Thursday, 03 December 2015 16:53

VIDEO: Telstra pays Penn-alty with partial backdown on roaming rip-off Featured

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net/images Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net/images Modified by Alex Zaharov-Reutt, iTWire

Telstra’s CEO, Andrew Penn, has partially backed down on the changes made to what has been dubbed Telstra’s roaming rip-offs.

It’s not a total reversal of the changes made and announced on 1 December 2015 to Telstra’s International Travel Pass, but the more than tripling of excess data charges has been reversed.

iTWire covered the 1 December changes in an article entitled ’Telstra hits travellers with big increases in roaming charges’, where we explained that “the big hit on mobile travellers sees Telstra splitting its international roaming packs from two zones to three, while increasing the data inclusions for most plans starting from a base of 150 megabytes to 225MB for a 3-day pass.”

Our explanation continued: “The changes see customers receiving more data in every pack but with much higher rates per megabyte.

“The huge price hikes by Telstra will see travellers to Europe and the Americas hit the hardest, with them having to pay $450 for a monthly travel pass — up from the $300 charged under the old plans.”

Telstra CEO, Andrew Penn, who has David Thodey’s legacy of excellent customer service not only to live up to and uphold, but to better, has now issued a mea-culpa of sorts at the official Telstra Exchange blog.

Penn penned that he was “pleased to say we are changing two pricing decisions which we announced recently around international roaming and charges for paper bills.

“Good leadership means recognising when it is right to change decisions because it is the right thing for our customers.

“Price increases are often necessary and I completely understand why the teams that look after our products made the changes they did. But they didn’t sit well with me, customers clearly told us the same so it’s my responsibility to act on behalf of our customers.

“The first is international roaming charges. Telstra has worked hard at removing the pain point of International Roaming charges with the introduction of Travel Passes that make using a mobile overseas more affordable and predictable.”

What Penn didn’t say at this point was that Telstra moved to work hard at removing pain points was painfully removed by a stroke of someone’s pen to up pricing profoundly.

What Penn said is below, please read on!

Still, Penn then said: “So we will scrap a proposal to increase the excess data fees on our Travel Passes from 3c to 10c per MB while keeping the new passes that increase data allowances by 50 per cent and greatly increase the number of participating countries. This makes our Travel Passes very convenient and Telstra competitive as a roaming choice.”

So, the higher charge for roaming to more countries remains, with a greater allowance, but at prices still vastly more expensive than Vodafone’s $5 per day roaming giving you access to a pretty sweet global roaming voice and data deal in the countries covered by Vodafone’s deal.

Telstra customers are also left with the ability to get a local SIM card in countries they travel to for cheap local voice and data, but without the ability for callers in Australia to easily contact those travellers without the travellers in question making an expensive call back to Australia to change their voicemail message to provide the current local number - which would itself likely be expensive to call from Australia.

The move also unwisely exposes Telstra to competition above and beyond that from its traditional competitors in Vodafone and Optus, with VoIP providers able to give access to local numbers in a vast number of countries at local prices also putting the boot into Telstra.

These include Norwood Systems’ World Phone (as covered in iTWire here) as well as Flexiroam and its app (covered here in iTWire), with both companies offering apps for iOS and Android.

If you thought that was all that Telstra CEO Andrew Penn had to backflip on with the stroke of his pen, you’d be wrong.

Incredibly, Telstra made two dumb moves of late, with the other being reported by Melbourne radio station 3AW, where Telstra was proposing to charge those who continued electing to receive a paper-based bill $3.20 instead of $2.00, on top of charging an additional $3.20 for a customer to pay their bill in person rather than electronically!

Thankfully, Penn saw the light and made the ink flow to loosen up on the lunacy.

Penn penned: “Secondly, we will remove the proposal to have people charged a flat rate on paper bills regardless of whether they were only receiving those bills via mail and/or paying those bills over the counter.

“We will charge $2.20 to receive a paper bill and separately, $1.00 for each over the counter payment made. This allows us to recoup costs and avoids the need to charge everyone for a service which a minority of our customer base continues to use.

“These are equivalent to or better than competitor charges and below various other non-telco organisations. We will also rebate the difference to customers charged the $3.20 fee, where applicable.”

Harking back to Telstra’s once iconic 90s marketing jingle ‘Making it easy for you’ as seen in the video below is Penn’s next statement, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Telstra doesn’t seem to make iconic commercials like this anymore, perhaps Penn can put his thinking cap on, bash his agency around the gills a bit and come up with some incredible marketing, ‘making it easy’ for the next generation to remember Telstra’s advertising.

Here’s the video - it’s from someone’s YouTube account from an old TV so it’s not the highest of definition but it’s still extremely watchable:

Penn said, in his clever harking back to that 90s TV campaign: “Making life as easy as possible for our customers is my number one priority as CEO. We need to run a successful business and price increases need to occur. At the same time, we need to carefully weigh up those changes with customer expectations.”

“So on behalf of the team, I hope these decisions are recognised as our continued commitment to our customers,” Penn concluded, as he paid his very first public Penn-alty for the first major stuff-up of his CEO-ship, aside from the Pacnet hacking scandal which was disclosed just three weeks after Penn became CEO but happened on 3 April.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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