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How to call 1300 numbers for free

  • Not all cap plans include 13,1300 or 1800 numbers
  • Even if included, long calls can kill your credit
  • MVNO plans excellent value, but BYO handset
Written by Adam Wajnberg
12/11/2012

Numbers beginning with 13 or 1300 were initially created to assist people in saving money. Rather than have people call into national sales offices on a local number (for which they may pay STD charges if not in the same state), you could just direct people to a number beginning in 13/1300, and have the same call billed for 25c, untimed, as an ‘information call’. Similarly, the 1800 prefix was set up for free calls from anywhere, for paid services or health and well-being services like the Kids Help Line.

dialing 1300

 

Nowadays, many of us are on complex bundles for home phones, or more likely, even more complex cap plans for our mobile phones. These bundles come with seemingly bottomless credit for a low, low price – but in the fine print, there’s usually a couple of exclusions that are easy to overlook, and lead to ‘bill shock’ – that condition where you receive a bill on a plan that you thought covered everything, for several hundred dollars more than you were expecting.

The most insidious exclusion, from a consumer point-of-view, would be calls to 13, 1300 and 1800 numbers. In the mobile world, you don’t pay so much for the connection, as for the actual air time. With that in mind, calls to these normally cheap or free numbers are charged like regular calls.

Why aren’t they included?

It’s very cynical to say ‘they want more money’. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But there are legitimate reasons why some items are not included in your cap plan.

There are three mobile networks in Australia- Vodafone, Telstra and Optus. That’s it. Anyone selling you a SIM card is probably wholesaling a connection on the Optus Open Network. Each company, on their own, has a different corporate culture.

Vodafone likes to give away stuff for free – but since it owns no fixed-line infrastructure, it can’t offer much free stuff when it comes to interconnecting a mobile call with a landline call. But it can offer all the free texts in the world, because that relies solely on its own mobile infrastructure.

Telstra does not like to give away stuff for free. But it owns almost all of the fixed-line infrastructure. So even though it has more scope to include everything in a cap plan, it doesn’t. On the other hand, it also builds and maintains most of the infrastructure, so they want to make a return on that.

Optus is somewhere in between. It owns some fixed-line infrastructure. It owns a huge part of Australia’s satellite infrastructure. And its mobile infrastructure is pretty big too. But it’s a premium brand, and can’t give away TOO much stuff for free. So it uses Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to capture parts of the market that it can’t directly appeal to, and those are the ones who can offer LOTS of stuff for free.

So you might wonder why people don’t just go for the MVNOs. They often have plans that include everything – 13, 1300, 1800, fixed, mobile, text messaging- with no costly exclusions that bring big surprises. Why would people bother with the majors?

The answers are pretty simple. Brand recognition. Safety. Better advertising. And of course, the majors get the exclusive contracts to sell the latest handsets on subsidized 24 month contracts.

So who has free calls to 13/1300/1800 numbers?

Soon enough, everyone probably will. The regulators and their advistory bodies (including the ACCC, ACCAN and the TIO) are all pushing for services like the Lifeline, depression and abuse hotlines to be completely free, or included at an untimed rate in every cap plan. That will probably open up calls for all 1800 numbers to be free, and then probably many 13/1300 numbers.

In the mean time, Amaysim and Dodo both boast truly ‘unlimited’ plans that include free calls and text to any Australian number, including 13/1300 and 1800. The only exclusions are for direct charge services, like 1900 numbers.

TPG and iPrimus have low cost plans that more closely resemble typical cap plans; but the charge for calls to 13/1300/1800 services can come from your monthly cap credit.

Alas, to enquire about these plans, you will need to call a 1300 number :(

Amaysim – 1300 302 942

Dodo – 1300 136 793

TPG – 1300 106 571

iPrimus – 1300 137 794


Out of these providers, iPrimus and Dodo sell handsets as well, with iPrimus boasting a slightly wider range.

Expert Tip

Optus has an $89 or $99 ‘Timeless’ option, which usually comes with a free handset (including iPhone and Samsung Galaxy lines) and free calls to everything…except 13, 1300 and 1800 numbers. Otherwise, the plan is very attractive specifically because of the handsets that are free with it.

If you take this plan, or a plan like it, we recommend that you search for the direct landline number for the service you want to call. This will usually be on the company’s site under ‘Contact Us’, as the number for enquiries from international destinations. So for example:

To call the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), you would normally ring 13 28 65. Even if 13 calls are included in your cap, your call might take an hour between waiting on hold and making a long enquiry. On a typical cap plan, where calls are billed at 90c per minute, this means the call will cost you the credit equivalent of $54. That could be a huge chunk of your monthly credit.

Of course, if you go to their Contact Us page, you’ll see that International calls can be made to +61 2 6216 1111. The +61 is the international dial code for Australia, so you can ignore that. Add a 0 to the start of the call, and the number is 02 6216 1111 – a normal STD call, which is free in plans like the Optus infinite plan mentioned above, regardless of where you’re calling from. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try.


Update: try this free service: e164 Search



A quick list:

ATO - 02 6216 1111

Origin Energy - 03 8635 3485

Centrelink - 03 6222 3455

National Australia Bank – 03 8641 9886

 

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