Do telcos owe consumers pricing clarity?
In the early days of the deregulated industry, Telstra's competitors sought to woo clients with broadly advertised per-minute rates for STD, international and untimed local calls. The rise of mobile telephony has changed all that, on the whole: competition is as fierce as ever, nevertheless the real cost of telecoms services is hidden behind asterisks, fine print and mathematical manipulations, just as those that have shaped capped mobile plans for years.
TPG, all things considered, was fined $13,200 for misleading advertising over its VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services — its second offence, afterwards being hit over its ADSL pricing last year.
The ACCC is forced to step in
Whether or not the ACCC is forced to step in but again, to bat down another telco for similar deception, is anybody's guess — nevertheless I'd say the chances are good. Just look at telcos' insistence on nebulous capped mobile plans: sure, it sounds like carriers are giving you generous allowances for calls — yet when those same plans include per-minute calling rates that are astronomical by comparison, that prepaid cap doesn't go so far.
Of course, the new Australian telco consumer code will see the phasing out of "caps", that have in the past so successfully hoodwinked innumerable clients. And telcos will be forced to provide standard pricing summaries at the point of sale, so that buyers can compare apples with apples. Nevertheless does that mean that telcos will just find a new way to make things confusing?
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