Phones And Net Are Cheaper, But We Complain More

phonecomplainer Prices for every type of communications service have fallen in Australia-- that's good news, right? Unfortunately, it increasingly seems to be a case of "you get what you pay for".

According to the ACCC's annual Telecommunications Reports, which were released yesterday and cover 2007-2008, continued stiff competition and the increasing popularity of services like naked DSL mean lots of stuff is getting cheaper. Internet access costs fell by 6.2 per cent, though that figure is a tad deceptive, with the ACCC noting that "nominal price reductions were observed for entry level plans and higher spend plans, while average spend consumers were less likely to have experienced any increase in the nominal price of their plan". As well, the falls have been bigger in relatively less competitive markets like cable (down 5.9%) and dialup (down 11%) than in the tightly-contested DSL space (down 5.2%).

On landline phones, national call costs fell by 11%, and local calls got 10% cheaper. Surprisingly, in the 3G mobile space, prepaid calls fell in cost more than post-paid services.

That's the (generally) good news, but the flipside is that the industry itself remains dominated by Telstra, and access to local exchanges by Telstra rivals inevitably seems to end up in disputes that have to be resolved by the ACCC or the courts. At consumer level, we also seem increasingly dissatisfied, with complaints at a 10-year high and the number of consumer protection investigations up by 70%.

What's your biggest gripe with your current Internet and phone services? Pricing? Bandwidth caps? Call centre workers who don't give a damn? Share your gripes (and solutions) in the comments.

ACCC Telecommunications Reports 2007-2008 [PDF]

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Comments

    I would like to grip that due to dsl not being available and the the way the plans are stuctured I am paying $40 for a landline I don't need to use. landline rentals have gone up not down on entry level plans.

    Until things are as cheap and as fast as they are in (some) other countries, we have a right to go complaining. My combined bills are double what they were when I lived in Canada and there my bandwidth wasn't capped and it came with cable TV. In fact, exactly the same service would cost almost 5 times as much. Unlimited fast broadband is still insanely expensive here.
    Customer service/call centres are also atrocious;
    last week Telstra changed their customer service numbers by one digit but didn't tell anyone or note the change it on their website. A deliberate attempt to confuse people and put them off complaining about all the downtime and bad service?

    My gripe is mostly to do with the incredibly confusing mobile plans...

    Why oh why, in 2009, can you not use data as part of your cap? They give you, e.g. $50 of calls/sms for $20 a month, and yet if you want to use data, you have to buy a data pack on top of that for reasonable rates? Only the iPhone plans seem to have data included in the monthly cost, and yet those plans only start at $50/mo or something...

    I've also been reading various gizmodo/lifehacker posts recently about how 'tethering' is not being allowed by certain US telcos, and Optus in Australia too... I'd be livid if the network said "no, you can't use your internet capable mobile as a 3G modem" - that's half the bloody usefulness of the device - when I'm travelling I can take my laptop and mobile and use the mobile for "emergency" net access but still get to use my normal applications on my laptop.... why would the network prevent tethering? After all, it's still going to go towards your data costs....

    (I can understand them not wanting that in the US where they have unlimited data plans, but Australia doesn't have this at all!)

    @ Astrid De Geest,
    Telstra's entry level home phone is the no-contract Home Line Budget at just $21/mo.
    Unfortunately, I must have this until the local exchange gets the Naked DSL set up.

    The worst thing is, with the cheapest dial up account (3mo contract unlimited with TPG) + home line rental + call costs for dialing in ends up at about the same price as a 50GB ADSL2+ Naked account with TPG that I have to wait for. Where's the logic in that?

    Indeed plan confusion would have to be the number one gripe, but one suspects that it is still a big money spinner,there will always be enough dills around who can't/won't read their plan and end up on TT with a $5000 bill. What is really staggering though is that the people responsible for these kind of things allow these practices to continue unabated. Insofar as tethering goes don't know what the beef is, as I type this my computer is connected to the internet via my Palm Treo Pro on Telstra Next G, horrendously expensive but nevertheless flawless performance.

    I just connected new home internet to Telstra a month ago as we didn't have a choice. Since then I have received a package from them saying that we can send our old broken modem in and they are sending the new one out now (we didnt have a broken modem it is working fine) and 2 letters came yesterday saying that they have received our online order and they will be contacting us to set up the service within 2 weeks (we are already using the internet). We haven't got a bill yet so maybe we have free internet? For a communications company they are very bad at communicating!! But at least they keep me amused with their odd assortment of letters!

      I work for the company and I see the same thing that has happened to you happen to many others (especially recently).
      Someone has decided to you use to boost their sales quota and has "sold" you a service without you being consolted about it.
      Give them a call and get it canceled ASAP or you'll end up paying for 2 services at the same time.

    Seriously man, the Telcos here and NZ are ripping customers off. This is a case of the government giving the big Telcos far too much scope for monopolizing the local markets.

    The U.S. has pretty cheap phone, internet, and mobile because of fierce competition. Canada is not that great, but they are certainly better than Australia as far as internet goes.

    Something that I hope to see occur more and more here in Sydney at least is to see a city wide wireless network (not 3G), that you can login from your laptop wherever you are. I envisage paying a monthly nominal fee of being able to connect to this network. Even if you limited the download rate to 100 kb per connection, it would still be doable. Maybe I could look at doing a feasibility study of this to see if it could pay for itself.

    prices inevitably drop as the technology improves and evolves, (we would see much better value at exponentially faster rates if Australia wasn't a remote island, but c'est la vie).

    while price-gouging by Telscum is a well-known pain to most of the Australian public, and their anti-competitive behaviour is yet another reason to wish they were bankrupted, I believe most of the post-connection complaints boil down to service quality:
    when your internet constantly drops out or slows down for no discernible reason, or your mobile keeps dropping out mid-call, it doesn't matter what you paid or how fast it's supposed to be -- it's not what you signed up for and is a constant frustration for nearly all customers at some point, (ESPECIALLY wireless internet users on ANY network).
    this reliability is what really needs to improve.

    Two words, "Bandwidth Cap", how the ACCC can let this continue to happen is beyond me....

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