Thursday, May 4, 2017

Frustrated Optus customers vent fury on Facebook page

IN NOVEMBER, Lucy Ghattas made the difficult decision to move her mother to an aged care facility due to the 81-year-old’s deteriorating mental health.

A tough time with plenty of admin tasks, that Lucy says was made harder by a six month dispute with Optus.

Late last year, Ms Ghattas took a day off from the Sydney insurance firm where she works as a business development manager to take her elderly mother into an Optus store to arrange for her no longer necessary home phone service to be cancelled.

She had tried to do it remotely, but Optus customer care kept pointing her to their online chatroom where she had not been able to fix the issue.

She left the store believing the account had been closed and the expenses finalised. But since then she has continued to receive monthly bills for her mother’s home phone service.

“I paid the December one, I paid the January one but then in February I thought this is a joke. They obviously haven’t disconnected it so I’m just not going to pay this bill and hopefully someone will contact me,” she told

They didn’t, so she went back to the chatroom and tried to find somebody who she could call to resolve the issue.

She eventually got a number which she said put her in touch with someone she believed to be “an offshore person” and received a “robotic response” telling her they needed to speak to her mother to cancel the account.

“(I told them) she has dementia, she can’t walk, as you can see there’s been no phone calls made or received on that number since November, common sense should prevail,” she said.  “She doesn’t even understand me.”

The monthly bill is only $29 but after letting it sit idle, she now owes them $85.47. Since the majority of the amount if overdue, the bills also come with the threat of eventual legal action.

“I understand there are polices put in place for security and to protect your average person,” she said. But Ms Ghattas doesn’t understand why such a simple task has proved almost impossible to achieve, especially after making the initial trip to the store with her mother before her health worsened.

Optus is bound by privacy laws in these types of matters and Ms Ghattas has not organised power of attorney over her mother’s affairs — seemingly leaving her and the telco at an impasse.

“There’s just no common sense in customer service right now,” she said.

After being approached by, Optus reached out to Ms Ghattas to resolve the issue and told that their records showed it was resolved in store yesterday.

While that appears to be the case, it required Ms Ghattas to get her son, who coincidentally works at a Sydney Optus store to cancel the account.

“It shouldn’t have resorted to me getting my son or anyone I may know to fix it,” she said. She had originally avoided involving her son because she didn’t want the dispute to impact him.

Optus said it will now remove the extra charges on the account since November. “Any charges relating to the home phone service from November onwards have been removed,” a spokesperson said.  “Optus apologises for any inconvenience this has caused Ms Ghattas,” they said.

Looking at the Optus Facebook page suggests Ms Ghattas is not alone in her frustration.

Customers have left angry messages on the company’s Facebook page complaining about their experiences.

“Absolutely the most disgusting lack of service I’ve ever encountered! I cannot even speak to some one who’s (sic) speaks English! They signed me on a contract I did not agree to and they cannot even provide unlimited home internet. So now we have to use our 4g,” Facebook user Chris Tania Yarnold wrote this week.

After multiple angry posts, they reported to have finally had their complaint resolved. But plenty of others voiced a similar frustration with the telco.

Some claimed to have been misled and given services they didn’t want, while others complained about the long waiting times to receive products or technical assistance.

“Totally agree with Chris. Optus you suck. You stitched us up with an iPad we did not order, then made it impossible to return even when you agreed it was your stuff up,” wrote Queensland Facebook user Tony Zieth.

“Even the debt collector you have hired thinks we will win when we go to the ombudsmen. We have spent at least 20 hours trying to work through this with you.” contacted both Chris and Tony but at the time of writing had not heard back.

For the past two years Optus has largely been the most complained about telco provider but according to the industry ombudsman’s latest quarterly report, Telstra overtook Optus in terms of complaints per customer in the period from October to December 2016.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Optus cutting off customers without warning, blaming NBN

Optus is cutting off cable customers' phones and broadband without warning, sometimes blaming NBN, as part of Optus' rush to shut down its HFC cable network in NBN-ready areas.

Investigations by Fairfax Media have uncovered a pattern of misinformation and heavy-handed tactics as Optus rushes to migrate its HFC cable users to the NBN network, while coercing them into remaining Optus customers and sometimes insisting they sign a new 24-month contract.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reveals Australian's biggest NBN gripes and which mobile network lifted its game in 2015-16.

Optus representatives are telling customers that NBN or "the government" are to blame for the tight migration deadline, inflaming an ongoing feud with NBN over Optus' threats to cut off customers within weeks rather than abiding by the NBN's public 18-month switchover commitment.

While currently threatening to cut off cable services within as little as 30 days in several suburbs across Melbourne and Sydney, Optus has already cut off some home and business customers with little or no warning – leaving them without a phone or broadband service for weeks and perhaps unable to recover their old phone number once services are restored.

