Telstra is scamming people into taking home accessories they don’t want or need by telling them in-store that it’s all free and part of their new plan; staff even pressure people into taking the accessories after significant protest because, as they stress, it’s all for FREE! But then the bill arrives and there’s an ARO or Accessories Repayment Option of between $10 – $20 per month for these ‘free’ accessories. This is not only deceitful and despicable behaviour, it hurts people financially and massively contributes to a growing ewaste problem! It’s incredibly irresponsible and I’m pissed off.
It happened to me a couple of years ago, even after I spent about 3 hours in the store going over all our details to make sure I understood what we were getting and how much it would cost. I told the Telstra employee that I did not want any of the accessories I was being offered because I had no use for a purse with a built-in charger or most of the other crap that was offered. But the employee continued to pressure me to pick out some accessories because it was FREE.
Eventually, I reluctantly settled on a portable speaker which might be useful for my presentations and a power bank to take hiking. But then the bill arrived… when I realised I was paying for these accessories I was embarrassed and blamed myself for the error – because it can be hard to understand these plans (I know I’m not the only one who feels like this), and I left it at that.
Then last month the same thing happened to my husband when he went to replace his irreparable phone. Despite significant protest, they convinced him that all the items in this photo (there’s an iPad in there too) were for free and that he had to take them. As it turns out, his bill contains not one but FOUR different repayment plans that he didn’t want! We were furious.
A quick bit of Googling revealed that thousands of people are being scammed in this way and they aren’t happy about it. There are even Telstra employees admitting to this practice.
A few people have been successful at having their money returned but have still had to pay cancellation fees. Others give up and hoard the accessories in drawers and cupboards. Some people give their accessories away and don’t even realise they’re paying for them. And some people end up keeping the accessories and devices because they loaded all their ‘stuff’ onto them and now feel they can’t give them back, even though they didn’t want them in the first place. It all contributes to ewaste! And ewaste is a big problem!
My husband has had to waste hours of his time over the past few weeks making phone calls to Telstra to rectify this problem and it still hasn’t been resolved. He got to a point where Telstra was going to send a bag to collect all the items and send a new bill with all the repayment plans removed, but then nothing happened and the next time he called, there was no acknowledgement or record of the situation and his previous calls.
We’re not giving up! I think our next step is Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
I’m also trying to think of a way that I can impact this business practice to help reduce the ewaste problem. Please share your ideas.
Apparently, the ARO accessory repayment option is a misleading add on provided by third party Telstra stores like the Vita Group Limited Telstra Licensed Stores, not all licensees engage in this deceptive behaviour.
Here is another blog post I found about this Telstra scam that I think is worth reading along with the comments.
UPDATE 1st September 2019:
After 3 months pursuing this and four interventions on our behalf by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman we won the fight against Pakenham Telstra store. At first, after some time, they backed down and took back the more valuable items like the iPad, but it shows how worthless the other items actually are, because they didn’t even want them back. However, they sent a bill with hundreds of dollars of cancellation fees. We refused to pay until it was fixed and then they started adding late fees. Every time the TIO got involved they’d say they’d fix it but wouldn’t, until this week we finally got a correct bill and paid it. All over now at last. Don’t give up if you’re fighting this battle too.