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CHOICE callout - Telstra mis-selling to senior customers

Hi there, my name is Jarni and I’m an investigative reporter with CHOICE. I’m doing a story on Telstra’s sales tactics towards senior citizens and mis-selling/over-selling products. Are you or is someone you know an older customer who has been sold a product they didn’t want, need or understand? Get in touch with me at jblakkarly@choice.com.au

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This happened to my late mother about 5 years ago, who ended up with a new phone on a plan costing way too much, when there was nothing wrong with her old phone.

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For too many years Telstra took advantage of the old fashioned thinking of our mum. Before the NBN Telstra enticed her to a pensioner plan with discount on the fixed connection/service fee + handset rental. In return all local calls were free. That she made typically at least one interstate family call, often to a mobile, daily on Telstra’s not directly generous call rates did not seem to come in to the equation. At some point in time there was a cap put on the calls. $2 per call from memory. The bill was typically adding $30-40 in call charges every month.

She was convinced this was the best deal. Especially compared to 20/30/40 years ago. Add a healthy dose of Telstra scepticism ensured any alternate Telstra plan or offer was considered a con to increase her bill. Not long before the NBN one of the family who was likewise minded finally moved to a home phone plan that included all national calls, mobiles included. Our mum likewise followed when the bills were compared. :+1: Still with Telstra, because all those foreign phone companies were not to be trusted. Besides, her house was connected to Telstra, and there was no way paying to have Optus or other to put in a line would be worth while. Explaining something some of us older Aussies have no experience of can be challenging,

We had even bigger issues when the NBN FTTN service arrived. Telstra or Telstra, although admittedly they were one of the few offering a sort of standard phone only plan for pensioners.

What did Telstra do wrong. If a customer doesn’t ask, want to know or have the knowledge of what the alternatives might be. Is it taking advantage or the path of least resistance?

Our mum is now nearer to home and in aged care. The big black phone on the side table is a Seniors phone, mobile in disguise, on a 12 month long term prepaid plan. It’s very cheap, has a battery if the power goes out and is definitely not with Telstra. We neglected to fill her in on the finer details, other than it’s attached to one of our accounts and not to worry. :wink:

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My best mate, a few months younger than myself, and his family, are welded on Telstra customers just because. I have passed them details of many plans that would save them more than a few coffees a week but in the end they are comfortable, Telstra has their NBN+phone+mobiles family plan, end of story, no worries and no problems. If Telstra suggests something to them it must be to their benefit, by definition so they assess it and make a decision to take it up or not, but not to look elsewhere.

They are neither technologically inclined nor do they care to become so; Telstra has run interference to protect them from all the details, and has taken care of them/their accounts, as they see it. They are happy to pay extra for their special ‘Telstra Experience’ that for them has apparently been pretty good value over many decades, never to be compared to better value often available elsewhere.

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I am proud of my dad, he is 81 and got rid of Telstra a few years ago. With the help of a tech friend he went to a unlocked mobile phone and a very cheap sim card with almost no data.

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Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your story. I would love to chat with you further about it. Can you send an email to jblakkarly@choice.com.au ? Thank you.

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Hi Gordon, thanks for sharing. Would love to talk to you more about it. Could you send an email to jblakkarly@choice.com.au ? Thank you

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Because I am a pensioner I had to end my mobile plan with a Telco company and I went for a prepaid plan. Then I found out I cannot use any 19 numbers to enter competitions. I phone many prepaid plan companies and it seems that none of the pre paid plans allow you to SMS the 19 numbers. Many of the people running competitions have stopped using the 1902 number from our home phone. Pensioners don’t have that much to look forward to, especially when they can’t work because of disabilities there seems to be less and less that we can look forward to.

Are you saying that the telco would cancel your plan because you are a pensioner and you could not get a post-paid plan with another telco for the same reason?

Mr Z is 80 and wedded to Telstra. He still has his ancient flip phone. I changed him to Telstra pre-paid long life - low cost mobile. When he (actually it is me) recharges, it adds 6 months to his expiry which is now about 2029. Call charges are high, (no data allowance) but I have trained him to give me 3 rings and I will ring him back. No one else rings him as he can leave it 3 months or more before turning it on to see who has rung him. He gets messages from Telstra, but they are so old the offer has expired. So we have not experienced mis-selling - yet.

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Amaysim seems to have limited support for them

Checking, Aldimobile also has limited support to premium SMS, ands I have subsequently edited my post in another topic in response to @hmpk12’s queries. It is not completely clear what is and is not on with Aldimobile, so best to ring their call centre to discuss.

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Thanks to everyone who contributed, check out Jarni’s article here:

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Yes! Discovered Telstra plans include charges for junk such as Stay Connected and Telstra Premium. These are just rubbish add ons which are not disclosed or explained when purchasing. My last plan reduced from a quoted $165 pm to $90pm once I insisted they remove the add ons!

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Further woe to add to that treatment is the abysmal treatment of Indigenous citizens. A $50 million fine hopefully awakens them but I am fairly sure my hope is misplaced:

At least it seems that they have now implemented processes to waive the debts and refund money.

@AlanKirkland Alan Kirkland CHOICE’s CEO tweeted about this outcome today

ACCC release on the issue

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