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Tech Talk Radio Show 7 of 2010
Transmission date: February 15, 2010
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Ep 07 of 2010
February 15, 2010

Most Zoos around the world have a vast range of Animals, from the cute and cuddly to the dangerous and lethal. Would it surprise you that the Zoo, or menagerie of animals that Optus have been rolling out on our screens, magazines and online over the past however many years they’ve been playing in the Australian market, has omitted some of its prize beasts, one in particular is the scorpion.

A colleague, who wanted upgrade his handset, looked at the option to break his “Yes $79 cap”. He had a 12 month contract which  had 9 months to run and was looking to re contract with a new handset, a scenario that many Australians would consider as a their existing contracts near an end. Doing the maths, and based on other contracts that telco’s have been dishing up over the years, it was estimated that with 9 months to run, Optus would want something in the order of 9 x $79 or $711 dollars. This was calculated on the minimum spend over the remaining duration of the contract.

Time to call Optus to find out the payout fee. It was at this time that American Raccoon was caged, and my colleague was introduce to the North African Scorpion, Hottentotta.

Hottentotta can kill a human in less than 10 minutes, so it has one hell of a sting in its tail.

To his, and everybody’s amazement, the payout figure was not $711, it was a staggering $1064. Now a close inspection of the Optus web page, where it spruiks it’s “Yes Cap Plans” reveals all the services and “good” things you get, it even states the total minimum cost for the 12 month contract which is $948. At no point, even after expanding the Terms and Conditions, does it specify a payout or a formula for payout which I would think most consumers would want to know, if not have the right to know before entering into such an agreement. What is an "initial termination fee"? Confused? You’re not alone.

It’s interesting to see that the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) has seen an almost doubling of complaints in the 12 months 2007/8 to 2007/9 across the four sectors of telecommunications, mobile premium, internet, mobile and landline. Their current report is available for download on their website, and highlights a very worrying trend.

 

There are several lessons to be learnt here, firstly don’t assume all the information you need is online. If something bothers you about an offer, or if it seems too good to be true, then ring and ask the company concerned. Chances are there is cause for concern. Secondly, there are always other options – other companies, even prepaid options. If you have a desire for a new handset, buy it outright and put your existing SIM card in it, go on a non contract plan or even prepaid. You cash flow may suffer short term, but you won’t regret it.

So for those who brazenly go into feet first into contacts TIO Issues 2009with companies like Optus, just beware of their scorpion breeding program. Chances are they have plenty of other critters in their zoo you won’t see in their ad campaigns.

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