Clueless Telstra iPhone buyers get what they deserve


Matthew Hatton is a disgruntled consumer and opinionated writer based in Newcastle. You can find him on Twitter at @bernietb. This opinion piece was originally published on his blog, The Rant-O-Matic, and is re-published here with his permission.

opinion OK, so I know that Telstra is everybody’s favourite telco bad guy. We all hate the company, it’s only natural. I’m sure at one point in time everyone has had an incorrect bill, an overcharge, problems with talking to some New Delhi-based call centre. It’s a part of Australian life.

That said, I’m also about a bit of fairness and today’s story about Telstra allegedly “rorting” its iPhone 4 customers is just plainly stupid.

The situation is this: Telstra has a number of wholly-owned T-Life stories as well as a number of independently owned franchised T-Life stores. Now, admitedly there’s no way to tell, when you walk into one, whether you’ve gone to a Telstra store or a franchise. But this is a little beside the point.

What has been happening, is that the largely autonomous franchise stores have seen their way to putting extra charges into contracts for people buying an iPhone 4. Which, I believe, that they are more than entitled to do. I mean, why wouldn’t you, as a business owner, want to make profit off a device that’s basically a licence to print money? But even this isn’t really the problem at hand.

What’s gone down is that people have rushed out to purchase an iPhone, ended up at a franchise store, signed a contract, got home and then discovered that they’ve signed up for payments well and truly above what they’d been expecting because they didn’t bother to read what they’d been signing.

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that if you sign your name against something you haven’t even bothered to read then, really, you’re on your own. It’s not Telstra’s fault that you — in your fervour to get your hands on the latest piece of shiny — didn’t bother to remember your common sense.

You cannot blame a business for you being an idiot. If you sign a contract and don’t read it then you really deserve whatever comes out of it. The business isn’t “rorting” you. The business isn’t “stealing” from you. The business isn’t “tricking” you. You’re doing it to yourself.

Consumers need to become more aware of what is involved when they sign up for a service. Saying you didn’t read something isn’t an excuse for you not getting what you wanted.

Take some responsibility, people. It’s only common sense to know what you’re buying and what you’re signing. It’s not Telstra’s fault that you’re an idiot. So shut the frack up. OK?

Image credit: Mark Matthews


  1. Side note:
    All of Telstra’s callcentres are in Australia last I heard.
    So, you might get someone with a “funny” accent that you find difficult to understand. That would be because this is Australia, and we let people with “funny” accents get jobs here.

    • Frankly I don’t personally care where Telstra’s call centre staff are based, but I find that they are useless about 2/3 times I call them. The main problem is being transferred around between multiple different departments.

      • Had a problem with an outstanding credit on a closed account recently so made a call. A very polite lady listened, kept me on hold for maybe a minute came back..all sorted. She did the usual is there anything else… I said no thank you and mentioned it was raining and cold and asked how it was where she was, expecting Adelaide or Melbourne or something similar. Sri Lanka, apparently it was nice there. Call me surprised but she did the job pretty well.

        Telstra certainly do have their near homicide inducing moments, but they’re not that bad…mostly.


        • Yeah about 1/3 of the time that I call them (I have a 3G mobile broadband dongle from Telstra) there is someone that understands and gets it right. The other 2/3 of the time, things are awful, though :(

  2. Whilst I fully accept the point that people should read and understand what they’re signing up for, you don’t think it’s a little naughty that – given it is difficult to differentiate between franchise and company stores – even though you may have undertaken significant online research into Telstra’s listed iPhone plans (on their own website, even on sites such as this one), you wind up paying something entirely different?

    Bait and switch? Maybe not, but I can see how even people who’d done some homework could have been caught out here.

    • I agree — Telstra is partially to blame. But anyone who overlooks a little detail like how much they are paying for a contract when they sign it is also partially to blame.

    • True, and I’m not suggesting that Telstra should escape from this scot-free. But we’ve seen time after time after time of people blaming companies because they’re making their own bad decisions.

      People forget that companies exist to make money. They’re not out there to do you any favours, so you’ve got to be on your guard. Reading anything that anyone asks you to sign is, at worst, common sense. And if you’re not going to bother doing that then you’re going to get what’s coming to you and it’s going to be no one’s fault but your own.

  3. Everybody is clueless about something. Some people are clueless about lots of things. Being clueless, however, should not be used as a licence by the unscrupulous to cheat people.

    If a product–ANY product–has hidden or otherwise non-obvious charges then surely potential buyers have the right to be informed about them.

    And by “informed” I mean explained to them in PLAIN English, not just handed a form composed of three pages of eye-glazing legalese and told to “read this” and sign it.

    • Well we don’t know exactly what happened in this case, but I doubt that the different plans than advertised and extra charges were hidden in three pages of legalese … the charges would have had to be fairly up front and centre. I think there is an element of responsibility here both by the buyer and the seller.

  4. How stupid is this story. When a sales person gets someone to sign a contract, they are legally bound to explain the significant terms of the contract in plain English. This is so that people who do not work in the telecommunications industry understand what they are signing up for.

    Obviously the TLife staff are not explaining the contract fully. Even if this behaviour is somehow legal, it is morally unjustifiable to take advantage of someone who trusts you to be honest.

    Yes people should read the fine print before signing on a contract, but businesses should also do the right thing by their customers. And these Telstra TLife stores clearly aren’t.

  5. I agree everyone should read the contract before signing it but i believe this is getting considerably close to fraud but would definitely be considered false advertising. If a store wants to offer different plans good for them but to not offer the plans which are advertised is down right wrong. Be that T-life or any Telstra dealer.

  6. i hope the author’s mum throws away her retirement nest egg to some fraudster,

    or his daughter.

    • Yes, because critiquing someone’s ability to purchase a mobile phone and a contract is worthy of being punished with bankruptcy. Bit harsh ;)

  7. Huh, what? If someone lies to you about what’s in a contract, then tells you to sign it, how in any way are they not “tricking” or “rorting” you? One can make the argument that you should have read it anyway, but one can hardly say you weren’t tricked.

    • To be honest, from what I hear the Telstra franchisees didn’t lie about what was in the contract — they just lied about the available options. “Normal plans not available” etc. I think Matthew has a valid point here — sure, this is deceitful behaviour, but there has to be some consumer responsibility as well. If a plan has been advertised, I would personally question a low-level Telstra employee who told me it wasn’t available. But then again, I have a natural level of suspicion, being a journalist ;)

  8. As an indicator, when you walk into a Telstra franchise shop the salesmen/women are all over you and won’t let you browse peacefully. They may even have a floor manager controlling the sales force and prioritising customers (the bigger the prospect, the faster the service).
    The Telstra owned shop on the other hand is the one with the queue of bored disgruntled customers waiting for service, especially on weekends. Or the one where the sales people walk all around you without giving a second look even though you have been waiting at the counter for 15 minutes – later they will ask you in complete surprise “Oh, is anyone looking after you?”

  9. My Nokia N95 finally karked it, not even lasting the 2 year contract with Telstra so I looked up on the Teltra site for a new mobile phone, this time a robust tradies phone the Telstra T 90 and it was selling for $360.00 outright. Well I went down to the Pt Melbourne Telstra shop and guess what they want $500 and something, lucky I took a print out with me so I got it for $360.00

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