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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4635

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, upon notice, on 27 May 2009:

(1)   Is there any requirement for Telstra to provide a free directory assistance number to the public?

(2)   Is Telstra replacing the 12456 free directory assistance number with the Sensis 1234 number which will have a connection fee of 40 cents and 4 cents per second thereafter; if so, will the Government act to ensure that Telstra also provides access to a free service and makes that number known to the public?

Senator Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   and (2) The provision of directory assistance services is regulated by the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act). Under the Act, every standard telephone service provider is required to make directory assistance services available to its customers. The charge for directory assistance services is a commercial matter for the relevant service provider to decide, and the cost of directory assistance services may vary according to the service chosen and the service provider used to access the service. The Numbering Plan 1997, which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), specifies that 1223 is a low charge number. This means that calls to 1223 from any landline telephone service may not be charged above the cost of the highest Telstra local call charge. Currently, calls to 1223 are free for Telstra residential landline and payphone customers, while calls to 1223 from Telstra business and mobile customers are charged $0.50. Under the Telstra Carrier Charges — Price Control Arrangements, Notification and Disallowance Determination No. 1 of 2005, Telstra is not permitted to increase its directory assistance charges without first seeking approval from the Government. In addition to the 1223 number, Telstra offers several other directory assistance numbers for customers seeking value-added services. The 12456 directory assistance number offers an option to connect the caller to the requested number. Telstra’s 1234 service is a personally assisted search service where callers can speak to an operator to request directory assistance as well as other information including travel directions, weather reports and movie times. The charge for calling this service is $1.40 per call. Standard rates apply to the connected call and additional charges apply to calls to 1234 from mobiles. A further charge of $0.88 applies if the caller wishes to be connected to the number requested. Calls to Telstra’s 12456 and 1234 are charged at rates determined by the carrier, and have never been free services. The two services have coexisted for some time. We are unaware of any proposal by Telstra to change these arrangements. Further enquiries on this issue should be made to Telstra.