Auburn NSW business owner Glenn arrived at work last week to discover his Optus phone and cable broadband lines had been cut off without warning. The area was declared NBN-ready last year, but the NBN rollout map indicates Glenn's business has more than two months left to switch across. When he called Optus, Glenn was told that his business was disconnected because he had missed the cable cutoff deadline.

"We have suffered considerable inconvenience, damage and cost to our business," Glenn says. "I was told Optus was simply complying with government policy by shutting down the cable network."

Meanwhile, Burwood NSW resident Gino discovered his Optus home phone had been disconnected last week after the district nurse who cares for his invalid wife could not call his home. While Gino had received two letters from Optus regarding the cable shutdown, he had been assured over the telephone that his service would not be cut without warning.

Gino is still without a home phone service as he negotiates with Optus to retain his old phone number of 33 years, and has lodged a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)

Prasanna of Wheelers Hill, Victoria, had his Optus phone and broadband disconnected earlier this month – only one week after receiving notification via SMS of the cable shutdown. Optus says he has permanently lost his home phone number – used as the RSVP number for 700 guests invited to a family wedding – and that his services won't be reconnected until April 4.

"We were told that if we wanted to continue with the internet we have to sign up with Optus otherwise they cannot guarantee when an NBN technician could come out to us," says Prasanna, who is also lodging a TIO complaint.

"We were told numerous times it was NBN's actions that led to our disconnection. That it wasn't Optus' fault, it was compulsory."

Other Optus customers across Sydney and Melbourne have reported similar experiences, some caught in disputes with Optus for months, culminating in phone and broadband being cut without warning as part of a botched migration process.

Behind the scenes, Optus has ignored NBN's objections to the rapid cable shutdown, pointing to the Optus cable user agreement that permits Optus to terminate the service. Last week, Optus began granting customers 90 days to switch rather than 30, after Fairfax Media raised the issue.

While Optus has not explained why customers were told that NBN or the government were to blame, it concedes responsibility for the rapid cable switchoff.

"Optus acknowledges that it is not the government or NBN that is driving Optus' decision to quickly migrate customers to the national broadband network," says a spokesperson. "Our intention is always to ensure customers are able to transition to the NBN in a seamless way, however, we have identified that some customers were recently disconnected and left without service."

"Optus will provide customers with compensation for the loss of their telephone and/or broadband services, and will continue to work with our front line teams to ensure we provide information to customers as they transition to the NBN."

While Optus says it has "reconnected these customers and is contacting them to apologise for the inconvenience and distress this has caused", at the time of publication Fairfax Media was still aware of affected services yet to be restored. Optus says it is "reviewing disconnection records".

NBN declined to comment on Optus' disconnection tactics, instead referring to last week's comment that "any actions resulting in earlier disconnection of end users is solely at the discretion and responsibility of the Retail Service Provider – it is not an action being taken by NBN nor is NBN involved in any way".

As pressure mounts on Optus to change its heavy-handed NBN migration tactics, there are calls to grant the NBN greater power to settle such feuds and pull internet service providers into line.

NBN should be ultimately responsible for ensuring end users are treated fairly, and granted the power to force internet service providers to comply, says Laurie Patton – Internet Australia board member and former CEO.

"Broadband customers are stuck in this nightmare game of pass the parcel and the buck must stop somewhere," Patton says.

"NBN should be ultimately responsible for ensuring end user delivery and I have proposed the creation of a universal service delivery obligation, which would grant NBN the power and the responsibility for ensuring that its broadband resellers act appropriately and deliver on their promises."

Federal Minister for Communications Senator Mitch Fifield has confronted Optus over its behaviour and instructed the Department of Communications to work with Optus and NBN to address the issue.

"Optus' approach is unacceptable and the Minister has conveyed this directly to the company," says a spokesperson for the Minister. "Optus' actions are a departure from the NBN transition framework which the industry has been operating under and the deadline Optus is imposing on its customers is not a result of government policy nor NBN action."

"We understand that Optus is writing to apologise to customers and correct some of the information provided. The Minister has asked the Department of Communications to work with Optus and NBN to minimise further service disruptions for affected customers."

Friday, March 10, 2017

Optus threatens disconnection to sign up NBN customers and fast-track HFC cable shutdown

Optus is ignoring the NBN's 18-month switchover commitment and threatening to cut off cable customers within weeks, using strongarm tactics to sign them up as Optus NBN customers before they can consider changing provider.

Optus is calling its cable broadband customers in newly NBN-ready areas and threatening both telephone and broadband disconnection in 30 days – including the permanent loss of their home phone number – if they don't migrate from Optus cable to the NBN network. The calls come before those customers have received a "Ready For Service" letter from the NBN indicating they can sign up with their internet service provider of choice.
Australia's telco complaints by the numbers

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reveals Australian's biggest NBN gripes and which mobile network lifted its game in 2015-16.

After threatening cable disconnection, the Optus representative then offers to arrange an NBN connection appointment before the 30-day deadline, to transfer the customer to an Optus NBN service – in some cases forcing them onto a new 24-month contract – without explaining that they have a choice of internet service provider. Shutting down the cable network also cuts off the "Optus TV featuring Foxtel" legacy pay TV service which Optus currently delivers via cable.

