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Why is there a strange fee on my phone bill?

Tony Yoo
Stressed woman using mobile phone.
Stressed woman using mobile phone.

Many Australians might have spotted a suspicious fee they don't recognise on their mobile phone bill in recent months.

The charge might appear on the bill as "Numbering Charge", "ACMA levy", "ACMA Mobile Number Levy" or a variation on those terms.

Fortunately, that fee is legitimate and you're not being scammed.

Unfortunately, that charge is mandatory.

A screenshot of mobile phone bill showing an "ACMA mobile number levy".
A screenshot of mobile phone bill showing an "ACMA mobile number levy".

Officially called the Annual Numbering Charge, it's a levy – or a tax – applied by the telecommunications watchdog Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Most ten-digit mobile and landline numbers are charged this, with the proceeds going to maintaining ACMA's numbering database.

The fee is applied for all numbers reserved by the telecommunications company, regardless of whether they're held by an end user. So it encourages telcos to do a "clean-up" of unused numbers each year and release them for public use before the charge is applied.

There is a twist for consumers – many telcos absorb the Annual Numbering Charge into the costs of the plans that they sell. So those customers never see this on their bill.

But some telcos pass the fee on directly to customers, which is when you will see the charge added on to your bill occasionally.

For example, Amaysim absorbs the charge so it's never mentioned in the bill, while Spintel will list an extra cost called "ACMA Mobile Number Levy" in addition to the normal plan cost.

In 2019, the Annual Numbering Charge was 63.09 cents per phone number. So keep this in mind if you see the fee on your bill, to ensure your telco hasn't overcharged.

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