Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Telcos resisting customer service reforms

Note the arrogance highlighted in red

PHONE companies are resisting major restructuring saying changes will be too costly to implement and that a new voluntary code will be more effective in addressing consumer concerns.

In submissions to Australian Communications and Media Authority's Reconnecting the Customer inquiry - published yesterday - the peak industry body, Communications Alliance, said it supported the ACMA draft report but that the industry's revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code would address the major issues raised in the report.

Key points the ACMA's draft report said must be addressed were: clarity in pricing, advertising and comparison between providers; improved complaints management; tools for users to monitor phone usage; and amendments to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme.

The Communications Alliance submission said many of the concerns raised by the ACMA in its Draft Report had been addressed by the revised draft TCP Code.

The draft TCP Code has yet to be released, and no spokesperson from the Communications Alliance was available to comment.

Providing more information about telephone pricing and plans would only confuse consumers, the submission said.

Teresa Corbin, the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said the industry was in denial about the threat of further regulation. "I think they're not facing up to the reality that they have to make some serious changes, and I think they're hopeful that by testing the waters they'll find that they can get away with just tinkering but they haven't really woken up to the fact that they need to make some radical changes. "

Clare O'Reilly, the project director of the ACMA inquiry, said there was a resistance to change. "Industry's view is that to try to explain pricing in a more simpler way is just not feasible.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Letter to Paul O'Sullivan, CEO, Optus

I am irate at a bit of systematic skullduggery you practice when your prepaid mobile phone users go online to get a recharge -- and I am thinking of drawing the attention of both ACMA and the TIO to it.

I believe in dialogue, however, so I will predicate my future action in the matter on your reply or non-reply to this letter.

I have prepaid mobile 0423 248 *** and when I last logged on to the net at optus.com.au/recharge the options presented allowed me only 30 days to use the recharge funds. I have had battles (which I won) with Optus since the year 2000 however so I was not going to lie down and take that. I wrote two letters querying the matter to your "help" staff and eventually someone rang me to let me in on the deep dank secret of how to get 6 months to use my recharge funds.

There is NOTHING on the recharge page to tell me so but if I change the default recharge from $20 to $30 an entirely new screen pops up and that screen allows a 6 month recharge. But even that screen does not SAY it provides a 6 month recharge. You just have to be "in the know" to realize what is happening.

It's no mystery what you are trying to do. You are trying to get less frequent users to waste their money by giving them insufficiant time to use their funds. In good Australian parlance, it is a RORT.

Unless you change BOTH screens to let customers know what is happening, look forward to a call from ACMA. And I think I might write to Singtel about you too.

You have just copped a $5 million fine for misleading and deceptive advertising. Do you want another one?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Optus fined for crooked advertising

BACK in July 2009, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel met with the chief executives of Australia's three largest telecommunications companies.

Telstra's David Thodey, Optus boss Paul O'Sullivan and Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief Nigel Dews had met to discuss the soaring number of complaints by consumers over confusing mobile and broadband plans, reported The Australian.

"The message I gave then was that the industry was in a race to the bottom in terms of advertising practices," Mr Samuel said. "That race to the bottom had to stop, advertising standards had to increase . . . (the ACCC) was getting too many complaints."

Mr Samuel said none of the parties was keen for the regulator to litigate on the matter and recalls the group agreeing to enter into a court-enforceable undertaking to lift their advertising standards.

One of the key issues was the use of so-called headline advertising in telecoms, which could go close to misleading behaviour. This was the use of an attention-grabbing major headline, diluted by a fine-print disclaimer.

That issue of headline advertising caught out Optus yesterday, when the Federal Court imposed a hefty $5.26 million fine for a series of broadband advertising campaigns that ran over a period of five months last year.

That Optus could receive the highest civil penalty for a consumer protection breach despite signing that undertaking in September 2009 was the real issue, Mr Samuel said.

Federal Court judge Nye Perram agreed, saying that fact had been considered when assessing the size of the penalty he was willing to impose. "What is involved is hypocrisy: the saying of one thing; the doing of another," Justice Perram wrote in his judgement.

"This has cost Optus lots of money and lots in reputation," Mr Samuel said.