Some Optus cable customers in the Melbourne suburb of East Keilor received a letter from the NBN in mid-December explaining that NBN installations would commence by May. The letter stated that; "We will notify you by mail when you can order a plan which uses the NBN network".

While these homes were still waiting on that follow-up letter from the NBN, Optus began calling them at the start of March to explain that their cable service would be cut off within 30 days if they did not move across to the NBN. If they missed the cut-off date they would permanently lose their home phone number and need to wait 20 days for their phone and internet access to be reconnected.

Other Optus customers in the area did not receive calls but were told of the 30-day deadline and threatened with disconnection via a letter from Optus. When questioned regarding the impending Ready For Service letter from the NBN, Optus is telling some customers that this NBN letter is not coming and Optus' letters take its place.

Optus' behaviour in East Keilor is not an isolated incident, the revelations come as part of an ongoing feud with the NBN over Optus' heavy-handed customer migration tactics and its refusal to abide by the NBN's public commitment to ensure that premises are granted an 18-month window during which they can switch to an NBN service.

Other suburbs currently reaching NBN Ready for Service which have Optus cable customers include Glen Waverley, Beaumaris and Ferntree Gully in Melbourne, along with Kellyville, Edgecliff, Wetherill Park, Sefton and Cheltenham in Sydney.

Optus' HFC cable network covers around 2 million premises across the country, with roughly half a million active users before the NBN migration began. There is a significant overlap with the Telstra HFC cable network, and around 1.5 million Australian premises have access to both cables in their street.

Reports that the entire Optus HFC cable footprint area will now receive fibre to the curb are incorrect, this will only occur in areas where Optus cable is available but not Telstra cable. If both Optus and Telstra cable are available in a street, such is in parts of East Keilor, the Telstra cable will become NBN cable and homes will switch to this NBN cable as the Optus cable is switched off.

When the NBN opted to scrap the Optus cable network and only incorporate the Telstra cable network into the new national broadband network, Optus began to shut down its cable network in suburbs as soon as the NBN arrived – ignoring the NBN's objections and pointing to the Optus cable user agreement which permits Optus to terminate the service.

In suburbs such as East Keilor, which have both Optus and Telstra cable, Optus is rushing to shift its cable customers across to the Telstra cable as soon as it is declared an NBN service. It is then taking advantage of this tight deadline to ensure customers stay with Optus when moving to the NBN.

By quickly killing off its broadband and Pay TV services in the suburb, rather than granting customers an 18-month switchover window, Optus can quickly decommission its cable network infrastructure and free up fibre running to the exchange to use as backhaul support for the Optus mobile towers.

When contacted by Fairfax Media, an Optus spokesperson did not deny the telco's efforts to fast-track the HFC cable network shutdown but claimed that affected customers in East Keilor had incorrectly been given a 30-day deadline and actually had 90 days to make the switch to the NBN. Optus says it is in the process of contacting affected customers to clarify the matter, although Fairfax Media understands that the 30-day disconnection threat had been common practice until Fairfax Media raised the issue with Optus this week.

While the NBN is committed to an 18-month switchover window, Optus has made a "business decision" to fast-track this process in its HFC cable areas.

"While the NBN has indicated that copper or HFC networks will be shut down within 18 months of an area becoming serviceable, providers of existing internet services, such as Optus, may make the decision to disconnect services sooner," the Optus spokesperson says.

"Optus has taken a business decision to migrate customers to the NBN as soon as an area becomes serviceable. We're taking every step to assist customers to place an NBN order so they can transition to the NBN as quickly as possible."

On the issue of using strongarm tactics to coerce cable customers to stay with Optus when switching to the NBN – by calling customers before they receive the NBN Ready For Service letter – the spokesperson says Optus is calling in advance to offer customers the opportunity to "pre-order" an NBN service. In light of Fairfax Media's enquiries, Optus is reviewing its customer communications and will be providing "additional support to our front line teams" regarding the closure of the HFC network and migrating customers to the NBN.

"Optus does not condone coercive behaviour towards our customers. Should an existing Optus HFC customer decide that they would like to take an NBN service with another provider, they can do so by placing an order with that provider," the Optus spokesperson says.

"Providers may contact a resident before an area is declared Ready For Service to advise them that the NBN is coming to their area and to pre-order an NBN service. Optus contacts its HFC customers during this period."

The NBN is not responsible for Optus' decision to ignore the standard 18-month migration window, according to an NBN spokesperson.

"NBN provides for a standard migration window of 18-months for all of its access technologies including HFC. This gives consumers ample time to consider their internet plan options and best determine the retail provider that suits their needs," the NBN spokesperson says.

"Any actions resulting in earlier disconnection of end users is solely at the discretion and responsibility of the Retail Service Provider – it is not an action being taken by NBN nor is NBN involved in any way."

