The TIO Systemic Investigation Report, May 2021, found that Telcos can be duplicitous when dealing with consumers who don’t always understand what they are signing up for. The provider’s advertising, small print and sales tactics can exacerbate that misunderstanding.
The term ‘providers’ means the three primary mobile network providers (MNOs) Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, their Virtual reseller (MVNOs) and NBN Carriage service providers (CSP). In other words, landline, mobile or internet.
The biggest issue is that consumers prefer to trust that a provider won’t take advantage of them – and they are often wrong. Trust must be earned – it should not be a given.
A great place to assess trust is Trustpilot. Telstra rates 1.1/5. Optus rates 1.3/5. Vodafone rates 1.6/5. These ratings are appalling. In general, their MVNOs fare better, but some MVOs own MVNOs. These include Belong (Telstra), Amaysim and Lycamobile (Optus), iiNet, Internode, AAPT and Lebara (Vodafone). The ACCC has had actions against some of these – you can check here.
It is hard to accept that providers, or their staff, may use duplicitous sales techniques – well, it has happened as Choice Magazine, and GadgetGuy reported recently –More reasons to be angry with Telstra. But let’s not focus on one bad guy – The TIO found widespread abuse of trust.
TIO finds Telcos can be duplicitous with consumers
The TIO report can be downloaded here. It found that providers:
Did not accurately explain the terms and conditions of a product
Did not clearly describe a service to consumers
Left out critical information about the terms and conditions of a product, or
Sold consumers a service they did not understand or need
Advertising and point-of-sale information does not always cover key terms
Online information about telco products and services can be challenging to find and understand
Providers do not always responsibly promote or sell telco products and services
Consumers unknowingly sign up for products or services they do not need
In blunt terms, providers often broke the Australian Consumer Law cardinal rule – to be honest, and frank in the representations made about their products and services. It prohibits misleading representations and requires products sold to be fit for purpose.
The TIO found that Telcos can be duplicitous with consumers who would not have signed up had the terms been clearly explained to them. Now it is all very well to use the term caveat emptor (buyer beware), but if you can’t fully understand the deal, then you are at the mercy of their advertising, small print, and sales tactics.
If you don’t feel competent in assessing a deal for whatever reason, ask someone to help – family, neighbours, friends
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is
Never sign up on the spot, especially if the sales offer pressures you to do so or miss out