Coding Australian 13 and 1300 “tel:” numbers – 404 errors

Australia has six- and ten-digit local numbers that begin with 13 and 1300 respectively. The 13 xx xx numbers connect you to a local number in your city so it is a local call. The 1300 xxx xxx number is similar but is usually a single destination for the price of a local call. A problem arises with mobile browsers and link validation of such pages, by a crawler tool of your choice, or Google Search Console.

A normal landline phone would be coded as follows, always including the country prefix and with no spaces:

<a href=”tel:+61-3-9xxx-0111″>(03) 9xxx-0111</a>

This will not come up in a list of 404s.

However, a “tel:13xxxx” number cannot be rendered with a +61 prefix, else it will fail for callers in Australia. The solution is provided by RFC 3966 (RFCs are the standards that define the internet).


Attempted Solution

Such numbers must be coded with a “phone-context” containing the country prefix. This example uses “13”:

<a href=”tel:13xxxx;phone-context=+61″>13 xx xx</a>

Note: No spaces in the phone number inside the link href.

Close, but No Cigar

Success! But kind of.

During a trial implementation, we found that the mobile phone browser renders the number badly, but it works. Usually it should only display “13x xxx” (iOS adds a space to the non-spaced number in the href) but it shows as:

13x xxx;phonecontext+61
Cancel  Call


Error in iOS Safari


Error in Android


Error in Windows Edge

This number can now be dialled from Australia and does not show as a 404 error in Screaming Frog. The question is now whether we can make the displayed number show as the following:

+61 13x xxx
Cancel  Call

Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts, because the only other option is to convince all the mobile browsers to display the number elegantly. I don’t think the USA has such numbers, so this might not seem like a high priority to many. In the meantime, we will put up with the 404 errors for such links.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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