Aussie Broadband - International Calls

In October 2020 - a year ago, the NBN arrived and I took the opportunity to change provider from Optus (who for several years were unable to rectify a problem with calling the UK. The calls would not connect and according to Optus it was everyone and anyone else’s fault but theirs!) to Aussie Broadband. I wanted to also retain my landline (or convert to VOIP) mainly because all my family is in the UK and it is too expensive to call mobile phones. So I paid extra to have International calling on my line.

That process was fine until the technician came to install the modem and also to connect the VOIP and make sure it all worked. When he left, nothing worked so I called Aussie Broadband and with their help we managed to get the connection working. All along I kept reminding them that I needed to have access to international dialing. They assured me I had and it was all connected.

Now through the ensuing year I had tried several times to call family members only to have the engaged tone each time. I didn’t think much of it until earlier this month when I spent over 2 hours repeatedly redialling a number for the UK pension department in the UK. After the second day of doing this and making sure I was calling first thing in the morning their time as the office opened, I finally called Aussie Broadband. They told me the international dialling was blocked to avoid bill shock. When I asked why and when had it been blocked given that I had never actually been able to call anyone in the past year, they said that it was the default setting on set up. I asked why then had I been charged for the extra cost of having the service when they made it impossible for me to use it. And this despite me making to clear from the beginning that this was to am an essential service and for which I was happy to pay additional costs,

After some back and forth, Aussie Broadband claim that there is a single sentence in the ’ Critical details’ fact sheet that says this blocking is the case and the customer must ask for it to be lifted. They can offer no reason why what I had done did not comply with that expectation. They refuse to make any refund of monies paid.

Meanwhile I have paid extra costs for over a year for a service they were not providing. They are now meant to be searching for the telephone recordings to ’ prove’ they are right and I am wrong since they do not believe my account of the conversations.

Has anyone else had this issue?

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Have you seen this in the critical information sheet/contract documentation issued when you signed up for a NBN connection with Aussie Broadband?

This should be your first action to see what it says.

Did you sign up and paid for an international call plan, such as 100 minutes per month or unlimited calls to particular countries for $X per month…or were free calls included in a standard plan? What have you paid for and have you paid extra for international calls? Looking at current plans, international calls are bundled within a local, national and international phone plans rather than a separate international call plan per se.

If you signed up and paid for a specific international call plan which couldn’t be used, I would be pursuing further as a reasonable person would expect that if one has specifically signed up and is paying for an international call plan, it will work day 1 the plan is active. I would be requesting formally for a refund for the period up to you noticed international calls were not possible without Aussie Broadband intervention.

If the standard plan included international calls bundled with internet, home phone etc or within a standard call plan for local/national/mobile/international calls etc; you won’t be able to ask for a refund as it was part of a whole package where it doesn’t cost any more or less if the included international calls weren’t used.

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Critical fact sheet: yes of course and I discussed with the customer service person what the rates are, and that I needed this service and it was the main reason for changing to Aussie Broadband in the first place. I pay an extra $10 a month for access plus call charges on International calls. It is not included in the plan.

I think I should receive a refund of the extra payments I have made for a year before finding out my access was blocked.

And for complete transparency, my access is no longer blocked since the day I rang to find out what the problem was in always getting the engaged tone.

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If the $10 month is for international calls only (local, national, mobile etc calls are separate and not part of the bundle), I would be requesting a refund/credit as outlined in my previous post. It appears to not be the case from information provided and available. However, if there is a special international only call plan, the following may be useful.

In formally requesting refund/credit on your account, I would also use examples currently available online (e.g super, banks) where there has been fees paid for services, when no service was provided. These other examples show fee for no service has to be refunded.

Also quote some of the key wording on the ACCC website as well…

Also try for a credit on your account rather than a refund. Credits businesses usually are more willing to do as the process is easier.

As outlined above (and appears to be the case from information provided and available), if the international calls were included in a bundle with other things, you possibly won’t have any success in obtaining a refund as you had accepted the bundle and have chosen not to use the international call component until recently.

You have in effect enjoyed the bundle offering and as such refund won’t be possible even if another bundle without international call component could have been cheaper. It isn’t Aussie Broadband’s fault that you chose not to maximise the bundle offering, until recently.

A comparison would be purchasing a 200GB mobile data plan when one only uses up to 50GB, and a 100GBb plan being offered would have sufficed and was cheaper. The mobile carrier has no obligation to refund the difference in plans as it was the consumer who made a decision in relation to the plan which best met their needs.