In response to Optus' NBN aggressive migration tactics, Teresa Corbin – chief executive of consumer advocacy group the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network – says Australians are entitled to sufficient time to consider their options before they shift to the NBN.

"For consistency and to avoid confusion among consumers, it would be better if all networks followed similar transition periods," Corbin says. "Short switch over periods may require consumers to stay with the same provider and prevent them from taking advantage of other providers or better deals over the NBN."

"We understand that Optus incorrectly informed some consumers that they had 30 days to switch, not 90 days. This is a very short timeframe for consumers to switch, which would have put pressure on them to rush their switching decisions. Consumers should not be subjected to undue pressure during this switch over period."

Monday, October 31, 2016

Aussie Telco Complaints Are Through The Roof" Optus worst

Complaints to telecommunications providers are up by over 16 per cent, according to the latest report detailing the number of new landline, mobile and internet complaints the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) receives.

Optus is the worst offender, while Amaysim proves the most loved among customers.

The Telecommunications Complaints In Context report — a quarterly report jointly published by the TIO and Communications Alliance — showed that total complaints per 10,000 SIO for all participating telcos was 6.2 in the July-September quarter, an increase of 16.4 per cent during the same period in 2015.

Despite the increase, this number is still 22 per cent lower than when reporting began in 2013, and a 3.1 per cent improvement on the last quarter.

Amaysim took out the top spot with only 1.1 complaints per 10,000 SIO, with Pivotel just behind on receiving 1.3 complaints per 10,000 SIO.

Telstra recorded 6.0 complaints per 10,000 SIO — down form last quarter's 6.8. Despite receiving the most complaints — 7.2 complaints per 10,000 SIO — this was still down from last quarter's 7.7 figure.

Vodafone jumped from 3.8 to 6.2 complaints per 10,000 SIO, matching the average across all participating telcos.

The first Complaints in Context report published data from July to September 2013. At that time, there were 7.9 TIO complaints per 10,000 SIO for all participating providers.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Optus faces deluge of complaints from English Premier League fans over soccer app performance

FRUSTRATED soccer fans have lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission red-carding Optus’ coverage of the English Premier League.

Optus has been flooded with complaints from frustrated fans, who have reported frozen screens, the app failing to load and jumpy pictures when they tune in to the exclusive Australian service.

Fans forced to stream the world’s most famous soccer league online for the first time this season have also complained about matches billed as live being shown on delay.

Others whose app has crashed as soon as it loads, or who have been left staring at a blank screen, have demanded better service, compensation or their money back.

In a bid to keep customers happy, the Singapore-owned telco has hired a 24/7 team to try to solve glitches, but admitted the system was not perfect.

Optus, Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company, last week admitted subscriber delays in coverage were “caused by limitations in the technology used’’.

Optus spokeswoman Gab­rielle Crittenden acknowledged “some initial teething problems and some complaints from customers’’ but claimed “the vast majority’’ of customers had a “great’’ experience.

“We are only a few rounds into the EPL season and we have had a good start to our EPL broadcast coverage and service to date,’’ it said.

But a 50-second streaming delay has sparked considerable angst among fans.

A complaint made to the ACCC during the week said in part: “the service offered was numerously described as being ‘live’, it is clearly not live.

“And so Optus/Optus Sport need to compensate their customers for the degraded product being offered.’’

Fans already angry they had to join Optus to see EPL matches live have also complained they’ve been charged for using data while watching on an app they were told would be free.

Viewers claim broadcast quality is not as good as it was on Fox Sports.

Optus had hoped to score a winner with fans by signing a three-year deal believed to be worth $180 million for Aussie EPL rights. Instead, it scored an own goal with fans when transmission was cut to coverage of one match in the opening round and has copped constant criticism over the quality of streaming since.

Optus will publish a new app upgrade this week that it hopes will improve service.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Optus Out: EPL fans rage after football streaming service hits technical faults

When Optus shocked the Australian sporting landscape by buying the rights for the English Premier League, outbidding Foxtel three-to-one, there were murmurs of discontent within the football fraternity.

Those murmurs grew to howls of disapproval after Optus released their packages and plans, which required an Optus broadband or mobile plan to watch the EPL. Needless to say, fans were not happy about being railroaded into joining the network.

Football fans went ballistic on Twitter after streams of the games were reported intermittently cutting out, showing poor-quality images and suffering delays.

The hashtag #OptusOut began trending as the worst of the problems occurred during Sunday night's games of Manchester United v Bournemouth and Arsenal v Liverpool.

The "live" feed of the games was reportedly delayed by as much as 60 seconds.

An Optus spokeswoman said the disruption was caused by the Premier League satellite service, not the Optus network.

"Optus can confirm that there was a 30 second transmission disruption during the broadcast of last night's Premier League match between Bournemouth vs Manchester United. We have been advised by the Premier League that the disruption was caused by their satellite distribution supplier.

"The issue was not related to an Optus mobile or fixed broadband network outage, or the Optus Sport App.

