Checklist for wireless broadband buyers

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OK, you've picked out a wireless broadband plan you can afford, checked the coverage is OK for your home and office, and made sure it works with your chosen operating system. Reckon you're done? Not so fast, Speedy Gonzales. No matter who you want to buy from, there's a few simple steps you can take to make sure the transaction goes smoothly.

Ring ahead to check if what you want is in stock. Not very electronic, but it'll save a wasted trip. Most phone stores are franchisees and only have limited stock of most items. Ordering online circumvents that problem but adds a delivery delay.
Allocate plenty of time. Setting up wireless broadband on your PC is a lot faster than buying it. Even if there's no-one else in the store, you can expect to spend up to half an hour dealing with the credit checks and sign-up forms. Avoid weekends if you can, the queues are almost always longer.
Stock yourself up with suitable ID. You'll need photographic proof of who you are, evidence of your address, and a credit card or two. A drivers' licence can handle both the first two points, and possibly as a result most systems are ill-equipped to handle people (like me) who don't have one. A passport plus a utilities bill (less than three months old) is the next-best choice. The requirements may not be quite as onerous if you already have a service from that provider, but why take the risk? Don't be like me this week and have to return to the store twice to get the deal done.
Remember, you have a cooling-off period. If the device doesn't work, contact technical support. After all, you're most likely on a contract, so make them work for the money. And if it still doesn't work, take it back and seek a refund — signing a contract doesn't obviate the need for sold goods to be fit for purpose.


Comments

    "And if it still doesn't work, take it back and seek a refund -- signing a contract doesn't obviate the need for sold goods to be fit for purpose."

    But try and keep your cool. From experience working in phone shops I can tell you that often the employee you're speaking to is extremely limited in what they can do. We can usually replace the hardware on the spot, but if you took your time returning it (usually after a 14 day period) it HAS to be sent off for repair, no ifs or buts, and you'll almost certainly be without the hardware for a few weeks (this applies to mobile phones too). This is NOT grounds to cancel the contract, and no amount of yelling at the employee will change that. We'll do all we can to get the hardware back to you as soon as we can. Same goes for if we don't have the replacement hardware in stock. We'll try and get one for you asap, but again, this isn't grounds for you to cancel the contract.

    Again, we're extremely limited to what we can do. I can tell you the employee in the store has absolutely no authority to cancel your contract anyway. If you run in to problems, contact the telco's customer service line directly to make a complaint (but again, be friendly to the person on the other end, they're more likely to help you) and/or contact the TIO, if it comes to that.

    "No matter who you want to buy from"

    WRONG!

    You can buy a 3 USB Modem, a Virgin 3g Box, a Next G USB Modem or an unwired modem from any dick smith powerhouse in about 45 seconds flat. No credit checks or contracts done in store for any item. Some with contracts you sign up at home with, some without.

    A little fact-checking would be nice.

    Jason> Yeah, sure - same with mobile phones; you can buy a phone for say $50-1000 at any mobile store, but if you actually want it to WORK on a _billing account_ (AFAIK there are not currently any prepaid wireless internet services available in australia), you WILL need to submit to a credit check to activate that account.

    No company is going to extend you a line of credit (which is what a billing account is) on any easily-portable mobile-network-supported service on any carrier in Australia.

    Okay, now, to the main article...

    _O/S Compatibility_
    All, or almost all USB modem devices currently offered by mobile phone carriers in Australia use the same, or nearly the same hardware by a company called Huawei, and to the best of my knowledge there is no official non-windows drivers/software for it yet. While I believe there are a few people who have managed to rig it to work at low speed with their macbook, the 3G speeds will probably not be accessible until the manufacturer provides official software for it. This applies to Optus, 3 Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin (I haven't looked at Telstra's - you'd be mentally deficient to consider them anyway, unless your employer is going to foot the bill). This could change any day now, but I'm not holding my breath.

    _Time/Setup_
    Sound advice. They really do make them easy to install these days - plug it in, you have maybe 2-5 minutes to make a coffee while it does its thing, come back and click Next,Next,Next,Finish (or something similar), then you're usually ready to go :)

    _Identification Requirements_
    This one can be tricky. I can only speak for Optus on this count (and not in any official capacity), but generally speaking for a new account (new mobile account - fixed services are treated differently credit-check-wise) you will need 100 points of non-expired, non-mutilated identification, comprised of 1 form of primary ID and 2 forms of secondary, all in the same first and last names, including or in addition to proof of address.

    The most common combination accepted (since most people have it and carry it with them) is an Australian driver's license, medicare or private health card, and an atm or credit card. Your credit card should not leave your sight, and when using a credit card for ID, only the last four digits of the card number are required - you can (and probably should) ask for the rest of the digits to be suitably eliminated. SOME places may require the back of the card to be photocopied as well (for the signature); if this is the case, ensure that the card's security codes are likewise removed from the copy. Once again I cannot comment officially on any company's internal policies, but an ATM (or debit/savings) card is functionally equivalent to a credit card for the purposes of identification in Australia, and personally I would always try with an ATM card first to see if they accept it. I'm sure 98% of phone-store sales reps are impeccably trustworthy, but why risk it?

