Your rights with internet, mobile phone or landline services, including contracts and connection issues.

Before you sign up

There are a wide range of deals on telecommunications services, including mobile phones, landline phones and the internet. Some companies offer a bundle deal if you sign up for more than one service. Shop around to find the best deal for the services available in your region.

See which types of internet access are in your area:

National broadband map(external link)

To decide which provider and which offer suits you the best, think about:

  • How much can you afford? Compare price plans from different providers.
  • What do you use your phone or internet for, eg calls, emails, streaming movies, online gaming?
  • Are there extra fees, eg for going over a monthly data limit?
  • Will a fixed-term contract suit you best, or pay as you go?
  • What technical help is on offer — and does it cost extra?

Before you sign a contract, make sure you read the terms and conditions.

You can't usually negotiate terms and conditions for phone and internet contracts. These services are offered on a take it or leave it basis. But consumer laws protect you against unfair contract terms.

Contracts and sales agreements

Phone and internet plans are services covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If there's a problem with your connection or hardware, eg modem, contact the company to get it sorted out.

Common problems

Fixed-term contracts

Some providers offer fixed-term contracts, usually for several years — especially if you’re getting a free mobile phone. If you want to stop using their service early, you will have to pay a fee. Check what options you have before signing up.

Changing fees or services

Some contracts allow companies to change their fees or services without asking you first. They should at least tell you when something is about to change.

Poor reception or connection

Some areas don’t get good phone reception or fast internet speeds. Before you sign a contract, ask the company which areas their network covers.

Extra charges if you’re overseas

If you’re travelling overseas with your mobile phone, check how much it will cost to make calls, send text and use data. If overseas use is not included in your existing phone plan, you'll have to pay extra. Make sure you understand the cost and any limits on use.

Steps to resolve a problem

If things go wrong

A faster response
Using a chat box or live support is often faster then phone or email, and you can get a transcript of your conversation.

If you're having problems with your mobile phone, landline or internet service, eg your plan isn't working the way you thought it would, you think you've been overcharged, or you still haven't been connected:

  1. Contact your phone or internet provider first. Before you do:
  • Read your rights (below) — see if your internet or phone provider must act on your problem.
  • Prepare to complain — boost your chance of getting a good result.
  1. If you cannot agree, need help, or are having difficult reaching your provider:
  • Contact Telecommunications Dispute Resolution — they can help you make decisions about what you want do, explain the process, help you and your provider reach an agreement or order your provider to act.
  • Report your provider so the company and issue is known to government.

Fibre on shared property
Contact Utilities Disputes if you object to how Chorus is installing fibre across your shared property.

Refer a dispute(external link)  — Utilities Disputes

Your rights

You have consumer guarantees for phone and internet services under the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), including being fit for purpose. This means your internet or phone service should be a reasonably good fit with:

  • how you plan to use it
  • what you told the provider you needed it for.

It's your right to ask the provider to fix problems. They must try to put it right within a reasonable timeframe. Your provider has six weeks to sort out your complaint before TDR can step in.

Example — Fixed-term phone contract

Jake signs up to a two-year contract with a mobile phone company to get the latest model of his favourite smartphone. A year later, he wants to upgrade his handset. To get one, he must end the contract early and pay a penalty fee. He must also pay the outstanding balance on his exisiting phone. This is more than Jake can afford. He decides to wait until the end of his phone contract to upgrade to a new phone.

Prepare to complain

  • Check your contract — read the terms and conditions of your contract. This will help you understand what you can expect from your provider, eg you may not be able to break a two year contract after one year without being charged a fee. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you understand your contract.
  • Gather proof, eg your bill, bank statements, dates and details of conversations with customer services.
  • Think about what you will say, eg what is happening, how long for.
  • Decide your ideal outcome, egan apology, account credit, fix modem, different plan.

