Monday, 18 October 2010

Seemingly mafioso billing tactics by major telecommunications provider

In light of recently proposed laws in the States and now potentially in Australia too (SMH: Push to kill mobile 'bill shock'), I felt the need to briefly write down my experiences with a well known telecommunications provider who seemingly used Mafioso style billing tactics; not guys wielding Baseball bats but instead being able to change bills as if they had made the price up and didn’t care how much you paid, just as long you paid. They certainly did not seem to be a legitimate corporation in that respect. I like many Australians have experienced ‘bill shock’ on more than one occasion and funnily enough friends of mine who have had the same experiences were also with the same dodgy company I had issues with. Implementing an alert when approaching the cap is definitely a step in the right direction but I think there’s other factors that are also causing ‘bill shock’.

I was originally on a Vodafone plan and once my contract ran out I changed to pre-paid to limit my spending. This would more often than not still last the whole month. I found Vodafone to be great; coverage wise and bill wise. I was with them for some time when a salesman from BAD-PHONE-COMPANY called and offered me a nice shiny new phone on a two year contract cap plan. I asked numerous times if there would be extra fees or charges but was told that there should be no issue and it’s unlikely to go over the cap.

I regularly had bills for $10 more and several that were up to 2-8 times the amount of the original monthly cap. Not always having the time to sift through every bill (yes, my fault there) I would pay those $100-400 monthly bills thinking, I must have used too much. One month I did have the time to go through the bill, mainly due to being low on funds that month (I wonder why) and the bill went from something like $150 down to roughly $50. Their response was that they somehow failed to apply my monthly cap to that bill. This one statement made me lose all confidence with BAD-PHONE-COMPANY and their billing. I still had to pay but would get $100 credit on my next month. I wondered how many times they had ‘forgotten’ to apply my monthly cap in the past.

For all I know, BAD-PHONE-COMPANY may well owe me hundreds of dollars where they incorrectly invoiced me. I often wondered if they ‘forgot’ to apply the caps on the assumption most people will simply pay and not ask questions and for those that do question their bill it doesn’t matter because “hey we’ve successfully overcharged 80-90% (that figure is a guess however it would not surprise me if it were higher) and so made more than enough money from those suckers”. I would not have the time to go through my old bills but it certainly concerns me. I recently moved back to Vodafone and yes it did feel a bit like going back to an old lover.

There was also another incident where I was receiving weekly or daily horoscope SMSs which I don’t recall subscribing for. I can only assume when registering for an online account somewhere my email and phone number was sold to other companies (this is obviously not BAD-PHONE-COMPANY’s fault) and I was being charged for every one of those premium SMSs. I had to call BAD-PHONE-COMPANY and ask WTF was happening before they would say “oh terribly sorry, we can disable premium SMS for you if you’d like” to which I simply said, “thanks...for nothing, morons!”. There should be more configurability for end-users and we should be notified about things like that, even if it were through a web based portal. Yes I know BAD-PHONE-COMPANY has a web portal for your account but half the time it didn’t work and secondly it didn’t give options to enable or disable things like that.

My experiences with BAD-PHONE-COMPANY have left me fairly bitter towards the company and when asked by friends and family who they should use I always say “Vodafone is good but really anyone but BAD-PHONE-COMPANY!”.

I’m sure it won’t be too hard to work out who the bad phone company is but still I felt it best not to mention it by name.

You win! I ROCK!

Good night Seattle.

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