Telstra accused of ‘bullying’ confused customers

TELSTRA has been accused of using bullying tactics to demand phones back from customers confused about the deals they are on.

Disgruntled customers have claimed they have received SMS messages from the telco demanding they return their devices, leaving some people confused as to why they had to give back their handsets.

In the past month the nation's two largest telcos - Telstra and Optus - both suddenly dumped the controversial leasing plans which were only on the market for a couple of years.

But the deals have now come to the attention of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones, who said she has received more than 40 complaints relating to these offers in the past few months.

"Consumers could lease a phone rather than pay it off over 24 or 36 months but at the end of the lease the consumer has to either return the phone in good condition or pay a fee," she said.

"We have observed over the last couple of months a cluster of complaints coming in which are consistent with that two-year term coming to an end."

News Corp has sighted SMS messages sent by Telstra requesting customers return their phones.

Telstra customers have complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about leasing phone deals.
Telstra customers have complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about leasing phone deals.

On these deals, telco customers usually paid $10 less a month than the cost of a traditional contact but they would not own the phone at the end of the period.

Instead, they could upgrade to a new smartphone 12 months for an additional $99 or buy the phone at the end of the contract.

And for a period the sneaky telco used tactics that defaulted customers to leasing options ahead of traditional contracts when searching for a deal.

Telstra and Optus recently dumped their controversial leasing plans but some customers still have to see out their contracts.
Telstra and Optus recently dumped their controversial leasing plans but some customers still have to see out their contracts.

The nation's third largest telco Vodafone has never offered leasing deals.

Telco comparison website WhistleOut's spokesman Joseph Hanlon said leasing deals were never a good option for consumers.

"A lot of telcos' promoted pricing on their websites and billboards was for leasing plans because it was $10 cheaper than a contract deal," he said.

"But because it was a new concept it wasn't what people were expected to sign up to so I can see why people would be confused by it."

Mr Hanlon said consumers would save $240 over a two-year term but then they wouldn't own the phone once the lease ended.

"If you were paying the full cost including owning the phone you could have sold the phone for say $600 or $700 for an iPhone at the end of the contract term," he said.

"There's no real financial advantage accept for a discount on your bill each month."

The leasing plans could also result in customer being hit with charges up to $499 at the end of the leasing period if they handed back the phone in poor condition.

Impacted customers should contact their telco first if they think they have been impacted and then contact the TIO if necessary.

sophie.elsworth@news.com.au

@sophieelsworth



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