Telephone numbers are a national resource owned by the Australian Government. The ACMA allocates telephone numbers to carriage service providers (providers) and they issue telephone numbers to their customers.
When you are issued a telephone number for a telecommunications service, you become a ‘Rights of Use Holder’ (ROU holder) for that number. This means you have a contractual relationship with a provider to use a telecommunications service or services on that number.
Can I request a certain number or reserve a number for future use?
You can request a provider issue you with a specific number, but the provider is under no obligation to issue this number to you. You may also request a provider reserve a number for future use—again, this is at the discretion of the provider.
Can I keep my number?
You have the option to keep a telephone number when changing providers—this is known as 'porting'. Porting means you can shop around for the best rate and service without having to worry about changing your telephone number.
Your current provider must port your number if you request a port and ensure that no action (or inaction) on its part prevents you from keeping your number when changing providers.
Is a new provider required to port my number?
There is no obligation on a new provider to accept a port request. If you wish to port your number, you must find a new provider that is willing to accept the port.
The new provider must advise you not to disconnect your service prior to porting.
What do I have to do to port my number?
If you want to change providers and keep your number, you should:
- contact your new provider—they will contact your current provider to arrange the port
- not disconnect your telephone service with your current provider—a port can’t take place if the service has been disconnected as you will no longer have rights of use for the number
- be aware that fees and charges may apply when changing providers (early termination fee, porting fee, outstanding charges etc.). However, your current provider cannot refuse to port a number due to any outstanding account balance or fees.
Use of numbers and conditions
A provider must not include in your contract terms and conditions that you are unable to port your number and/or that you must not change providers.
Can I port a number that has been disconnected or suspended?
- If your service has been suspended, the contractual relationship between you and the provider continues. This means the service is not disconnected and you can request to port the suspended number.
- When a service is disconnected, you cease to be the ROU holder of the number. A port cannot occur if a service is disconnected so you would need to ask the new provider to reconnect the service; however, generally this is at the discretion of the provider. If a provider makes a decision to disconnect your service, the provider must ensure that you are given adequate notice and provide you with a written disconnection notice.
What happens to my number if my provider goes out of business?
If your service has been suspended as a result of a provider going out of business, you still retain the ROU to the number and the number can be ported to another provider.
However, if your service has been disconnected, you’re no longer the ROU Holder for that number. You’ll need to have the number re-issued to you before you can port the number to a new provider.
What happens to numbers after they are disconnected and put into quarantine?
After a service is disconnected, telephone numbers are taken out of circulation and put into quarantine for a minimum period of 6 months (12 months if the service was disconnected as a result of nuisance calls). If the number was originally allocated to a different provider (the donor provider), the number is given back to the donor provider. Generally, numbers must not be re-issued during the quarantine period.
A provider may recover and re-issue a number from quarantine before the end of the quarantine period if the:
- customer is the previous ROU Holder
- provider has no other suitable numbers for issue and the customer to whom the number is being issued agrees to have the number
- number was issued for a business that is still operating but the ownership of the business has changed.
If you wish to reconnect your service, or port a number you previously used, you may request that your previous provider or the donor provider re-issue that number to you. However, there is no obligation on a provider to re-issue the number to you. You may identify the donor provider by searching for your number in the ACMA’s Electronic Numbering Database.
Numbering plan and code rules for providers
The Numbering Plan requires that providers:
- have the capability and technology to provide portability
- allow a customer to port away their number.
The ACMA has a role enforcing compliance with the Numbering Plan.
The ACMA also enforces compliance with registered industry codes, such as the Rights of Use of Numbers Code (ROU Code) and the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code. The ROU Code outlines provider obligations relating to the reservation, issue, porting, disconnection and quarantine of numbers. The TCP Code commits providers to supply clear and accurate information to their customers in relation to services, contracts, billing, credit/debt management and changing suppliers.
More information on industry codes is available from the Communications Alliance Ltd.
Compliance for providers
Under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act), providers must comply with the Numbering Plan and registered telecommunications industry codes. A failure to comply, such as a refusal to port a number, may lead to proceedings under Part 31 or the Act.
If you have a complaint, you should lodge it first with your current provider.
If the complaint remains unresolved, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or www.tio.com.au. The TIO offers a fast, free and fair dispute resolution service for small businesses and individuals that have a complaint about their telephone or internet service in Australia.
Consumer Information: Keeping your Number
Number Portability Overview
Keeping your Local Phone Number
Keeping your Mobile Phone Number
Register of Telecommunications Industry Codes
Industry Code - Rights of Use of Numbers
Industry Code - Telecommunications Consumer Protections
Industry Code - Local Number Portability
Industry Code - Mobile Number Portability
Customer Service Centre
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