Phones And Net Are Cheaper, But We Complain More

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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