"As soon as Optus became aware of the issue, we switched to an alternative feed. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused and appreciate their patience while the broadcast was restored."

The delays in the telecast are "consistent with the viewing experience on other web-based or App content services currently operating in Australia," the spokeswoman confirmed.

Fans who had set up notifications from their clubs on their phones had key moments ruined by the delay.

Foxtel had set a high bar over the years with their EPL coverage, but in their first attempt at wresting the throne away from the pay TV giant it would seem Optus failed miserably.

The Optus coverage costs a minimum of $30 a month for a mobile sim plan, without a phone. Fans would then need to fork out an extra $5 a month for a Fetch TV box to broadcast the Premier League, or use an Apple TV device if they have one.

Optus recommend customers experiencing difficulties contact them directly via their social media channels or 24/7 technical support on 131 344 for trouble shooting advice.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Optus is most complained-about telco again

Complaints to telcos are on the rise following an all-time low just seven months ago.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) calculates complaints from landline, mobile and internet services from residential and small businesses by measuring the amount of new complaints for every 10,000 services-in-operation for Australia's five biggest telcos.

During the quarter from April to June 2016, the TIO received an average of 6.4 new complaints for every 10,000 services. The average complaints in the previous quarter was 6.2.

The TIO noted that complaints historically drop during the second quarter.

Optus once again received the most complaints with 7.7 for every 10,000 services, followed by Telstra with 6.8, Vodafone with 3.8 and Pivotel with 1. However, Optus has shown signs of improvement since last year, fielding 8.5 complaints from April to June in 2015.

Australia's fourth-largest telco Amaysim was once again the least complained-about telco with only 0.8.

Complaints have fallen by 1.5 per 10,000 services year-on-year since the TIO began publishing its data in 2013, reaching an all-time low of 4.8 from October to December of 2015.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Optus Is Refunding $2.4 Million To Mobile Insurance Customers

ASIC raised concerns about Optus' compliance with Australian financial services laws, and now the telco is refunding approximately $2.4 million (including interest) to around 175,000 Optus mobile customers.

ASIC's concerns arose after Optus reported a breach about its failure to provide certain customers with a Product Disclosure Statement and a Financial Services Guide. This breach affected customers who purchased mobile phone insurance in store or by phone, and occurred over a number of years. As a result, many customers may not have been aware of certain key features and limitations of the insurance that they purchased.

Following ASIC's inquiries, Optus reported four further breaches where customers did not receive one month free insurance under a promotional offer they were entitled to, were incorrectly charged a premium for insurance during a "rain-check" period, were not provided with the required information before purchasing an insurance policy over the phone (e.g. information about excesses and cooling-off rights) and were issued the wrong cover.

Some customers received "Device Insurance" cover instead of the more favourable and less expensive "Yes Cover".

ASIC was concerned that these breaches indicated that Optus had inadequate compliance systems and processes, such as training, monitoring and supervision of staff.

Optus will be writing to all customers who may be affected. Where overcharging has occurred, Optus will take steps to contact past customers and will compensate current customers by a direct credit to the customer's account, which will include interest. Optus is also proposing to pay amounts owing to former customers who cannot be located to a charity assisting with financial literacy.

In response to ASIC's concerns, Optus has appointed an independent external firm to conduct a comprehensive review of its compliance functions to ensure ongoing compliance with its Australian financial services licence obligations.

ASIC Deputy Chairman Peter Kell today welcomed the steps taken by Optus to compensate affected consumers.

"It is important that when a business is licensed by ASIC to sell financial products to retail consumers, it ensures that it does so consistently with the representations it has made to consumers, and in compliance with the financial services laws," Kell said. "Where consumers have suffered a detriment, it is important that remediation is undertaken, and that steps are taken to ensure that the business is operating in compliance with the relevant legal obligations."

Consumers who purchased mobile phone insurance from Optus and who think they may be affected by these breaches should contact Optus on 1800 854 349 (Mon to Fri 8am-6pm).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Telstra complaints are rising but Optus is the worst, reports telecommunications ombudsman

TELSTRA is still suffering from its national phone network outages, with the telecommunications ombudsman confirming complaints are on the rise.

Despite common perceptions, Australia’s most popular phone provider attracted more complaints than its competitors Vodafone and Amaysim, and more than the industry average, in figures released this afternoon.

Optus won the wooden spoon, however, with the highest rate of complaints and the highest jump in complaints.

New complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about Telstra now sit at 6.4 for every 10,000 services, it reported today, up from 4.9 complaints in the last three months of 2015.

By comparison, Vodafone attracted a rate of 3.7 complaints in every 10,000 services, Amaysim just one complaint, and the industry average sat at 6.2 complaints.

The TIO said reports about telecommunications providers rose 29 per cent as a proportion of services at the start of this year, though “summer weather events” frequently affect these results.

However Australia’s leading but arguably most embattled provider, Telstra, suffered two national outages to its mobile phone network in February and March this year, which may have affected its results.

