If ET could phone home, he would probably now be in debt with one of the major phone providers, and more than likely has been trying to negotiate a reasonable payment arrangement to pay the debt.

However after viewing the statistics on the major providers, it is unlikely ET would be successful in negotiating a payment without the assistance of a Financial Counsellor. The 3 major providers were rated by financial counsellors on their financial hardship practises, over the past year and all show poor results.

Optus 4 out of 10

Telstra 3.7 out of 10

Vodafone 3.2 out of 10

Financial counsellors report that, when dealing with customers in financial difficulty, providers focus on retrieving debt, rather than negotiating fair and reasonable arrangements that can keep people connected to essential telecommunications services. This approach manifests in problems that begin with the sale of products and services and extend through to attitudes, communication and the assistance options offered. Financial counsellors reported the following observations.

  • Post-paid 24-month contracts for mobile phone handsets and services as the biggest contributor telecommunications debts.
  • Clients often have no knowledge of contract terms or hardship options, and do not understand their bills, also there is often misconceptions some customers hold, often relating to ownership of handsets. For example, a customer may think that they own the handset associated with a post-paid service, and be surprised at the high cost of paying for it should they default. Similarly, where a customer no longer has the phone in their possession, they do not always understand that they are still responsible for paying for it.
  • Providers were described as having ‘no’ or ‘zero’ understanding of long-term hardship and how it affects customers. Providers see their services as a luxury, rather than something essential to employment, service access and social participation. As a result, they see no obligation to supply and take an inflexible approach: ‘pay up or lose it’.
  • A result of upselling, contracts frequently include unneeded and unsuitable products and upgrades, often bundled together. As a result, contracts become unaffordable and contribute to financial hardship.

There is no preferred provider, that choice is entirely up to the individual and their needs, but if you are looking for a new provider, it pays to shop around, make a comparison of what your needs are and the costs involved. If you only need a mobile phone, say NO to the offered add-ons, those little extras can escalate your monthly bill.

Remember before you sign any documentation, read the contract, if you do not understand any of it, ask for it to be explained to you. Query  how long is the term of the contract for the plan, the cost of the handset and over what period it needs to be paid for, or if you can use your pre-existing phone, is there insurance attached to the handset – should it get damaged or stolen. All of these questions are far more important than how many pixels does the camera have, or the weight of the phone or the different skins you can get.

If you are having difficulty in paying your phone account, and your provider has not been understanding of your financial situation, don’t be like ET and phone home and  leave without paying your account. You should seek assistance by contacting Midlas, on 9250 2123, and make an appointment to see a Financial Counsellor.