CHOICE membership

Consumer rights on payment methods and different charges for these

If anyone can help, I would like to know what consumer rights we might have in relation to:
a) the range of payment methods offered to customers by utility services;
b) transparency about these prior to customers signing on; and
c) differing charges and due dates for different payment methods, such as charges when you make a payment by or before the actual due date but before their (arbitrarily) stipulated ‘payment processing’ period before due date.

There is a concerted effort by many utility retailers to discourage everything but Direct Debit, including Bpay. Some insist on DD only (eg Powershop). Others charge for the privilege of anything other than DD. This really annoys me because I object strongly to handing over mgt of my bank account to a company via DD (and it is a pain to ensure they are kicked out when done). I prefer instead to pay our HH bills via BPay because it allows me to both pay bills as they come in while also setting the exact payment date to pay on time and align with paydays.

I just transferred my phone service from Circles because they didn’t offer Bpay (after saying they were still thinking about it for a year) to another comparably-priced phone service, Moose, because they said they did. Only Moose did not (that i could see) provide any information about the T&C for payments before i made the transfer, apart from saying the DD would be the default and i would have to contact them directly to change it to another payment method (that annoyed me). But I did that and got an email with the different charges for different payment methods and with different effective due dates for each (see below). Is this allowed? isn’t this the same as fining people or having earlier due dates dressed up as different payment processing times? The money is definitely in their account on the date that you stipulate (the bank ensures that), so they can’t say they don’t have the money. All they are doing is making you pay for their internal admin costs which we have no verification are anywhere near what they say they are or anything to do with ‘payment processing’ and not eg their own inadequate internal system efficiencies. To top off the nudge-bullying i can’t set up my Bpay with them until i get our first bill because they refuse to provide the Bpay details in any form before that.

any insight welcome.

"Please see the below information for payment processing times.

Credit Card Direct Debits - Instant (No charge)
Credit Card Payments Via Customer Service - Instant (No charge)
Credit Card Payments Via Moose Web Portal or App- Instant (No charge)
Credit Card Pay By Phone
- 1 Business Day (No charge)
Direct Debit - 1 Business Days for insufficient funds up to 3 business days (No charge)
Australia Post Bill Pay - Up to 3 Business Days with an additional charge of $2.50
BPay - Up to 3 Business Days with an additional fee of $1
Direct Deposit - 1 Business Day (No charge)
Bank Account Direct Debits - 3 Business Day (No charge)"

The RBA ‘owns’ payment systems

with some related links down the left side of that page.

Other than contractual issues between parties I am not aware there are any. While cash is legal tender, companies are actually not obligated to accept it, if that provides some perspective.

I believe I remember that all accounts are required to have at least one payment method that is not surcharged, but what that is is left to the discretion of each company, yet I cannot find any reference to same.

While this is dated it provides a glimpse

and some words from the ACCC that appear to remain current. Note the links at the bottom that are also relevant to your interest.

I am sure others will add…

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In Qld this is part of the RTA rules on rental payments but I’m unsure if this exists for any other payment. Of course Afterpay had rules that forbade the businesses charging customers a surcharge for paying with that method. This led to businesses increasing their prices to all users by the margin Afterpay levied on the Businesses, I think some still apply a surcharge for using this method and do so possibly in contravention of their contract with Afterpay. This may also apply to other Buy now Pay later schemes. Some businesses skirt it all by labelling the surcharge an administration fee, most of the administration is done by Afterpay and/or the customers with almost no input by the businesses but it’s easy money for them for little to no effort.

Honestly, it is a mess with no clear indication of what rules apply where. RBA may own the methods but I think with little oversight of it all.

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A business can select what payment methods is wishes to use in its business and available for use by its customers. Generally more popular methods are used.

It is worth noting that the more payment systems a business uses, the higher the cost to the business…and ultimately what the customer pays. This is especially through costs being factored into the products/services or as a surcharge.

With more and more payment options becoming available (some through what is called digital disruption), the more variety exists and the more likely one’s preferred payment system won’t be offered by all businesses. This becomes ‘painful’ for the customer as they have to adopt multiple payment systems to cater for all their transactions or change providers to ones which use those one wishes only to use (which may mean limiting one’s ability to get the best deal).

There is good transparency. Payment options are usual available online and in terms and conditions/product disclosure statements. If one has limited payment options, some homework may need to be done before making purchase decisions.

This has been more or less covered here…

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My preferred payment method is also B Pay for numerous reasons.
Telstra have advised that they will be / have now cancelled this payment option. Letters & phone calls objecting to this cost free to both parties method of payment have received only the usual “payment now available using black black black” with no explanation as to why offered, even though specifically asked for.
My contract was signed with the Pay option - how can this be changed?
Although I choose Telstra for the coverage (important to me) I am looking elsewhere.

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While not looking, most T&Cs will have clauses giving rights associated with changes.

Usually contracts aren’t signed locking one into a particular payment option…but provide information available payment options through the particular service provider.

There are Telstra mobile network onsellers which either onsell the full coverage Telstra network or part if the Telstra network. If the Telstra network is critical for where you use your mobile (no other suitable providers), it may be worth changing to one of these onsellers. They are cheaper and potentially offer the same level of service.

There are other threads which provide information on these onsellers. Thie website may also be useful…

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@Desperado

Boost being one of the most attractive appears to subcontract everything to Telstra, unlike the others using the Telstra network or Telstra wholesale network. They have a topic of their own.

Belong is a Telstra company, so be wary.

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Most service contracts have clauses that allow amending of many/all conditions, these amendments are typically to be advised by some form of communication and have a time period noted before the amendment becomes official. If the other party to the contract is unhappy with the change they can sever the contract before the new conditions are imposed on them. From your post it seems that Telstra did advise they were changing the way payments could be made, people protested but Telstra as per their right to do so amended the terms of the contract. If it was an unfair term or one you specially asked for and negotiated the service on, then you may have rights to contest the change but this is unlikely in this case.

Please understand that I agree with your frustration and I’m not agreeing with their change, these changes are often to the financial detriment of the customer and a reduction of real service.

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You are of course, quite correct. That’s why my choice is to end the contract - it is no longer the contract I agreed to.
However, it would be easier to accept their new conditions if they had a good reason for the change, and communicated it.

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Assuming it isn’t a month by month plan for use of their network, but a period contract (say 1, 2 or 3 years).

If it is a period contract, cancellation will only be possible if the change allows you to cancel a contract under the agreement (which is highly unlikely). Alternatively, Telstra may offer to cancel your contract if this is negotiated with them. Otherwise you will still be bound by the existing contract and subject to the conditions of cancellation, such as fees and charges to pay out the contract/residual on the phone if it is part of the contract.

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Negotiate with Telstra?? YOu’re joking methinks.
Of course I can cancel the contract -there is no phone as part of it.

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Most changes I have seen include text similar to ‘your T&C are changing [fill in a date]. If you continue to use our service after that date you are agreeing to that change. If you do not agree you have the right to terminate your contract/agreement with us by [fill in a process or contact and any potential costs].’

The consumers ‘rights’ when T&C change like that mid-period seem mostly to be our ‘right’ to get out of the contract and move on, although sometimes it is not so easy to identify and pirouette to another provider at short notice.

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This is the Telstra website providing information about early contract terminations by the customer…

https://www.telstra.com.au/support/account-payment/early-termination-charges

It also contains a link which provides information on fees and charges for termination of the phone plan you are on, but using your mobile number to search for such information.