Telstra compensated customers with two days of “free data” use for the outages, however its network delivered a slow experience for some users on the second occasion.

Despite Telstra’s complaint increase, Optus proved the biggest complaints magnet for phone and internet users, with 7.9 complaints per 10,000 services, up from 5.9 at the end of last year.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Optus customers on hold as Home Zone blackspot base stations abandoned

Optus is refusing to back down on plans to scrap its Home Zone indoor mobile base stations at the end of March, despite growing customer complaints regarding the telco's replacement mobile VoIP app.

Leon de Jonge runs a small marketing and design consultancy from home, living in an Optus mobile blackspot 20 kilometres west of central Brisbane. To access the mobile network he relies on an Optus-issued Home Zone "femtocell" indoor mobile base station, which mimics a mobile tower but diverts mobile calls and data via his home broadband connection.

The Australian communications watchdog has cracked down on unlicensed femtocells, which can interfere with nearby devices; but Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have all introduced licensed mobile base stations in the last few years to assist customers in mobile blackspots and help improve indoor coverage.

Alternative femtocells such as the Cel-Fi are approved for use in Australia but cost more than $1000 and receive little publicity from the mobile network providers. Unlike the Home Zone, the Cel-Fi amplifies a weak mobile signal rather than diverting mobile traffic via fixed-line broadband.

Optus unveiled the Home Zone in 2012, charging customers up to $15 per month for the box while offering unlimited local, national and mobile calls to the primary mobile phone associated with the account.

An Optus customer for 10 years, de Jonge moved to his current Brisbane home in 2012 knowing it was a coverage blackspot but reassured that the Home Zone would improve mobile reception. It has reliably provided five bars of mobile coverage throughout his home and surrounding area, but now Optus is preparing to pull the plug.

Home Zone customers received a letter from Optus mid-March, giving them several weeks' notice that it intends to cease support for the Home Zone at the end of the month in favour of its WiFi Talk app. Available for Android and Apple devices, the app lets Optus customers make and receive calls and texts via Wi-Fi networks.

The app is plagued by dropped and missed calls along with lag and poor voice quality, de Jonge says, echoing the complaints of dozens of customers on Optus' community blog. A smartphone app is also a poor substitute for a stronger mobile signal which works with all mobile devices, he says.

"To run a home-based business, it's important to have reliable and efficient mobile reception," de Jonge says.

"It's bad enough that the reception is so terrible at only 20km from the Brisbane CBD without Optus scrapping the Home Zone. Our Wi-Fi signal doesn't reach as far as the Home Zone femtocell, plus this app doesn't replace the functionality and convenience of using a standard mobile.

"My partner uses my old iPhone, which isn't supported by this app, so there'll be no reception for her until she buys a new phone."

Fellow Home Zone user Trent, who lives in an Optus mobile blackspot in the hills of northern Sydney, has been an Optus customer for 14 years and stuck with the telco because of the Home Zone.

"With the replacement Optus WiFi Talk app, phone calls drop out, it can't send MMS messages, and I need to have the app running the whole time," he says.

"To make matters worse, the mobile is permanently searching for a tower signal, which drains the battery.

"What is really sad is that Optus just seems to be ignoring all the complaints and issues raised by customers on this. Surely it is not really innovation to offer an inferior product with less functionality to replace a product that is working perfectly well."

So far, customer calls to delay the switch-over have fallen on deaf ears, with Optus confirming that the Home Zone service will cease on March 31 in favour of the WiFi Talk app.

"WiFi Talk is an easy-to-use app that allows customers to make and receive calls and send text messages over a Wi-Fi connection," an Optus spokesperson says.

"Optus is working with customers to assist them to migrate to WiFi Talk. We're currently looking into upgrades that will improve the functionality of the WiFi Talk app and address some of those concerns that customers are voicing."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Optus is most complained-about telco

Optus has recorded more new complaints per user in the last quarter than either Telstra or Vodafone.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman announced that it received 5.9 new complaints per 10,000 services in operation for Optus in the quarter ending 31 December. Telstra recorded 4.9 and Vodafone had 3.5 new complaints per 10,000 services.

The industry average for the quarter was 4.8 new complaints for every 10,000 services.

Amaysim - Australia’s fourth largest mobile telco and an Optus 4G reseller - left its larger rivals for dead, with just 0.7 new complaints per 10,000 services.

“We’ve beaten our own [personal best], which just so happens to also be the best rating in the industry,” said Amaysim compliance and service operations manager Chad Heininger.

Despite its top ranking, Optus has improved in the last three quarters. In June 2015, the Singtel-owned telco copped 8.5 complaints per 10,000 services, then in September it reduced the rate to 6.7.

The industry average has steadily fallen in the past year from a peak of 7.2 in March last year.

“It’s really great to see complaints across the board in the mobile category continue to drop over the last quarter too, showing that there’s more focus than ever before on the importance of customer service,” Heininger said.

