and complaints
Free from a landline; standard mobile call rates from a mobile:
Level 3, 595 Collins St, Melbourne
131 450 - Telephone Interpreting Service, or 1800 062 058 and we will organise an interpreter for you
1800 555 677 for consumers with a hearing disability