TIO finds Telcos can be duplicitous with consumers

Telcos can be duplicitous

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.

Consumers rely on accurate information from providers, not information that is unclear or misleading and can lead to problems for both parties.

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.

GadgetGuy’s take

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.

Sales advice:

  • 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
  • Read reviews and go to Trustpilot
  • Never use price comparison websites (read our disturbing exposé) – they end up costing you more
  • Always read the fine print
  • If you are unclear, ask the salesperson to write the total price of the deal down
  • Don’t automatically trust the big guys or those that spend big dollars on advertising – go for no-lock-in monthly pre-paid deals that you can walk away from

If you have provider issues, contact the TIO and make an online complaint – it is effortless and helps it understand the tactics and identify the bad guys.