Optus DSL hard-sell not winning friends

As Optus rushes into the DSL market, their "hard sell" methods might not be making friends everywhere.

IT technician Gregory Rowell believes Optus manipulated and confused one of his clients into signing up for a DSL service that was not needed or wanted.

"My client does not speak English very well, and was confused into signing up for a DSL service and an Optus phone when all he wanted was a straight dial-up service," said Rowell.

Rowell said his client asked Optus for a dial-up Internet service and was told he would receive a letter and a CD-ROM in the mail.

"Two to three weeks later he had not received any information and returned to the office at Macquarie Centre. They suggested that the account details had been lost and they would have to start the paperwork again," he said.

"My client waited another few weeks before approaching Optus again, at which point he was told he needed an Optus telephone account, which he is now signed up for!"

Rowell said that days later, the client received a letter telling him that he had been signed up to a DSL account, which was not what he had asked for.

He said that when his client tried to call Optus to ask about this, he was barraged with staff trying to "hard-sell" the benefits of DSL. Rowell said the same happened to himself when he phoned Optus.

"As an IT technician I was trying to determine what was happening and why my client was being signed up to this account. All the while I was trying to ascertain the problem I was barraged with benefits of DSL!," Rowell said.

"I continued to tell the lady that I did not care about the benefits and that I just wanted to know what was happening and why my client was being given a DSL account when that is not what he wanted."

Rowell has taken the case to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), where it has been passed on to a special task force.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received 746 complaints last year related to Internet contracts. One third of these were at the point of sale.

Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) project manager for consumer contract codes, Holly Raiche, said there were plenty of codes in place to prevent this sort of occurrence.

"I think the TIO will find that this instance has breached a number of those codes. This just shouldn't have happened," she said.

One such code, the Consumer Contracts code, (www.acif.org.au), is available for public comment until November 5. It deals with the fairness and intelligibility of telecommunications contracts.

An Optus spokesperson claimed that Optus maintained a high level of customer service and worked with customers to determine the best plans and products to suit their needs.

"Our top priority is to maintain strong customer relationships that promote longevity," she said. "Optus ensures all customers are treated fairly and equally."

Optus is considering plans to build its own DSL network infrastructure. It currently has 250,000 broadband subscribers, of which more than 60,000 are DSL customers.

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