It's one thing to get the right handset, but quite another to figure out the right mobile phone plan, preferably one that won't end up costing an arm and a leg every month.

The first thing to look at is the critical information summary (CIS). It's your go-to reference guide that will help you compare the plans on offer from different telcos. And if you're shopping for a new plan, don't forget to also read our phone plan buying guide. It explains the difference between pre-paid and post-paid plans and deciphers network jargon.

End the confusopoly

Consumers choosing a new mobile phone plan must be given a consumer information summary (CIS) that outlines the plan's minimum terms, inclusions and exclusions. It will provide:

  • information about pricing – the minimum and maximum monthly charges, any early termination fees, and the cost of a call, an SMS and a megabyte of data
  • information on where to check call and usage data
  • instructions on setting up usage alerts
  • fees for using your phone overseas
  • service provider contact details
  • details on how to make a complaint.

More protection for consumers

Your rights can't be ignored by telcos. The telecommunications consumer protection (TCP) code gives you a suite of protections against bill shock and overcharging, including stronger powers for the industry ombudsman to help consumers.

The code requires telcos to:

  • provide a critical information summary (CIS) with a new phone plan to combat the 'confusopoly' of charges and caps that confront consumers
  • not use misleading terms in advertising and ensure network coverage and speed claims are realistic
  • include unit pricing in advertising for the cost of a two-minute standard mobile call, the cost of a standard SMS and the cost of 1MB data
  • not use the word 'cap' unless referring to a true cap that can't be exceeded
  • make automatic notifications available to customers when 50%, 85% and 100% of the allowance of the included value of a mobile or broadband internet plan has been used
  • show charges on billing that exceed spend limits or included value thresholds and provide the cost of the previous two bills
  • send global roaming alerts that outline costs for calls, texts and data and an easy opt-out service
  • provide complaint handling advice and resolve disputes in a reasonable timeframe.

If your telco has failed to meet any of the above requirements, contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to report the breach and maybe consider moving to a new carrier.