A CAB near you (external link) — Citizens Advice Bureau

Tips when complaining

  • Stick to the facts — explain the problem in detail and provide any evidence you have.
  • Be clear it is a complaint — use the word "complaint" in your phone call, instant message or email. Ask your provider what their complaint process is.
  • Tell them what you want — be clear what you expect to fix your concern.
  • Take time out, if needed — if the conversation is getting heated or you need time to consider their response, arrange a time to call, email or message back. Explain you need to time out to digest the conversation.

Tips when complaining

Example — Billing mistake

Henry gets a much larger bill than usual for his landline and broadband. He calls his provider and is told he wasn’t charged for his landline for six months. He is told he will have to pay his bigger bill by the due date, or risk having his debt sent to a debt collection agency. Henry can't make a payment this large in time. He emails his provider a complaint, telling them he has a right to expect his billing to be accurate. He suggests because the error was not his, he pays the larger bill in instalments. The provider agrees to split it over a few bills to make payments more achievable.

Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR)

TDR is a free independent service for complaints about telecoms providers. It is available to residential and small business customers (less than 20 full-time employees).

TDR covers most telco providers. To see if yours is a member:

  • check your provider's website
  • your bill
  • ask TDR
  • check the link below.

Who can make a complaint(external link) — TDR

If your provider is not a member of the TDR, you can take your complaint to the Disputes Tribunal.

About the Tribunal(external link) — Disputes Tribunal

How TDR can help

TDR can look at complaints about products and services from your telecommunications provider.

This includes:

  • any service or product, including prepaid mobile phones and internet
  • contract issues
  • problems with your bill

They cannot help with:

  • equipment or apps your phone or broadband company does not endorse, eg your own modem, band expander, games you download from an app store.
  • indirect losses, eg compensation for lost time or wages during dispute resolution, lost files, missed phone calls.

TDR will ask you to talk to your phone or internet provider before taking up the complaint. You and your provider have up to six weeks to sort out the issue before TDR steps in.

If you need help with developing or writing a complaint contact TDR first. TDR can offer advice before you talk to your phone or internet provider, eg what you may be able to expect, what to say. They may also take action if you are having problems getting in touch with your provider.

TDR can look at complaints which involve losses up to $15,000 or less. This includes compensation for direct loss, eg your time without a service, hardware replacement or repair costs.

If your complaint is for more than $15,000, you must take the issue to District Court.

Making a complaint(external link) — Telecommunications Dispute Resolution

District court

Example — Surprise switch

TelcoB switches Kaye from her current mobile phone company without her permission. In a sales call she says she will think about switching, but does not agree. After days back and forth with both providers, Kaye manages to switch back. During the switch she is without phone service for three days. She asks TelcoB for compensation. They refuse. TDR helps Kaye get her phone plan cost covered for her time without service. TelcoB also apologises and says it will make sure staff better follow process.

Report your provider

Commerce Commission

The Commerce Commission enforces certain consumer laws, including the Fair Trading Act.

You can report the business to the Commerce Commission if:

  • you think you have been misled
  • the business has said something that is not true.

Commerce Commission doesn't act on behalf of individuals and can't investigate every complaint. But their investigations do help make sure businesses are complying with the law. Your information helps them assess which consumer issues are causing greatest harm.

Make a complaint(external link)  — Commerce Commission

Fair Trading Act

Privacy Commissioner

Complain to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner if you think your privacy has been breached, eg:

  • your provider has shared your personal data with another company without your permission
  • you are having problems getting hold of your information.

Companies can charge for information you ask for if it will take some time to collect, eg if you ask for a years' worth of billing information and transcripts, this might take some time.

Making a complaint(external link)  — Office of the Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner is responsible for enforcing the Privacy Act.

Privacy Act

More help

Get support at any point from:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) — a free, independent service, run by volunteers. CAB can advise you on your consumer rights and obligations, in person, by phone, or online.
  • Community Law Centre — offers free one-on-one legal advice to people with limited finances. The organisation has 24 community law centres throughout the country. You can find legal information and other resources on its website.

Find a CAB(external link)  — Citizens Advice Bureau

Our law centres(external link) — Community Law Centres