It is worth noting that current critical information states…

By default, access to International numbers are blocked to prevent bill shock. You can request access to International numbers by calling our sales team on 1300 880 905.

which is what Aussie Broadband has indicated to you. You needed to call their sales team on 1300 880 905 to activate international calls, and it isn’t the responsibility of a tech installing/setting up a modem to do so. A tech will possibly say that international calls are possible through the NBN service or one has signed up to a plan including international calls, which it is the case, but from the critical information sheet, it is the customer’s responsibility to make a formal request through Aussie Broadband sales team. Aussie Broadband can’t be held responsible for inaction of a consumer.

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Reading your dialogue suggests ABB had a major customer service fail. At the first report the agent/tech should have walked through the settings to assure they were correct.

Yet it is ABB’s fault the agent/tech did not do the thorough job they should have done in assuring all was set up correctly.

As an ABB customer myself most of their support staff are pretty good. I have encountered one along the way who was pretty ordinary and more interested in getting me off the phone than addressing the issue. The rest were usually from thorough to excruciatingly thorough.

Plans change from time to time, so without knowing exactly what @karen_seager bought it is impossible to know what she did or did not use from whatever bundle was offered at the time. Yet even if international was a subset of a larger bundle the right thing for ABB to do seems to refund as a goodwill gesture because their lack of adequate support caused their customer grief over an extended period.

There is law, there is contract law, and there is doing the right thing by a customer when a support network does not assure all is well and makes assumptions or does not go that extra distance to check or ask the question.

In the circumstances presented I would be lodging a formal complaint to include the refund request citing how the support agent(s) failed to properly investigate what should have been an obvious reason the calls would not go through.

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There is, and the obligations of the customer to have access to international calls was not fulfilled in this case, namely to call their sales team on 1300 880 905 to activate the service. It isn’t Aussie Broadbands fault if a consumer does not fulfil their obligations or decide not to utilise full offering to which they have paid.

If a consumer had called their sales team on 1300 880 905 and they failed to activate access to international calls, Aussie Broadband would be responsible and a refund/credit would be a reasonable course of action. Likewise if international calling could not be activated for some reason.

We will disagree. If there was no dialogue with a support agent regarding the problem I would agree, but there was.

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PhilT you have missed the point entirely. I DID call the customer service team to tell them I wanted to be able to make International calls via the VOIP on multiple occasions which is exactly why there was an extra cost involved. Just what would you have done differently? Nor did I ‘decide’ not to use the service. I was locked out of it!

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The only thing which should have been done differently, was to possibly read the critical information sheet provided at commencement of the NBN connection with Aussie Broadband, and to follow the requirement to contact their sales team to activate the international call service. I don’t know why the sales team are the ones to activate the service, but it could be that they are trained to deliver a statement indicating the risks and obligations (costs) of having the service activated.

I also don’t know why they chose to have the international call service initially deactivated, even if one choses a plan which international calls as an option. It is possibly a business decision or as indicated above, to ensure that any consumer with international calls activated are fully aware of the obligations/costs of such a service being available. This could have been in response to problems of excessive bills in the past or say the service being hacked and used for unauthorised use.

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I noted that you did @karen_seager. Please re-read the dialogue on your topic.

Is there something else I misinterpreted in supporting your position?

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There are a great deal of errors in your response. I DID in fact read AND discuss the critical information. You are making a number of assumptions and you know what they say about ’ assuming’ things! I had in fact tried to make international calls before this recent discover, but because they were to family members, there was no reason to think there was an issue if I got the engaged tone. It was only when I sat on the phone doing continual redial over two consecutive days to an office number, that I rang Aussie Broadband to find out if there was a problem. An occasional call to a family member would raise alarm bells, calls to an office number do!

And as I said in the original post, Aussie Broadband make the default to block international dialling to “avoid bill shock”. This should have been made redundant at the time of my joining when I repeatedly requested international dialling. As I said just what am I supposed to have done differently if telling them on multiple occasions I wanted/needed the service AND agreed to pay separately for the service. It was NOT bundled in with internet access or local/national calls which are. If it had been and I did not actually make any international calls, of course I would not be expecting any form of redress. As it is, this was not a bundle but a different additional service that I have paid for and not received.

If you read the critical information, did you…

If you did, which you haven’t indicated, this does change things.

I don’t disagree and it seems a little unusual that a consumer needs to specifically contact their sales team to have it activated. I can only assume that they have been burnt in some way in the past of having it activated for all plans.

We are with TPG and we can activate the service online in the phone account settings.

What is the additional service as the website is silent on a specific international call package (which is a standalone and not bundled with other things)?

