What do I need to watch out for if I switch companies?
Many people switch telecommunications providers in order to get better service, cheaper rates, to be on the same network as their friends and family, and so on. You may be able to keep your phone number when you switch over.
There are a few things to consider or check before you sign up to a new provider:
- Ensure that the provider is able to offer you the services you want
- Some phone and mobile providers can also provide pay television channels or other media services, others don’t.
- Make sure your new provider’s network covers your area
- If you travel overseas frequently and want to be able to use your mobile phone while overseas (i.e. “roaming”), check that you’ll be able to do this with the new provider – and how much it will cost you.
- if you want to sign up to the Spark mobile phone network and don’t want to buy one of their mobile phones, check whether the phone you’ll be using will actually be compatible with the Spark network.
- Make sure you understand the new provider’s contract – is it fixed term? Are they entitled to change the terms and conditions at their discretion? Watch out for potentially unfair contract terms.
- Ask the new providers about any costs involved starting a new contract with them e.g. connection fees.
If you are switching from one provider to another you should also:
- ask the old provider about any costs involved in ending your current contract, and what (if any) equipment you will need to return.
- check whether you have a fixed term contract, it’s likely you’ll have to pay a cancellation fee if you terminate the contract early.
If you are changing to a different mobile phone network (e.g. from but want to continue using your current mobile phone, check whether it is “locked” to your current mobile network (set up to only work on that network) – if it is, you’ll need to ask your current mobile provider to unlock the phone for you (you may have to pay a fee for this)
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I’ve got a phone bill from a different company than usual, but I didn’t mean to switch to them!
This is a practice known as ‘slamming’, where your phone company is changed without you knowing it. There are a variety of ways this can happen, one common variation is when a company rings up or goes door to door and explains an offer to you, then proceeds as though you have consented to the change when you haven’t. Normally you don’t find out until you receive a bill from the new company or have a problem making calls (or using the internet).
If this happens to you first contact the new provider and explain very clearly that you did not agree to switch and that you want to switch back to your original provider for no extra cost. Then contact your original provider and explain the situation to them.
If the new provider is not being helpful tell them that you want to lodge a complaint, and follow the information we have about making a complaint. You should also consider reporting your problem to the Commerce Commission to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to other people.
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I’ve got my latest mobile phone bill and I’ve been charged over $200 for data use! What can I do?
Unfortunately if you get a bill for much higher data usage than normal then it’s normally pretty difficult to do anything about it. It’s always worth contacting your provider directly to see if they are willing to reduce the bill.
To prevent this from happening in the future, you can:
- make sure you know how much data is on your plan (if you have a plan)
- find out how your data usage will be calculated and charged
- look for tools you can use to monitor data usage; most providers have an online tool which allows you to check your usage. There are also a number of apps available for smartphones, which allow you to track your data usage.
- ask your phone company whether they have a method of notifying you if your data usage goes over a certain amount.
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I’m planning to travel overseas with my mobile phone is there anything I should be aware of?
If you are planning to travel overseas then being able to use your cell phone overseas can be very handy (this is called "roaming"), but it can also end up costing a packet so make sure you know what you are in for before you leave.
Most phones are now set-up to automatically roam when you go overseas, but check your phone provider’s website before you leave just to be sure.
While you are on their website make sure you look at how much calls, texts and data usage will cost. It will often cost you to receive calls and texts as well as send them. Make sure that you check out other options for managing your data - a number of companies now provide options which make it much clearer how much data you are using and don’t let you go over a pre-set amount of data.
It’s worth thinking about buying a local SIM card and signing up to a local plan if you are going to be overseas for a while. Paying the local rates is likely to save you money.
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I want to make sure the person I am calling can’t identify my phone number. How do I do that?
If you have a Telecom or Vodafone phone or mobile you can hide your phone number from someone else's caller display by dialling 0197 before the phone number. If you are with another provider then you can contact them and ask about their policy. Some providers have a service which includes permanently blocking of your ID, contact your provider for more details.
If you want to find out how to deal with malicious callers, check out our information on dealing with nuisance calls.
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My internet provider has increased their broadband charges, but I’m locked into a fixed term contract and can’t get out of it without paying an early termination fee. What can I do?
Generally if you have a fixed term contract for a service (such as an internet service), it is to ensure that you have consistent supply over that period at consistent charges. In return you would be obliged to continue paying for the service at least until the end of the contract period.
If the contract you have with your provider allows them to vary the terms of their service, but doesn’t allow you to terminate the contract (e.g. to switch to another provider) without being liable for a penalty, then the contract may be considered to have unfair contract terms.
Talk to your provider and see whether they will either change back to the original terms of the service, waive the early termination fee (if you want to terminate the contract), or provide some compensation which you would be happy with.
If you are unable to resolve the issue, you can make a formal complaint to the provider. If they are a member of the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution scheme, you can also, if necessary, escalate it to Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR).
You can also report it to the Commerce Commission, who investigates reports of unfair contract terms in standard consumer contracts.