Terms & Conditions: Skype’s limits on ‘unlimited,’ blocked countries, forbidden uses and more

terms & conditions skype voip

Check out the full Terms & Conditions archive.

When you think of online video calls, the first thing you probably think of is Skype. And now, thanks to being purchased by Microsoft, the service is in front of more eyes than ever. But because Skype’s business is international by nature — cheap calls to other countries are a main reason to use the service — its terms of service are a bit more complication than many other companies. Fortunately, Microsoft has given Skype’s terms and privacy policy a total revamp to make them easier for users to digest. But since we all know you’re probably not going to look at them anyway, let’s break down the most important bits.

Terms of Use

The Skype Terms of Use is a behemoth, so we’re going to keep this limited to only the most crucial aspects of the service.

Emergency calls

Right at the start of the terms, Skype explains that it does not provide access to most emergency services, like 911 here in the U.S. Because of this, the company makes very clear that Skype software is “not a replacement for your primary telephone service,” and that “it is your responsibility to purchase… traditional wireless (mobile) or fixed line telephone services that offer access to emergency services.”

The only counties where Skype users can access emergency services are the U.K. and Australia. Still, Skype warns that trying to make an emergency call through a computer is probably a bad idea, so do it some other way, if at all possible.

Careful what you say

Skype explains that, basically, you can say and do whatever you want over a Skype call. However, just for safety’s sake, the company technically forbids users from doing the following while using Skype:

  • Transmitting copyrighted content
  • Saying anything obscene, libellous, threatening, or otherwise criminal
  • No porn
  • No advertising
  • No spamming
  • No hurting children
  • No denial of service (DoS) or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

If you do any of these things, and Skype finds out about it (through a user report, or it ending up on YouTube, etc.), your account will probably be blocked.

Pay up

Call rates: While calls made with Skype are often less expensive than those made using a mobile phone or a landline, it still costs money. Unless you pay for a Skype subscription, you will be charged a connection fee, as well as the per-minute rate for your call. (See those rates here.)

Skype Credits: To pay for Skype calls, you have to purchase Skype Credits. However, if you don’t use those credits for 180 days, they will go into “inactive” status. To reactivate your Credits, log in to your account, and click here.

Refunds: If you buy Skype Credits, you can get a refund for unused Credits within 15 days. After that, you can only get a refund if you’ve purchased a Skype subscription.

Wrong number

If the no emergency services access thing wasn’t enough to make you realize that Skype shouldn’t be your only phone, there’s also this: Your Skype phone number (either an Online Number or Skype to Go Number) are not yours. You may not transfer them to another phone — in fact, you’re forbidden from even trying to do that. So don’t.

Unlimited (kind of)

If you’ve purchased a Skype unlimited subscription, beware that your calls are not actually “unlimited” — after two hours of gabbing away, you’ll have to hang up and redial.

No Skype for you

A number of countries or Internet service providers (ISPs) have blocked VoIP services like Skype altogether. These countries include places like Ethiopia, a number of countries in the Middle East, some Mexican ISPs, and a number of Asian countries.

Fortunately, here in the U.S., we have the Federal Communications Commission’s Net neutrality rules, which prohibit ISPs from blocking VoIP. But if you live in a place without such rules, it’s your responsibility to find out whether Skype is legal or allowed. Annoyingly, Skype does not provide a definitive list of which countries and ISPs block VoIP services.

Privacy Policy

Skype has done a fine job of making its privacy police nice and clear. But like the terms of use, it’s a massive document that could be distilled down even further.

What Skype knows

The company says simply says that it “may gather and use information about you,” and has outlined quite a few examples. However, it says that it might collect more information about you than what it details here, which is just slightly disturbing. Still, I suggest you take a look at the full list. But here’s a brief rundown:

  • Identification info (name, address, email, telephone number)
  • Credit card info
  • All profile data (age, gender, country of residence, etc.) 
  • Content of instant messaging communications, voicemails, and videomails
  • Location data from your smartphone or mobile carrier
  • URLs that appear in your mood message
  • IP address
  • List of contacts

Why it needs to know

Skype explains that it only collects your data to provide its services to you, or improve its services. But that’s not the whole story here.

Skype’s business itself is not based primarily on advertising, which means that the company will never “sell, rent, trade or otherwise transfer any personal and/or traffic data or communications content.” However, because Skype is owned my Microsoft, you are effectively handing over that data to the Big M and its subsidiaries. This also means your non-personally identifying data (age, country of residence, etc.) might be used to serve up target ads through Microsoft Advertising and a list of other ad networks.

In short, if you use Skype, you are entering into the vast Microsoft business ecosystem, which reaches far and wide. To opt out of receiving targeted Microsoft Advertising, click here. To opt out of Skype-specific ads, click here.

Taking charge

If you want to edit or delete your personal information, you may do so through your Skype profile. Any IMs or voicemails through Skype will be deleted after a period of 30 to 90 days, unless a the government or court has properly requested that Skype retain the data, or Skype needs it to fulfill some aspect of its service.


Overall, Skype’s terms and privacy policy are fairly straight forward, especially considering its many functionalities and the vast geographical spread of its users. Considering the number of countries that have banned VoIP service, however, it would be helpful if Skype made it easy to find out which countries are on the list, especially for the many travelers that presumably use Skype to keep in touch while abroad.

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