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Recontracting... a brand new customer service nightmare

mcbreakfast

Hi there

 

After being out of contract for several months, on 26/3/18 I "recontracted" online for two years on the $45 My Plan Flex that included the "double data" and free Optus Sport promotional offers (as well as a handset). At least, that's what Optus' website said at the time.

 

Within a few minutes I received a confirmation email detailing the minimum cost over the contract term (exactly as expected), plus Mobile TV Streaming and Music Streaming, both at "MONTHLY $0". No reference to either the doubled data or free Optus Sport access.

 

Four days later (30/3/18), I received two further emails, the first of which said that Optus Sport (Mobile) and Optus Sport Discount had been added to my Optus Service. Yay. But still nothing about the doubled data.

 

Attached to the second email was the formal paperwork. The "Customer Authority Form - Recontract" contains my personal details plus a summary of the monthly charges and total minimum cost over the contract term - which has now increased by $15 with a single monthly charge for the previously free Optus Sport - but as this is a minimum charge, the $15 indicates that I'm at liberty to cancel it after the first month. But that's so not free. And still no reference to the doubled data allowance!!! In fact, the second part of the attachment - the Critical Information Summary - explicitly says I am getting the standard data (in fairness, it makes it clear that "this summary doesn't cover any special promotions... that you may select"... but it's not like this is one-off offer just for little old me, is it?).

 

So first thing this morning I called Customer Care, supremely confident that this would be a five minute call that would result in written confirmation of the terms I signed up for, superceding the serially contradictory (automated) emails I had received so far.

 

Wrong. And naive.

 

After 90 minutes and two transfers between three friendly and well-meaning operators in at least two call centres, I learned a few interesting nuggets about the systems that Optus uses to manage my order. (I should emphasise that all three agents spoke great English - there was 100% clarity and 0% contradiction.):

 

  1. The Optus staff I spoke to are unable to generate a definitive record of the terms of my contract until the order is closed (when they deliver the handset... more on that shortly).
  2. Unsurprisingly, these agents don't have visibility of the promotions that will definitively apply to the contract (if any) until the order is closed - agents only appear to be able to speculate on this, based on their knowledge of current promotions.
  3. Even less surprising: until my order is closed, these agents are unable to amend any aspect of my contracted service's inclusions, even if Optus' communications to me on the contract contain contradictory information (in fairness, this is only a problem because of the two preceding it).
  4. Optus staff and customers may see conflicting delivery dates for the order- the first order tracking link I received was on 30/3/18 (Good Friday), which nominated delivery for that day; as that was never happening, I left it until this morning (3/4/18) and the delivery date had been revised to today. (I wonder what it will say tomorrow?) But at the time I wrapped up this morning's call, my friendly call centre agent was emphatic that my order had not yet even been processed, much less loaded on a truck.

 

The last agent acknowledged my frustration at not knowing what my service would include, how much I would be paying for it or when these details would be revealed to me, but couldn't escalate because "all the supervisors were busy". Since my request to cancel the order was clearly above her pay grade, the sole remedy available to her was to email me the following:

 

"As discussed, $15 Optus Sport charge on the account will be offset by the Optus Sport discount that will be added. Extra data will be provided on the time that your additional 2GB for double data offer hasn't take in effect yet. All of this commitment will be done once your order has been closed."

 

This might have been a tiny bit comforting had it not come from a "noreply@" address or included her employee number, as promised.

 

It beggars belief that Optus is unable to assure recontracting retail customers that they are going to deliver what they have promised for the agreed amount until an effectively arbitrary future time.

 

I am considering repurposing this post into TIO and/or ACCC complaints, pending an opinion from a learned commercial / consumer law practitioner who happens to call me 'Dad'.

 

I'd love to know how common this is.

 

Even more, I'd love to hear what Optus has to say on the matter (I promise to be nice!).

Re: Recontracting... a brand new customer service nightmare

[ Edited ]
petergdownload

Unfortunately its pretty much the standard process at Optus from what I can gather.

 

On the plus side in the large majority  of cases if you just 'click through' (metaphorically speaking) then you ultimately end up with the deal you signed up for.

 

Optus deals seem to be a very fragmented process at the moment and has grown increasingly so IMO. There is much manual application and adjustments required to the 'standard' options. Adjustments are made to and from various systems that may at times contradict each other. Often you need to wait for the second bill before credits start being applied. As you've noted a lot of information is only available even to Optus staff after the process has completed.

 

Additionally the communication process in many instances leaves a lot to be desired. You seem to have got a fair bit with your SMSs and an actual email summarising (incorrectly) your deal and requesting authority. Sometimes it seems you just agree to a service online and the hear very little along the way. 

 

All in all it seems to require a certain amount of faith in Optus to come through. IMO its not a very professional approach and no doubt customer service staff are often frustrated at being unable to find (or change) what's going on exactly - my experience with them is that they are usually very eager to try help if they can.

 

There are some IT updates apparently happening behind the scenes so hopefully this translates to a much more transparent process than is currently employed.

 

Regards

 

Peter Gillespie

Re: Recontracting... a brand new customer service nightmare

mcbreakfast

Many thanks for your rational take, Peter - and its soothing effect!

 

It seems I only ever have these awful "computer says no" service debacles with telcos of late - by which I mean Optus after reviewing my previous moans in this forum. (Government departments don't count - I've also been reminded in the last 3 months that they are capable of demonstrably worse cock-ups far more often, and that's just business-as-usual.)

 

My handy expert on the law of such matters says that the legality of the lapses I encountered is unlikely to be a black & white issue (lawyers, huh?).

 

But she added diplomatically (for a litigator) that an astute business would recognise the broad risk inherent in making such fundamental errors in consumer contracts, a key element of which is that it's just bad for business.

 

Somewhat less diplomatic (but more colourful) was this little chestnut: "doing so procedurally - i.e. knowingly, repeatedly and in volume - in the consumer space with remediation and governance tools of proven insufficiency is the risk management analogue of lion taming using raw meat and a blindfold instead of a whip and chair."

 

She alluded to a broadly similar set of circumstances that made the careers of a bunch of her mates, with the offender concurrently fighting off a truckload of charges of corporate and consumer law breaches, as well as parallel class actions by customers and shareholders.

 

Makes one wonder when the Risk Management & Compliance folks are planning to return from lunch!

 

cheerio - and thanks again

 

neil

Re: Recontracting... a brand new customer service nightmare

Shauna

Hey @mcbreakfast - thanks for taking the time to write this up. It's hard to really quote what's going on without looking into your account first. Are you able to private message me with your mobile number, full name and DOB so we can take a look? 


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