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Tech Talk Radio Show 19 of 2009
Transmission date: May 11, 2009

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Ep 19: How to charge your phone and laptop batteries, Telstra V2, Star Trek at iMax, Dodo V ACCC, Optus caps - the devil in the detail, eBay to compete with iTunes, Jeff Gates tells us about media servers and latitude comes to the HTC Dream.

May 11 , 2009

It’s a sad indictment of organizations that try and lure consumers in, on what at face value, seems a pretty good deal, but then garrotes them with the fine print. Unfortunately this is all too common in the world of technology with broadband plans and mobile phone plans. It’s becoming so much of a problem that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has stepped up its policing in the local market.

Most of Australia’s telcos have incurred the wroth of the ACCC over misleading and tricking consumers into buying their products and services, and currently attention is being focused on Dodo, the Melbourne based ISP which resells bandwidth bought from other telcos.

I suspect the ACCC’s gaze will move again to Optus, as the company releases of new range of mobile phone caps, which, on the whole seems terrific, but it’s only when you read the fine print, do you realise the trap that will snare those who choose not to study their plans in detail.

As reported by Cnet Optus Cap plans now come in four flavours: $19, $49, $59 and $79, with the two more expensive plans offering free SMS and MMS. The plans all offer generous call allowances too; the $49 and $59 offer $680 worth of calls per month, but only half of this allowance can be used on local and national calling (what Optus calls Optus2Anyone). The other half of the allowance is dedicated to Optus2Optus calls for calling other Optus GSM mobile numbers and Optus fixed line phone numbers, and can only be spent after the first half of your spend has been reached.

This means that before you reach the first $330 of calling allowance each month your calls to other Optus customers are counted as Optus2Anyone, and after you've exceeded $330 you'll only be able to call Optus customers for the rest of the month, or be billed at the standard call rate for your plan — 80 cents per minute on the $49 and $59 plans.

After comparison with others, the ambiguity of what Optus is offering becomes obvious. Separating the call value of Optus2Optus calls from standard calls is a great idea for a capped plan, but not letting Optus customers spend Optus2Optus credit at the same time they spend Optus2Anyone credit is sneaky at best. As is advertising the not-factually-incorrect "$680 worth of calls".

So as the 120mm cannons of the ACCC warship take focus on Optus, here’s a timely reminder to consumers to remember if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is, and when it comes to telcos be sure to read the fine print, because once you’ve signed the contract that’s it. You may be in 2 years(or more) of hell. 

Also on the show this week:

  • Adam Turner shares his Star Trek experience on the 3rd biggest movie screen in the world...
  • eBay takes on iTunes in the online music game
  • Which media server is best for you?
  • Jeff Gates tells us all about Media Servers
  • Telsta’s guard changes again and
  • The release candidate of Microsoft’s new Operating system windows 7 is now a week old so we’ll take a look at its reception in the broader community.