- Excess data charges
- NBN connection delay
- Disputed MPS charges
- Faulty handset and disputed charges
- Slow internet
- Vodafone responds to concerns about Network Guarantee
- ALDIMobile's complaint handling
Excess data charges
Small business owner Celia contacted us about $36,225 in excess internet charges. Celia said her business had been with the same telco for two years and had never exceeded its 300 gigabyte monthly plan. The charges had accrued over two months, with almost $33,925 in one month alone.
Celia said she only became aware of the charges when the provider called to tell her that her bill had reached $33,000. She wanted the excess data charges to be credited in full.
At the outset, Celia's telco wanted her to pay all the charges. The provider said that it had sent earlier notifications.
During the TIO conciliation, the telco provided data records that showed usage on weekends when no one was in the office. Celia showed a security report to confirm that the office was closed on the day that usage was the highest – 97 gigabytes. The telco was unable to provide any records of notifications it sent to Celia about excess usage.
The telco agreed to credit all disputed charges, and Celia accepted this resolution. To make sure the problem did not happen again, the provider set up a monitoring system to allow Celia to monitor usage on a daily basis and to receive monthly email updates.
NBN connection delay
Kristen rang her provider to get her house and her son's house connected to the NBN when it arrived in her suburb. Her son's house was connected on the agreed date, but hers was not.
The cable from the street was connected to Kristen's home on the agreed date, but the technicians missed three appointments for the work that needed to be done inside the house. Almost a month after the original connection date, contractors came to finish the work, but did not connect the service properly. One of the workmen also damaged her ceiling.
Kristen told us she contacted the contractors' company to get it to fix her ceiling, but the company told her to arrange the work herself and they would later decide whether to pay for the damage or not. She also tried to sort out the connection problems with her provider, but she was told there was an error in her account and the connection could not be made.
When we conciliated the complaint, the provider arranged to make the connection on Kristen's service and agreed to cover the costs of repairing her ceiling. The provider's case manager also gave Kristen his direct number to ensure that she could contact him easily if she had any concerns or further delays.
Kristen confirmed that her service was working and accepted the provider's offer to cover the costs of repairing the ceiling.
Disputed MPS charges
Colin had a mobile phone on a $99 monthly plan and noticed his bills were higher than usual, with more than $500 in extra charges over a few months. He decided to find out why and when he checked his bills, he discovered that he was being billed for "third party charges". Colin rang his provider to find out what they might be, and was told they were a mobile premium service that he had subscribed to.
Colin said he didn't know what premium services were and had not subscribed to them. The provider told him "the charges have nothing to do with us" and gave him a number for a USA-based content provider. Colin called the content provider, which told him it could not even confirm that he subscribed to the premium service. He then went back to his provider, which declined to refund him the charges he disputed, but offered to bar the premium services.
After we referred the complaint back to Colin’s provider, it offered to refund $250. Colin was not happy with this offer and he was still being charged for new premium services the provider had promised to block.
When we conciliated the complaint, the service provider could not prove that Colin had asked for and authorised premium service messages as required under the Mobile Premium Services Code. The provider offered to refund the disputed charges in full and to bar premium services from his phone.
Faulty handset and disputed charges
Issa had renewed a contract with his provider and received a new handset. He called us after being unable to resolve a problem about two issues:
- he had been charged late fees for monthly bills when he had agreed with the provider that he would pay quarterly, and
- the handset was faulty - the touch screen and bluetooth were not working correctly, so he disputed having to pay the charges for the handset while it wasn’t working.
The provider offered Issa a loan phone while it took the faulty handset for repair or replacement, but Issa did not want to hand it in. He said he wanted the provider to release him from his contract and waive the late payment and handset fees. The complaint was not resolved and Issa called us back.
We told Issa that in the interests of resolving his complaint, he should submit the phone for assessment. He may have been holding back a resolution by not participating.
Issa agreed to submit the handset for a check and as a result, the provider sent him a brand new replacement phone. They also credited the late payment and handset fees he had already paid. But Issa was not satisfied because he thought the provider had repaired his handset and not provided a new one.
