Your rights with phone and broadband services, how to choose the right plan, and what to do if something goes wrong.

Check before you sign up to a service

Different companies offer a wide range of deals on mobile, land line phones, and the internet (telecommunications services). Shop around to find the best deal.

Before you sign up with a particular provider, make sure you read the terms and conditions of the contract. If you are getting a free mobile phone, you usually have to sign up to a fixed-term contract for a minimum period (usually 2 years). If you end the contract early, there may be a penalty fee.

With broadband, you can either play a flat monthly fee or pay as you go based on usage.

Services such as phone, mobile and internet are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. So if you have a problem with your phone or broadband connection, or hardware such as a modem, go back to the company to get it sorted out.


Common problems

Common problems with phone and broadband services include:

Bill shock with mobile roaming: If you are traveling overseas with your mobile phone, check how much it will cost and make sure you understand the charges.

Fixed-term contracts: Some providers will ask you to sign up to a fixed-term contract, usually for a number of years. If you stop using the services earlier than this term ends, you will have to pay a fee. Check what options you have before signing up.

Changing fees or services: Some contracts allow providers to change their fees or services without asking you. However, they should at least tell you when something changes.

Poor reception: You may find you don’t get good phone reception or fast internet speeds at home. The easiest way to check this before you sign a contract is to ask the company what areas their network covers. Some mobile phones have better network coverage in different areas.


Checklist to help avoid problems

To decide which company and which offer suits you the best, consider these questions:

How much can you afford? Compare the price plans from different providers to find one that suits your budget.

  • What services do you need and do you need to buy extra equipment?
  • Is the mobile phone service a monthly contract or pre-pay?
  • How will you know if you are over the monthly data limit?
  • How long are you locked into the contract for?
  • Can the company change its fees or services without asking you?
  • Does the company give technical help?

Know your rights

You have consumer guarantees for services provided by a phone or internet company under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).

If you have minor problems with the services or materials they provide, you can ask the supplier to remedy the fault first. If they refuse or fail to do so within a reasonable time, you can go elsewhere and claim the costs of those services from the first supplier or cancel the contract and pay a reduced price for the work already done.

If the failure is serious or substantial, you can cancel the contract for services and claim all of your money back. Or you can claim a partial refund if some of the work is fine or the materials already supplied are suitable.

You also have the right to claim for compensation for reasonably foreseeable extra losses arising from any breaches of the service guarantees, eg you get your carpet cleaned but they splash chemicals on your curtains. You can claim for the cost of getting the curtains cleaned.

Read Faulty or unsatisfactory services to find out more.

Often you can’t negotiate the terms or conditions of phone and internet contracts – you are offered the services on a take it or leave it basis. Even so, you do have rights to protect you from unfair contract terms within a standard form contract.

When you sign up for mobile phone services or for broadband on a monthly plan, if you were offered a free mobile phone upfront or a special rate and a free modem for broadband, then you may be on a fixed-term contract. This means that if you want to switch providers during the contract term, there may be a penalty for ending the contract early. You have rights if they include unfair contract terms.

Read our page on Terms and conditions of contracts to find out more.

Some of the main telecommunication companies are members of Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR). TDR is a free scheme that resolves any disputes you may have with your phone and internet companies.

Contact your phone or internet company

Talk to your phone or internet company first and make a formal complaint. Use the word ‘complaint’ so the company knows you are beginning the complaints procedure.

Some of the major phone and internet companies are members of Telecommunication Dispute Resolution (TDR). This is a free scheme that resolves your disputes with their phone and internet companies. See the TDR website(external link) for more information.

Read Resolve a problem for more information.


Next steps

If you are unable to resolve your issue directly with the phone or internet company, our Resolve It tool has information to help you take the next steps. These may include going to the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.

Resolve it: Phone, internet and broadband


Need more help?

Contact us for more guidance.

 

Common situations

Mobile phone deals – fixed-term contract

Jake signs up to a two-year contract with a mobile phone company to get the latest
Samsung smartphone. He is happy with the deal until a year later when he wants to upgrade his phone and he finds out there is a penalty charge for ending the contract early. He decides to wait until the two-year contract is completed.

Slow broadband

Kaye pays for a new ultrafast broadband service to her home. After paying for the modem and getting the service, she finds out the speed is not much faster than her old internet service. The company advises her they are unable to fix the issue as she is too far from the telephone exchange. Kaye complains and the company agrees to refund her modem and return to the cheaper internet service.