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Monday, 30 March 2020 17:29

Foxtel stops customers cancelling

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Whether it's a deliberate action or a convenient error, Foxtel has found a short-term way of stopping the haemorrhage of customers: don't let them cancel their subscriptions.

If you're a Foxtel customer suffering a reduced income due to the measures taken to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, you've probably thought about saving money by cancelling your subscription.

Good luck with that.

You can't cancel via the Foxtel app or web site. That's not really surprising, because the company probably wants a shot at retaining your business even if that takes a sweetheart deal – we've seen reports of customers being offered prices as low as $19 a month in these circumstances.

The only option is to phone Foxtel. Trouble is, a lot of people seem to be doing that at the moment, so there's a fair chance that you'll get a busy signal.

Make sure your phone is charged, because if you do get through to the voice recognition system and tell it you want to cancel or disconnect, you'll probably be on hold for an hour or two. Last week there were reports of people waiting on hold for 10 hours before they succeeded in cancelling, but things seem to have got worse.

Foxtel's response to our enquiry was that "Our call centres are very short staffed at present as a result of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 and for many callers we simply haven’t been able to answer calls or there have been long wait times."

Well yes, but there are also tens of thousands of people applying for Jobseeker Payments because they've been stood down due to the pandemic, so how about hiring some of them and letting them work remotely? Many of them already have customer service experience (at Qantas, Virgin, Myer, Michael Hill, Flight Centre, and hundreds if not thousands of cafes and restaurants), and could quickly be put to work handling simple calls – such as cancellations – for Foxtel, even if they have to refer more complex issues to more experienced colleagues.

Or even easier, how about allowing customers to cancel via the web site or app, with an email, callback or SMS to the customer's on-file contact details for confirmation that it wasn't a prankster.

But here's the genius part of the current arrangement: the queue you've been put into is likely to be at a Telstra call centre where the staff can't help you because you're a Foxtel customer, not a Foxtel from Telstra customer – never mind that you called Foxtel, not Telstra, and you never said you were a Telstra customer. We have twice confirmed this is what was happening today.

Guess what happens if you call Foxtel's complaints number and tell the system that you want to make a complaint? You get put into a queue at what seems to be the same Telstra call centre that couldn't help you because you're not a Telstra customer.

The Foxtel spokesperson also pointed out that the company has already apologised to customers for the long wait times at its call centres, and that customers are receiving extra content at no additional charge, as well as free multiscreen access, which allows Foxtel Go to be cast to one or two additional screens.

"Fixing the situation in our call centres is our number one priority and while we do, we have asked customers for their patience in delaying call [sic] to enable us to focus on faults and customers in hardship," the spokesperson added.

Well, surely customers in hardship are the ones who need to cancel. So why is the company making it so difficult for them?

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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