The provider demonstrated that the handset was new by sending its new serial number. It matched the new handset Issa received. We believed that the replacement and fee waiver were a reasonable solution, and we closed the complaint.
Josef had taken out a bundled contract for home phone, internet and pay TV services. While he was happy with the landline and pay TV, his internet was much slower than he had been promised.
Josef called his provider, which tried to fix the issue with three different technicians who were each unable to solve the problem. Josef decided to stop paying his account due to the delay in repairing his internet service.
When Josef called the TIO, we referred his complaint back to his provider and advised him to pay the landline and pay TV charges he did not dispute. When the provider looked into the complaint, it identified that it would not be able to offer him an internet service with the speeds it had promised due to technical problems. To resolve the complaint, the provider offered to refund any internet charges Josef had paid, waive any outstanding internet charges and discharge him from his internet contract. He would then only have to pay for his landline and pay TV.
Josef told us he was not happy with this offer because the provider "had lied" to him about the internet speed. He said that he had spent a lot of time dealing with the complaint and the provider should waive charges for all his services as compensation.
We decided not to take the matter further, as our view was that the offer from the provider was fair and addressed Josef's complaint. Given that Josef did not have a problem with his landline or pay TV, we informed him that it was fair that he pay the charges for these services. We also told Josef that we could not look into claims of compensation for time spent dealing with an issue.
Vodafone responds to concerns about Network Guarantee
The Vodafone Network Guarantee allows new customers 30 days to try the Vodafone Network. If the customer tells Vodafone they are not satisfied with the network service in their area, the contract will be cancelled. The customer is obliged to return any handset associated with the plan and pay for only what they have used.
Consumers told us they were having difficulty cancelling their contracts. Some said they were asked to take a number of steps before they could cancel the contract, including:
- going to a store to cancel the contract
- calling the Vodafone call centre to cancel the contract, or
- Vodafone needing to troubleshoot before it cancelled the contract.
How Vodafone responded
Our Industry Improvement and Systemic Issues team raised the issue with Vodafone. The company confirmed that:
- customers can cancel their contract if they have a coverage complaint within the first 30 day period
- no troubleshooting was needed to cancel a contract
- if a customer chooses to troubleshoot the problem, they can still cancel their contract as long as they report the coverage problem in the first 30 days, and
- customers can organise cancellation of their contract either in store or over the phone.
Vodafone told us it would:
- update internal resource materials for store and call centre staff about the guarantee, and
- update its website to make the information clearer for its customers.
After Vodafone took the above actions, we noticed a reduction in complaints from consumers who told us they could not claim the Network Guarantee. We were satisfied Vodafone's response addressed the cause of complaint identified by the TIO.
ALDIMobile's complaint handling
ALDIMobile became a TIO member in March 2013. After a few months, we began to receive increased complaints from its customers about services that had been restricted or disconnected without notice.
Issues raised by consumers
Consumers told us that:
- their services were disconnected because of a breach of the company's "acceptable use" policy (AUP), which they did not know about
- they had tried, and failed, to contact ALDIMobile to make a complaint about being disconnected, and
- those who had made a complaint were unable to resolve their issue with ALDIMobile.
What we did
We raised the issue with ALDIMobile and requested information to get a better understanding about how its AUP was enforced and what options consumers had to raise complaints.
What ALDIMobile told us
ALDIMobile made their marketing clearer to ensure its customers understood what was considered "acceptable use". They also explained more about their business structure. The company’s customer service, complaint handling and enforcement of the AUP was handled by a third party.
We were satisfied that ALDIMobile had addressed the issues with the marketing of its services, but we remained concerned about its third party provider's customer service and complaint handling practices. We reminded ALDIMobile that it was responsible for the actions of the third party company acting on its behalf, and recommended that it take a more active involvement in defining the its approach to customer experience.
After making these recommendations, we noticed a 71 per cent drop in complaints made by ALDI customers between October-December 2013 and January-March 2014. Complaints have remained low since then.