Many of our Planhacker roundups delve into the finer details of how much you'll pay for different kinds of calls. That's information which is essential to making sure you get value for money from your phone, but new research suggests that mobile phones are making the majority of Australians more clueless than ever when it comes to assessing their phone bills.
Communications regulator ACMA recently conducted research into Australian attitudes towards phone pricing, as part of its ongoing assessment into how telephone numbers should be structured in Australia. The disturbing immediate finding was that a large number of Australians have no idea what it costs to call different kinds of numbers, or even that different costs apply to different network types.
The mobile phone appears to be the major culprit here. According to ACMA's survey of 1,500 customers, it has now become the primary means of communications for most Australians, with 47% saying a mobile was their main communication service. The humble landline only had that status for 33%, as you can see above.
Another notable trend is the switch towards some kind of capped usage plan, rather than a pay-as-you-go approach. 60% of mobile users adopt this approach, as do 40% of landline users. For a majority of customers, their spending doesn't exceed the cap value each month. That means there's no bill shock in many cases, but also little understanding of actual calling habits.
The end result is that many consumers don't understand the different rates which apply to calling landline numbers, mobile numbers, and freecall numbers such as 13 or 1800 numbers. Those costs can vary enormously depending on your plan and which network you use. Calls to mobiles from landlines are generally more expensive; calls to landlines from landlines may actually be free on certain plans. Calls on mobiles often incur higher charges, though some prepaid plans offer free calls to other numbers on the same network.
Clearly we're not going to a return to a world of unified, easy-to-understand call rates any time soon. However, not knowing what applies to the plan you're signed up for can be a recipe for fiscal pain. No matter what your habits, the key to getting good value from a phone service is to understand your usage patterns, and choosing a plan which makes that affordable.
Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.