Hey Telcos, lift your game and stop lying!

Optus have been served a Federal Court injunction preventing them from doing further misleading advertising. Optus is one of the worst in the sneaky behaviour department, with insane amounts of fine print in every piece of marketing they do. Have a look at this quick analysis of their fine print I did a while back, and a quick check shows it's still pretty accurate. Optus aren't, however, alone in this. All telcos have whole departments of people trying to find sneaky ways to legally say one thing when they mean another, to change plans so prospective customers can't compare them with competitors' plans and generally shonky tactics.

Here's a challenge for you, telco marketing people: become the only telco with a "no fine print" rule. Make a big thing of it. Sure, you'll certainly end up with some kind of formal contract, but start with your advertising, marketing and web site. Get a culture where the test becomes "would an ordinary, non-telco employee get the truth from reading this".

I think a telco taking this approach would have a genuine advantage in the marketplace. A significant proportion of the market are sick of lying, sneaky telcos and just want straightforward propositions.

Now I hear you say it's too hard, the ACCC requires us to have all these weasel words and fine print.  I call bullshit.  I've worked on copy writing for telcos, and it's possible to avoid funny symbols pointing to fine print. First up, you have to tell the truth. Difficult, I know, but doable.  Next up you need to find someone in your legal team who can handle being challenged on their calls.  Lawyers are there to give you advice on the legal risk of what you're doing, not lay down what you can and can't say. Push the envelope with them, force them to come up with words you can use that are true and won't get you sued.  It's hard work, but it's actually quite fun!

So how about it Australian telcos?  Is Australia ready for a no-bullshit telco?

ObDisclaimer: I am a contractor for Telstra, though I have barely anything to do with product management or product marketing.  I'm just the dude who collects and crunches the web numbers. My views are my own, not my employers' views.

Why don't we all switch banks?

The Prime Minister is telling angry bank customers to "take their money and their business somewhere else". For your transaction and savings accounts, this is reasonably easy. If you have a mortgage, it's quite difficult.

I attempted to move our transaction accounts to the ING Direct "Orange Everyday" account. It has some very compelling features: no fees from any ATM when you withdraw $200 or more at a time, free EFTPOS cash out for any amount (and they even pay you $0.50 when you get over $200 out this way) and no monthly fees.

The thing that stopped it? Actually it was the Federal Governments anti-money laundering KYC process.  I'd signed up without using Holly's middle name. Her middle name is on her identification. Australia Post would not validate the document unless it also included her middle name.  Erm.

That said, the PM's suggestion has got me thinking I should try again.

Some other things I'll have to sort out:
  • Automatic payments, including my mortgage and to my high-interest savings account (UBank have been the winners there for some time).
  • I handle the money for our fruit and veg co-op, so everyone there will have to update the details they use.
  • I'll have to learn to use a new Internet banking service.

All up, these aren't really show stoppers.  Changing mortgages, however, would be a big deal. We don't need to, as we have an excellent mortgage provider, but for those who do, the government needs to get involved to make switching easier.

For a comparison of low-fee transaction accounts, Choice has a review. I'll give a spoiler for those who don't subscribe to Choice: ING Direct Orange Everyday and NAB Classic Banking are the "Best Buys".

Spreets: a bit shonky, a lot badly organised

The concept of the Groupon has been going on in Australia for a bit. Essentially it's a "deal a day" idea where, if enough people sign on to the day's deal, it happens. Suppliers can use it to build interest or get rid of stock. Bargain hunters can get good deals.

I've followed a few of them and yesterday bought up an offer on Spreets for some good quality meat.  The offer looked good at $99 for a fair selection of good quality meat.  Sneakily there was an additional $25 delivery charge, which is pretty shoddy (and likely illegal under the Trade Practices Act) behaviour. I spotted the sneaky fee and still thought it a good deal at $124.

When the coupon arrived this morning, I tried to check out only to find the seller's site didn't recognise the coupon code. To be fair to Spreets, they responded to my enquiry pretty quickly, and it seems the problem was sorted out.

Next problem comes when I can finally pay for the goods, they now want to add a payment fee to the delivery fee! There's three payment methods, all of which incur additional fees.  Now we're getting into the territory of completely out-of-order. This is like the airlines charging a "credit card fee" while providing no other mechanism to pay.  It's just not on.

I'll be getting my money back thanks Spreets.


I know the feeling. I bet this sign went up on a Tuesday.

This is a house around the corner on Illawarra Road that had an open house on Saturday, so we went and had a sticky. Turns out it's a house I lived in for two weeks about fifteen years ago.  As I was moving into the house, I noticed a copy uniform jacket hanging on a hook by the front door.  I asked my new flatmate whose that was and it turns out her boyfriend was a cop, and he stayed most nights.  That hadn't come up when I was deciding whether to move in!  I immediately started looking and was out two weeks later.

Sun, beer, friends

We had a wonderful afternoon down at the Concordia Club, drinking German beer, eating schnitzel and pork knuckle, hanging out in the sun.  A fantastic, lazy Sunday.

In the photos are Matt's pork knuckle, an "after" shot when Louis picked up and sucked on a lemon (I wish I'd had the video camera rolling), and Jameson and Maz with pilfered flowers.  Videos are material for the documentary that will be made when Louis is a world famous footballer, and Jameson grooving to the Schlager.