How telco gouges extra money

YourLifeChoices member Tootsie wrote to us complaining about the extra fees added to her Optus bill because she did not want to pay by direct debit. We set out to find a solution.

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Tootsie
I have just received my usual monthly paper telephone account from Optus and I’m annoyed, to say the least, about the extra charges now being added to the bill. I signed up for a basic seniors $50 per month account that was for NBN and home phone, plus the internet. For several months, the bills were just over the $55 mark. The latest is up to $74.69 due to extra charges because my account is not a direct-debit.

The extra charges are:

  • non-debit fee of $2 per month
  • bill payment fee of $1.59 per month
  • paper invoice fee of $2
  • then, of course, there is the GST component of $6.79 charged on top of the extra fees
  • plus, if I pay the paper account at my local post office I get slugged another $2.90.

That takes the monthly extras on my bill to $8.49 plus GST and post office fees of  $9.69. That’s a total of $15.28 per month.

I am over 80 and on an Age Pension. I don’t want to set up a direct debit account for Optus or any other utility company. I don’t believe it’s very safe.

I have re-read the Optus contract, and yes, in the fine print at the end of the contract pages, it does state that there will be charges for non-debit fees and paper account fees.

I have found that if I Bpay the Optus bill or any other bill at my bank, it does not add on the payment fee, so I save a little there. However, there was a fee when I paid via credit card when I was quite ill and recovering from a broken leg and not able to get to the local post office or bank.

The Optus account is the only bill I receive that adds these charges to the paper accounts received. I do not believe they should be allowed to do so. I am sure a lot of other pensioners would welcome the extra charges being discontinued.

Could YourLifeChoices please investigate?

A. YourLifeChoices queried Optus on the additional charges and was advised its policy was hard and fast.

We then asked the Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) for advice and were  directed to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Policy Officer Isabel Durie said: “Unfortunately, we have many reports of consumers being hit by similar fees experienced by your member.

“At present, Telstra is the only provider offering to waive the debit/credit payment and paper bill fees under the Pensioner Discount Scheme. Optus and Vodafone, however, do not offer this.

“ACCAN is currently sitting on the Working Committee of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) code review, and one issue we have highlighted is the fees for non-debit payments and paper bills that disproportionately affect vulnerable consumers.

“Your member clearly has legitimate reasons for not wanting to pay by direct debit and for receiving paper bills.

“Unfortunately, given Optus does not offer discounts/removal of these fees, there is not much we can suggest.”

Ms Durie said ACCAN hoped to use Tootsie’s experience to support their claim for a review of the TCP Code.

Have you had a problem with utilities adding fees for paper bills? Do you have any further advice for Tootsie?

Related articles:
One in two report telco issues
Another telco bites NBN dust
Beware the NBN scam

All content on the YourLifeChoices’ website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care, but no guarantees are provided for ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness with regard to your circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances. Financial comments provided by readers cannot be relied on as professional advice, but as general comments only.

Written by Janelle Ward

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