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Australian consumers must currently pay a monthly fee of $2.93 or more to make sure that their phone number won't be released by directory assistance or be made available in the White Pages. The fee effectively charges people for their privacy and is a particular problem for low-income consumers and victims of crime, harassment or violence. ACCAN's position is that the fee should be removed for all consumers.

A prohibition on the silent line fee is currently being considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications.

The Senate Standing Committee has been tasked with considering the privacy, economic, social and public interest impacts on consumers and businesses of introducing a prohibition on silent line fees.

Call for submissions

The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications is currently seeking submissions from individuals and organisations about a prohibition on charging a fee for an unlisted phone number. ACCAN encourages consumers to make submissions to the inquiry to provide a real-world perspective on the issue. A submission to the Senate Standing Committee's inquiry is a great way to provide feedback that may help bring an end to the unlisted number fee.

Submissions are due by 28th March. For more information, including instructions on lodging a submission, see the inquiry's homepage.

Further information

The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that silent line fees be prohibited by an amendment to the Telecommunications Act 1979. While there was a good deal of support from consumers and regulators for the ALRC's proposal, Telstra made several objections. Telstra's chief objection was, and remains, that they incur a cost from operating the silent line service, and that the fee is needed to cover this cost. However, they have yet to provide any details of the costs incurred.

ACCAN has recently been involved in discussions with Telstra about the fee, and these discussions have led to Telstra proposing a limited exemption to the fee for consumers facing a security threat. This is a significant achievement, but more needs to be done. Privacy is a basic right, and an unlisted number should be free for all.

For further information, please download:

The Australian Law Reform Commission's recommendation (rec. 72-17)

The Senate Standing Committee's inquiry

General background on Silent Line fees

Telstra's announcement of their proposed exemption

Ministerial response to Telstra's announcement