    If you're adding a new service to an existing account (mobile phone and wireless broadband services are technologically very similar and usually handled on the same billing sysytem) then some stores/providers may only require suitable photo identification but others will still need the full 100 points. Technically even if you have an existing service and are upgrading it, you need 100 points as well, but since the risk of fraud is practically nonexistent in this scenario, most outlets will take a driver's license only. This is also the case if you have previously surrendered 100 points at an outlet and then gone back again to someone who can recognise you.

    _Cooling Off Period/Returns_
    This is not a good title for this section of the main article, since 'cooling off periods' do not tend to apply to retail outlet signups in Australia (or Queensland?). Further to this, if you were rash enough to have skipped most of the other steps mentioned in the article, and connected a service that a) was not compatible with your computer or operating system, or b) did not have coverage in your area, then the legal standards of merchantability have still been met, since under Aussie law a device needs to be suitable for the purpose for which it is sold, and not "suitable for your particular software or hardware configuration" or "suitable for use in your particular location".

    That being said, Optus has (and possibly other providers as well, I haven't checked but I think Virgin has as well) both the facility to check coverage maps before you buy, and also offer a coverage guarantee that allows you to return everything in its original condition within 30 days (Optus is 30, that is) and discontinue the service without paying a cancellation - if you have been able to use the device at all, there may be a few dollars of usage to be paid, but if it was connected for, say, a week on a $40-a-month plan, and you used less than $40/4 (quarter of a month) worth of data in that time, your bill would only be that $10. Officially there is no facility to cancel without charges just because you have a Mac and didn't check, but I have personally dealt with a few such returns without issue.

    For a bit of perspective, would a car dealership refund your purchase if you got home and found out it won't fit into your garage? Unlikely. If the product is not _faulty_, you are _not_ entitled under Aussie law to any refund or exchange, but as mentioned above most places will be helpful in such instances.

    Cooling off periods, as defined by Aussie mercantile law, apply to things like telesales and door-to-door sales, but not to retail signups. Of course, if the sale/contract has been signed but not submitted electronically yet, and the hardware is in original condition and has not left the store, most places will use a bit of common sense and allow a change of mind. Usually for hardware issues (things that would normally be covered under warranty), outlets will have a 14- or 30-day (depending on manufacturer and product type) Early Life Failure period, during which you may be supplied with an on-the-spot swap out of store stock or, if the store is out of that phone, or has a different process, it can take a few days sometimes. Regardless of ELF procedures, all phones - and most other mobile devices - sold new in Australia have a 12-month warranty attached to them, trenchcoat-clad fellows in dark alleys excluded. ;)

    Despite my convincingly long-winded waffle, I am not a lawyer - nor am I officially representing Optus or any other company in my comments. If you have an issue with a phone company, try to resolve it with the outlet you originally dealt with, then the carrier's (or manufacturer's) customer service or technical support service, then possibly a head office or similar, and if still no progress then you have access to the ACCC and Telecommunications Ombudsman for resolution of issues which have not been resolved even after exhausting all other options (thankfully I don't think I've ever seen one of these situations though).

    Jono's observations are very valid; %98+ of the tens of thousands of dollars of account credits I have squeezed out of customer service over the past 2.5 years have been the result of calm, determined negotiations - the other %2 I got a little nasty, it's warranted in a few situations. *grin*

    Bottom line is, find a local store rep who can advocate your case for you, provide them all the details you can including account history, complaint history, details of what you've already tried, and above all BE NICE, it works. :)

    - Matthew, flat-out in a Qld Optus store

    Correction, my second paragraph above should have had "without sufficient ID" on the end. No carrier in Australia will give you a mobile billing account without a credit check (and it's illegal to do a CC without sufficient ID)... Don't worry, I'll stop at one paragraph this time :D

    - Matthew

    Just a quick note on this:

    I put together a package to get iBurst working on a friend's eeepc (701).

    The mini USB iBurst modem is small, and with actual download rates often between 700kb and 1 Mb and reasonable latency, iBurst is fine for Skype and VOIP etc.

    I haven't yet managed to package it all together into a .deb, and what I had to do to get the PPPoE interface working is truly bizarre, but it works perfectly for my friend.

    If anyone else is interested in running iBurst on their eeepc, then drop in to the "ibdriver" project on SourceForge:

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/ibdriver/

    and post in the forums there.

    Once I've got the .deb complete, it will be available in the ibdriver project downloads area.

    Then I will need to get it working on the 900 and 901 machines (I presume that they have a different kernel?).

    The nice thing with iBurst on linux is that iBurst in Australia are happy to see it running on linux, and ArrayCom(R) in USA provided the original open-source driver, and provided technical information and help to the ibdriver project.

    Cheers!
    Nik

    before you buy any phone or broadband services, get the tech support number. if you are on hold for more than 15 minutes, hang up and go to the next one. why????? because any time longer than 15 minutes means there is huge amounts of technical difficulties or a huge lack of cutomer service people. either way, do you need this? no..it is guaranteed to coninue for the term of the contract. you have better things to do.. speaking from years of experience. help, refunds and support satisfaction is only represented by short waiting times and friendly, helpful staff that can solve any problem within 10 minutes.

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