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I think some responders are being a bit mean here.
To me it seems simple.
There are settings on your account for NBN phone services to say what is enabled, and what is not. The RSP should be able to determine the history of setting changes.
If they have charged for something that was not enabled, then surely that is wrong.
When I went to Internode for NBN phone, International calls were by default enabled, but calls to things like 1900 numbers were and remain blocked.

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From my perspective the crux of the matter is that the agent who took this call did not do a very thorough job.

As there is no reason to suspect that is not an accurate synopsis of events and conversations, it seems ABB should step up and do the right thing, and perhaps review their training for some agent(s).

@karen_seager as an afterthought, sometimes a company will never refund no matter what, and not offer a resolution, but will accept providing credit on an account. Something to try if it continues as a stalemate.

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Or implement systems so that you don’t need to tell them twice. The creation of the recurring charge for the international service ought to be enough to prompt the lock to be removed. Saying otherwise is bureaucratic nonsense, “but you didn’t tell us twice and it says in the T&C that you must so nyah nyah to you”.

I would pursue this as I think whoever is on the phone is being very short sighted and may well be told as much by a more senior person with more sense.

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A general statement not intended to be reflective of anyone…but…we live in a times where no one takes responsibilities for ones own actions, and as a result businesses and other large organisations (e.g. governments) make processes which often seem ridiculous to protect themselves. The idea of common sense no longer prevails.

I had an experience a few months ago, setting up a simple account with the business service provider…where after doing the necessary account set up over the phone (finalising online wasn’t an option due to risk of identity fraud etc), the last part of the process was to listen to recording, about a 5 minutes long, which outlined our and the provider’s responsibilities and process to resolve issues. At the end one had to say your name and verbally say yes or no (to agreement with the content of the recording). I got distracted about half way through (phone rang) and said no, so that I could listen to the recording again…and this caused some kafuffle at the other end…their system wasn’t set up for those to say no so that the recording could be listened to again. After re-entering all the information again (a pain), I sat through the recording and ended up saying yes…even though listening to a long message is challenging.

It would have been nice to have an option to listen again (wasn’t an option but I gave such feedback at the end of the call). So saying yes was an easier option than having to listen to everything again. I asked why the process was needed, and I was told they had been challenged in relation to what information had been provided during initial account setup and now they have set proforma recording to ensure that all relevant information is disclosed. The name and ‘yes’ soundtrack is recorded against the account file to verify that one understands and accepts the information presented . This seemed farcical and over the top…but, having dealt in our business and in past careers with a range of individuals, I can see why some businesses are becoming ‘bureaucratic’ to protect themselves and their reputations.

Pursuing a large businesses bureaucratic process won’t be successful, as it is likely that it has been vetted and pushed by their legal counsel. All challenging will do is give one extra grief. Better option is to provide strong feedback and hopefully if enough complain, it may cause change.

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As a general comment and not specific to ABB as a provider.

I wonder if the ACCC or respective State Govt xyz Fair Trade staff would offer similar public advice?

For internet and communications there is also the office of the TIO (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman) to provide advice and support. Note they are closed over Xmas New Year.

The Communications Industry also has it’s own version of the ACCC, that is the ACMA. It’s role and function is best explained by the additional consumer need for the TIO.

Consumers are not powerless. Or are we saying they are and Choice needs needs to take action? Corporate lawyers verses the average consumer seems a little one sided.

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Yes, if they adopt the legalistic approach and don’t care if their systems are incoherent and make customers unhappy. There must be some organisations that actually do want their customers to be happy not just to go through the motions. There must be some places where they have an analyst who will say “This is stupid, why are we doing this?”

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It seems to me that she did call Aussie Broadband customer service to request the international calling be enabled. She did that on two occasions. The first was when she signed up for a plan that included international calling - that is a clear notification that international calling is to be enabled. The second was when she reminded them she needed international calling.

I think only a pedant would insist on a third call to confirm again what has already been notified and confirmed.

I’m an Aussie Broadband customer and I find their service is usually prompt and efficient. I am surprised they aren’t just giving a credit for 12 months of $10 a month for the extra between the Australian calls only plan ($10 a month for free national and mobile calls but not free 13xx calls) and the international and Australian calls plan ($20 a month).

In my view, it was their fault. No doubt about it.

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As an update to this thread. ABB have just confirmed that after checking records and phone recordings, they have confirmed THEY made an error in not activating my international dialing AND that they will refund the entire amount I have overpaid since October 2020!

So I had in fact complied with all requirements as I had claimed and clearly had exercised all possible personal responsibility in the matter!

So a good outcome in the end…

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