Phone and internet plans. What to look out for, and what could cost you money.

Mobile, internet and landline plans set out rules, or terms and conditions. Before agreeing, find out:

  • what could cost you money
  • what you can expect from the service.

Check for early termination fees before you:

  • cancel your contract
  • change your plan
  • switch providers.

Find out about other charges and fees, eg for paying late, going over data or text limits.

You don't need to sign anything to be in a contract. Agreeing to an offer by phone counts too.

Find how to complain to your phone or internet company and where to go for more help.

Steps to making a complaint

Choose a provider and plan

Shop around to find the best deal for the services available in your area. Some companies offer bundle deals if you sign up for more than one service.

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

  • How much you can afford. Compare price plans from different providers.
  • What you use your phone or internet for, eg calls, emails, streaming movies, online gaming.
  • What arrangement suits you best, eg fixed-term, open-term, pay as you go.
  • Coverage in your area. Some areas don’t get good mobile reception or fast internet speeds. Don't pay for a service you won't be able to fully use.

Plan types and pay as you go

There are different options to think about when it comes to the type of plan you choose. Think about your needs and budget. 

Reception and speed

Before signing up, ask the company which areas their network covers. Most phone and internet providers have address checking tools on their websites. If new to an area, ask neighbours which service they use.

National broadband map(external link) — InternetNZ

Internet types

Fibre/ultra fast broadband works on fibre optic cables. It is the most reliable and gives you faster download and upload speeds. Not available in all areas of New Zealand. About three quarters of the country should have access to it by 2020.

Fixed wireless connects your home to the internet

VDSL runs on the copper telephone lines used for landline calls. If fibre isn't available, this can be the next best option if you use a lot of data, eg for streaming TV, video calling and gaming.

Connection speed depends on how far you live from the telephone exchange. The closer you live, the faster your connection. The further away you are, the slower it will be.

ADSL also uses copper telephone lines.If you don't use much data, eg emails and browsing websites only, this may be enough for you. Again, connection speed depends on how far you live from the phone exchange.

Commerce Commission's video and fact sheet can help you decide.

How do I choose my broadband(external link) — Commerce Commission

Contract terms and conditions

As soon as you agree to your provider's offer, you have entered into a contract. This is legally binding. Even if you did it over the phone and haven't signed a piece of paper.

Before agreeing to a service, it's important to know what you're getting into. Make sure you understand the provider's terms and conditions. These are the rules of the contract.

Ask about:

  • late payment fees
  • early termination fees (if you want to cancel your contact early)
  • installation fees (for internet)
  • charges for going over data, text or voice limits
  • terms for offers, eg free modem, discounts.

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, eg changing terms and conditions without telling you or giving you the chance to cancel.

Contracts and sales agreements

Unfair contract terms(external link) — Commerce Commission

Changing terms and conditions in plans

Most phone and internet plans say the company is allowed to make changes to the terms and conditions. A change could be:

  • removing a service like email
  • raising the pricing.

The company must give you notice of this change in writing, either by email, letter or SMS. How much notice you get will be explained in the terms and conditions.

Your terms and conditions should give you the option of cancelling if you think the change will have a negative impact on your use of the product. You must do this by a specific date indicated on the notice. If your terms don't let you cancel as a result of changed terms, it may be an unfair term and condition. You can make a complaint to the Commerce Commission about unfair terms.

Unfair contract terms(external link) — Commerce Commission

Contracts and sales agreements

Make a complaint

Speak to your provider first. Summarise the issue and what you would like them to do to fix it.

Steps to making a complaint

Telecoms Disputes Resolution may be able to help if:

  • you and your provider can't agree
  • it has been more than six weeks since you complained and your issue still isn't resolved.

Making a complaint(external link)  — Telecoms Disputes Resolution