Optus took on the mantle of most complained-about communications provider in March last year, taking over from Vodafone. As recently as the quarter to December 2014, the Ombudsman was fielding 10.5 complaints per 10,000 Vodafone services.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Optus, iiNet, M2 skyrocket in TIO complaint numbers

Consumer complaints to the Telecommunications Ombudsman about Optus were up by over 30 percent, while iiNet's numbers were up by 26 percent, and M2's by almost 75 percent.

The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has published its Annual Report 2014-15, revealing that while Telstra, Vodafone, TPG, and Virgin have all improved their complaints statistics, competitor telecommunications providers Optus, iiNet, Dodo, Vaya, M2 Commander, and iPrimus have all increased substantially.

According to the report [PDF], Optus saw an increase in total complaints of 31.5 percent, from 14,144 during FY14 to 18,601 in FY15.

This was Optus' first increase in customer complaints in five years, and was attributed mainly to internet service issues -- internet service complaints grew by 52.4 per cent, landline complaints by 35.2 per cent, and mobile complaints by 24.1 per cent.

Optus has been facing increasing competition on both mobile and fixed-line fronts, with M2 Group announcing plans last week to merge with fibre infrastructure company Vocus Communications to form the fourth-largest telco in Australia, and Vodafone Australia following with news that it had signed a AU$1 billion deal with TPG for mobile services.

The Vodafone-TPG deal will see TPG's 320,000 mobile customers moved from Optus' mobile network across to Vodafone.

Optus has denied that the deal would affect it to a large extent, and merely said that it is in discussions with TPG on future plans, and regardless continues to be a primary mobile network provider in the space.

"Optus remains the leading wholesale service provider in the market," an Optus spokesperson said.

"We are currently working with the TPG Group on revised wholesale arrangements, but expect to be a continuing wholesale provider to the TPG Group in the future."

TPG's deal with Vodafone follows its acquisition of rival telco iiNet earlier this year in a deal worth around AU$1.5 billion, wherein TPG paid AU$9.55 per iiNet share, incorporating a AU$8.80 cash or scrip consideration and AU$0.75 cash per share.

The acquisition will see TPG overtake Optus in customer numbers as a fixed-line provider.

iiNet shareholders ultimately voted in favour of the acquisition, with the ACCC and the Federal Court also approving the deal last month.

According to the TIO's annual report, however, iiNet customer complaints were up by almost as much as Optus', increasing by 26 percent from 3,051 complaints in 2013-14 to 3,844 in 2014-15. The TIO attributed the complaints to internet and mobile repair delays, slow speeds, and disputed charges.

All three of M2 Group's telco brands also saw substantial rises in complaints. Complaints about Commander were up a massive 73.6 percent, from 864 in FY14 to 1,500 in FY15; iPrimus was up 18.5 percent, from 1,072 to 1,270; and Dodo was up 17.3 percent, from 3,187 to 3,737.

The woes of M2 were due to disputed bills, poor contract information, disputed service charges, slow speeds, landline repair delays, and internet and mobile repair delays.

Vocus' merge with M2 will form a telco worth AU$3 billion, bringing it closer to Telstra, TPG, and Optus.

Mobile provider Vaya, which resells Optus' 4G mobile services, saw its complaints increase by a whopping 288.4 percent, from 421 to 1,635, due to excess charges, disputed bills, and failed usage notifications. The company did note, however, that its customer base had increased by 174 percent over last two years, which may have contributed to the increase in complaints.

Meanwhile, telco providers Telstra, Vodafone, TPG, and Virgin all saw an improvement in their customer complaint numbers. Complaints about Telstra decreased by 4.3 percent, down to 55,529 for 2014-15, while Vodafone's dropped by 46.2 percent, from 35,876 to 19,311; TPG's by 5.4 percent, from 4,759 to 4,501; and Virgin's by 38.9 percent, from 3,460 down to 2,115.

Vodafone's 4G mobile network currently covers 96 percent of the population, while Optus only claims that its 4G network covers 90 percent, and Telstra lays claim to 94 percent. However, according to a report by OpenSignal last week, which calculates "time coverage", Vodafone covers 77 percent of the population, Telstra 76 percent, and Optus 70 percent.

In regards to speeds, Telstra is the 21st fastest mobile network provider worldwide, at speeds of 23Mbps; Vodafone is in 37th place and Optus is in 43rd place, both with average download speeds of 19Mbps.

The TIO's annual report also revealed a 68.6 percent increase in complaints by consumers about the National Broadband Network (NBN), but an overall drop in total complaints to the TIO.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said communication needs to improve between NBN, consumers, and retail service providers (RSPs).

"The number of subscribers on the NBN has grown substantially, but NBN and the retail service providers (RSPs) need to ensure consumers aren't worse off during the switch-over," Corbin said.

"ACCAN is calling on the telcos and RSPs to publish their complaint data so that problem areas can be better identified and consumer complaints can be avoided. This also benefits the industry, as it allows showcasing of low complaint levels by the star performers."

