January 15 - 21, 2017: Issue 296

The  Switch from 2G to 3G and 4G Networks How to Avoid being upgraded to big costs

On December 1st, 2016 our Australian born telco switched off its 2G network. Both Optus and Vodafone are set to follow suit this year - Optus in April 2017 and Vodafone in September.

The switch-off of the 23 year old 2G GSM System, on which an estimated 87 billion phone calls have been made, required all those still using their old SIM cards to update these, and in many cases their phones, as these could not be used in those phones many of us were holding onto as they bounced when dropped on cement and they screens didn't crack when stared at too hard.

For those who have always used, or issued to their children, basic pre-paid options so they can be contacted, or make a few calls and send a few texts each month, there are few built-in problems that may become instantly apparent when you try to have the same as what you always had when you must shift with the times.

Time poor people may experience a few frustrations as multiple visits to provider shops cane become part of the switch, as may several phone calls over numerous days to sort out what, despite many assurances it wouldn't,  went wrong. 

The Phone you Choose
Although you hear all the great things a new phone can do, you may not hear about all built-in applications that will suddenly take ALL of your credit within five minutes of activation. You didn't ask for this incessant streaming 'news', certainly didn't agree to receive it as goods or a service, but because you bought that phone outright, and it is 'built-in', and unremovable, you will have to call your telco, ask why that wasn't part of any literature that came with the phone, why it cannot be removed, and explain you cannot take 99.5% of a recharge, ditto those on other setups, for goods or a service without asking if the customer wishes to receive, explaining what they will receive and how much it will cost - and THEN ask if they wish to purchase it.

Full points go to our telco as they recognised there is an omission here that doesn't meet Product Disclosure requirements in this country. No answer could be given as to why there was an omission in this information and why the item cannot be disabled or removed, so be aware in phones you purchase outright there may be built-in items that will cost you money, data wise, even while you're sleeping.

Our providers solution was to simply switch the data off from their end - and to talk us through turning data off and then back on on the device anytime we wished to use the internet, send an email etc. from the phone. A mediocre resolution which they promise to get back to us on. Certainly 'built-in' anything should be an option - not a preset determination of 'you will have!'

This illustrates that although there is oodles of information out there on what plan may be best for you, but transparent, upfront and fully defined information on what phone may be best is lacking and seems a bit subjective to whichever salesperson you're speaking to and some of the literature that does, or doesn't come with them and needs to be downloaded and scrutinised elsewhere, may not be disclosing in full what little hidden nasties are there and ultimate end up being not what you asked for. Certainly a 'built-in' streaming that will extract dollars was never there and is still missing in this case.

If you don't receive what you asked for, if something is withheld or not explained, protest. 

For the record:

Disclosure: Product Disclosure Statements (and other disclosure obligations)
Issued 28 October 2011: ASIC

This is a guide for persons responsible for Product Disclosure Statements (PDSs) and other disclosure obligations (i.e. Australian financial services licensees, authorised representatives and product issuers).
It gives policy guidance on preparing a PDS that complies with the PDS requirements in the Corporations Act 2001. It sets out good disclosure principles and explains how ASIC will monitor the use of PDSs and enforce the PDS requirements.
Note: This guide does not cover the tailored PDS regimes for superannuation and simple managed investment products introduced by the Corporations Amendment Regulations 2010 (No. 5). These regimes commence on 22 June 2011 for all new products, as well as for existing products where a supplementary PDS would be required, and on 22 June 2012 for all other PDSs: see INFO 133 Shorter PDS regime: Superannuation, managed investment schemes and margin lending.
Download RG 168 (PDF 291 KB)

Full marks again go to our telco as they decided, after four days of phone calls trying to get to the bottom of things, that the amount taken should be fully refunded - and then it turned out the amount fully refunded would expire in 30 days when the purchasers understanding was that amount would not expire until 3-6months had elapsed, as indicated and confirmed when first purchased.

The Plan You Choose
For some reason when you move your 'had it for 20 years' phone number to a new phone your old 'Plan' is changed, again without consultation or permission, to something that could only benefit the telco provider. 

Many who use these pre-paid, what some term 'granny phones', have chosen these because they need to have something people can contact them on, something they can contact others on, but, as outlined above, they're not incessantly calling or texting others and don't need anything other than for the connection to stay intact and the credit likewise should they wish to use it to...make a call.

For some reason, which our telco still hasn't come back with an answer to 'why', but have assured us they will, a long-term pay plan was changed to one that elapsed after 28 days.

Again full marks to our telco which came back with 'Please accept my sincere and unreserved apologies for the inconvenience it may have caused to you.', changed it back and assured us they would escalate our 'why has this happened?' and get back to us with an answer.

The problem was a similar conversation happened for another 2 hours the day prior to this second resolution of sorts and although that 'helper' was asked four times is the amount refunded still going forward 3-6 months, and finally asking, 'please just say yes or no' - no answer was the answer.

So, check that you're still on the plan you began with that works for you before you send young Johnny or Mary out the door with their new pre-paid phone. Check and ask and ask and ask that the phone you're purchasing doesn't have any 'built-in' special 'goods and services' that will drain any $ in an instant, and if you set it up to automatically top up, don't be surprised if you haven't looked after you that you end up with phone charges like you've been talking to the man in the moon...or Mars...if you haven't checked..and checked, and then checked again.

We seem to be ‘evolving’ into times where good service and honest practices have gone and everything is ‘built-in’ to steal from you and you must educate yourself. 

This is why we constantly run event notices from organisation such as AvPals and Computer Pals for Seniors Northern Beaches for our older readers, (and then ask them to tell us what they have just been taught!) – to let you know there are local people on hand you help and educate and guide you through what is ‘in-built’ to advantage a provider and disadvantage the customer.

There are good telcos and bad ones - those that can't look after their customers and set high industry standards are those to be avoided. Those that are determined to fix muck ups and be responsible for fixing problems with the products they're selling, whether devices as goods, or services as plans, are where you should go and stay.

Now, if we can just find out where to send the invoice for all our time, hours of it, over many days, Johnny or Mary can have an ice-cream, as well as a safe budget-friendly contact point next time they go out to play.

If you do have problems your telco won't solve, and you know something is seriously amiss and sense a 'built-in' rip off is occurring, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and you will be surprised  how quickly that miscommunication tide begins to turn.

After all that - you may need to focus on the picture below to get a return to 'moonlight and sunlight on water, softly lapping into the bay' - serenity - at last.
Hold onto your landline, keep your email accounts open, and stick up for yourself, gently, politely, and rant at your better half or MP when you get off the phone - be part of reinstating good service and honest practices - let's all let them know we won't have it any other way. 
Report by A J Guesdon, 2017.