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Freephones for Charity?

15 March 2004 at 12:03 pm
Staff Reporter
'Freephone' numbers may be a misnomer once some national and local charities start bidding in a preferential online auction process later this year to get first dibs on valuable phone numbers starting with 1800, 1300 or 13!

Staff Reporter | 15 March 2004 at 12:03 pm


Freephones for Charity?
15 March 2004 at 12:03 pm

‘Freephone’ numbers may be a misnomer once some national and local charities start bidding in a preferential online auction process later this year to get first dibs on valuable phone numbers starting with 1800, 1300 or 13!

The Australian Communications Authority (ACA) has developed an online auction system for the allocation of specifically requested ‘freephone’ and local rate telephone numbers and eligible charities will be able to get in first through a preferential process expected to start in May 2004.

These numbers are called FLRNs and more than a million unreleased numbers will be made available under the new allocation system.

So what are FLRNs? And how can you get 1800wehelpkids or something just as clever to match the work of your charity?

Freephone numbers are 10-digit numbers beginning with 1800.

Calls made to freephone numbers are free to end-users, as all associated call charges are borne by the receiver of the call.

Local rate numbers are 10-digits numbers beginning with 1300, or 6-digit numbers beginning with 13. The charges for calls made to local rate numbers are shared between the person who makes the call (to a maximum of the charge amount applicable to a local call) and the person who receives the call (who pays the remaining charge).

As part of the ACA initiative, the charity process will be launched before the commercial operators have a go at the auction process in June 2004.

To participate in the preferential process an eligible charity must be endorsed by the Tax Commissioner as an income tax exempt charity (ITEC) and demonstrate a strategic link to the FLRN.

Highly valuable FLRNs include those identified as either ‘phonewords’ or ‘patterned’. Phonewords are the alphabetic, keypad translation of their numeric equivalent. Such numbers are understandably perceived as commercially valuable. For example 138 294 is the equivalent of 13 TAXI.

Patterned numbers follow a recognisable numeric pattern that makes these numbers easier for many people to remember.

Such as 1300 222 222.

The strategic links, if the number forms a phoneword for charities include:
– Matching a word within the name of the charity; or
– is an acronym for the name of the charity.

Charities only have to take part if they want to secure a specific number. If not, they can request an allocation through their service provider for the set administrative charge that is between $30 and $50.

Before announcing its plan the ACA asked interested charities to comment on the procedure of a ‘sealed bid online auction’ system (that is the highest bid wins!).

Alzheimer’s Australia, the RSPCA and the Cancer Council Victoria all expressed concerns over the auction process. They claim larger well-financed charities, that meet most of the criteria, could outbid a smaller charity that is more strongly associated to the number being auctioned.

The National Program Manager for Alzheimer’s Australia, David Turner says his organisation is strongly opposed to the system.

Turner says it is inappropriate for Not for Profits to be engaged in the auction process and describes it as the wrong tool!

He says Alzheimer’s Australia already has a 1800 number that has no particular significance to the work of the organisation.

He says to the ACA’s credit it responded to his organisation’s submission by detailing why it had decided on the system pointing to the web based single bid option as more appropriate and not intended to raise huge amounts of money.

Turner says however that some hard nosed business decisions will have to be made by charities on perceived ‘high worth’ numbers.

What value can you place on 1800cancer or 1300heart ?

Turner says the ACA also gave assurances about protections in place to stop charities warehousing some numbers.

ACA executive manager, Paul White says the fundamental approach has been to give equitable and preferential treatment to charities and the intention is not to get dollars out of charities.

White says that in the next few weeks the ACA will set a reserve for the auction that may be set for 12 months depending on the interest from charities.

He says the once-only bid system will prevent some organisations trying to gazump others in a bidding war!

To assist charities in the new preferential allocation system, the ACA is preparing a User Guide that will set out all the relevant requirements for registering, making an application and bidding in a sealed-bid auction.

If you would like an electronic copy of guide when it becomes available just send us an email with ACA User Guide in the subject line to As soon as the guide becomes available we will pass it on.

Contact Bridget Nagle of the Australian Communications Authority with any further queries on (03) 9963 6910.

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