More than 124,000 complaints were made about mobile, landline, and internet services during FY15, a drop of 10.5 percent year on year in the fourth consecutive year of telco-related complaints to the TIO decreasing.

Mobile complaints were down 21.1 percent, to 57,983 -- the lowest number since 2007-08. The TIO attributed this to greater transparency in data usage through alerts to consumers, required under the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code, as well as improvements in coverage due to continuing investment in mobile infrastructure.

"Improved coverage through telco investment in mobile towers, and usage and spending alerts that help consumers control data and phone usage, have contributed to this improvement," Acting Ombudsman Diane Carmody said.

The Communications Alliance welcomed the results of the report, having said it signalled an improvement in network infrastructure and customer service within Australia.

"This is the fourth consecutive year of significant reductions in complaints, and it is fair to say that industry is on a long-term path to greater customer satisfaction. The TIO results are backed by our quarterly national polling which also shows steady improvements in customer satisfaction since the commencement of the polling two and a half years ago," Communications Alliance director of Program Management Christiane Gillespie-Jones said.

"This improvement stems from various factors, including huge investments into improved networks, a strong Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, and most importantly, an industry-wide commitment to deliver an outstanding customer experience to customers."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Optus blames Apple iPhone 6 for rising phone, internet complaints

Complaints lodged by phone and internet customers with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman have hit an eight-year low but Singtel-Optus has defied the trend with unhappy users on the rise thanks to Apple's iPhone 6.

The TIO received 3699 customer complaints about Optus during the three months ending December 2014 – up 11.7 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier. By comparison, Telstra's complaints rose by 0.7 per cent while Vodafone Hutchison Australia's fell by 44.7 per cent during the same period.

A spokeswoman for Optus blamed problems related to its hugely popular launch of the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for the rise in complaints.

"This was mainly due to supply issues, operational challenges and contract disputes related to the launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus," she said. "We're disappointed in the results for this quarter and are working hard to ensure our customers have a positive experience with Optus."

She also said Optus had fewer new complaints thanTelstra and Vodafone Australia.

But the industry as a whole performed well.

In 2011, Australia's phone and internet services were dire enough to spawn websites dedicated to angry customers and slick YouTube comedy videos roasting poor customer service.
Complaints drop with new plans

By comparison, 2015 has become a year to celebrate as new plans that help reduce bill shock have led to a cut in complaints.

"The TIO received 29,560 new complaints in October to December 2014, the lowest since July to September 2007 when 26,632 new complaints were recorded," it said in a statement.

"The TIO also recorded the lowest number of new complaints about mobile coverage problems since April to June 2010."

The results come amid major pushes by all Australia's top telcos to improve customer service and prevent users from leaving their networks as industry-wide subscriber growth slows down. This is partly because most Australians are already connected to mobile and fixed-line phone and broadband services.

It is generally cheaper for a telco to spend more money keeping a customer happy than it is to get a new client.

The importance of boosting customer satisfaction was highlighted by TPG Telecom's recent $1.4 billion purchase of Perth-based rival iiNet, which has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Australia's best providers of customer service.

Of Australia's three biggest carriers, Vodafone Hutchison Australia saw the biggest reduction of complaints to 5355 in the last three months of 2014 – a 44.7 per cent fall compared with the year before. But it still gets more complaints per customer compared with Telstra and Optus.

The number of complaints from users of the national broadband network also rose to reach 1414.

"Connections continued to be the most common issue about NBN-related new complaints," the TIO said. "While complaints identified as NBN-related arise from services provided over the NBN, this may not mean it has been directly caused by the NBN or NBN Co."

TIO Ombudsman Simon Cohen said new products launched by mobile service providers to prevent bill shock were helping slash the number of complaints reaching his organisation, as were his organisation's campaigns.

The Optus spokeswoman later clarified that operational challenges were related to Optus' delivery of phones and logistical processes and that contract disputes related to its customers.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Optus never ceases to amaze

Optus is probably not the world's worst phone company.  Some British company would probably beat them for that title.  But they would be in the running.

Would you like to take over somebody else's phone number?  If they are with Optus it is a cinch.  You just sign up with some other company  -- say Dodo -- and tell them that you want the number.  Dodo will then simply ask for it and Optus will give it to them no questions asked.  You would imagine that Optus would ask their customer if he wanted to lose his number or not  -- but no siree!

Sound crazy?  It is.  But Optus have just done exactly that to me.  They cancelled my number and gave it to Dodo -- even though my account was paid in advance and I have had it for ten years without giving them any problems with late payments.

I of course protested and it was then that I was told that they perform no checks if another phone company asks for a particular number.  It's obviously a cost-saving measure for them.

After I wrote to Paul O'Sullivan, their CEO, about the matter, they got my number back from Dodo but tell me that they are so hard worked that it will be another week before my account will actually be restored.  Most people who ring me have my mobile number but otherwise it would be a read teeth-grinder to lose my landline for 3 weeks.  It could happen to you.  Change to another provider.