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24 August 2007

Phone bills

Let me say first that I do NOT like paying too much for anything I use. When it comes to bank fees and phone costs, that feeling is doubled.

Our Optus bill arrived yesterday. This is never a problem as the way we've set up our budget, we always have enough money in the bank to pay each bill as they arrive. I gave up just paying the bill without reading it a long time ago, but when I read through this bill, our line rental charges had been increased. Line rental used to cost us $34.54, now it is $50. and just for good measure: " from 1 October 2007, bill payments made with a credit, debit or charge card will incur a payment processing fee of 1% for residential and small and medium business customers." grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I started doing some research.

Just a few details, this optus bill of $106.74 was broken down like this:
Line rental 26 July - 18 Aug - $38.71
Line rental 19 Aug - 18 Sept - $50.00
Which came to: $88.71

National calls x 5 = $3.44
Calls to mobiles x 7 = $4.89
Local calls x 17 = $3.06
Calls to 1300 x 2 = 50 cents

Less discount = $3.56

Plus GST = $9.70

TOTAL $106.74

So for $11.89 in call costs, we had a bill for $106.74, in which the $34 line rental cost had been increased by roughly one third. One one of the charges was retrospective! This was the line rental increase which started on July 26, without our knowledge.

We are also paying Optus $39.95 for 12 GB of broadband usage. We have a Virgin mobile for which we are charged around $5 a month, but our last invoice was for 50 cents. LOL ! We have an account where we only pay for what we use. As you can see, we don't use our phones much anymore. When we started to simplify we cut it right back and use either Skype or emails instead. We thought of getting a VOIP phone but 10 minutes on that uses up approximately 1 Mb and the quality isn't always good, so we decided against it.

First up I phoned Optus to complain about the rising costs, the retrospective payment and told them we were thinking of leaving them and could we renegotiate a new deal. NO, they couldn't.

I looked into a few options but we've decided to go with Telstra. This is their deal:

Home phone - we'll probably go with their Homeline completed service which costs $26.95 a month, local calls are 20 cents each and STD calls are capped at $2 from 7pm - 12mn. We also get $25 worth of free calls to our own mobile. There is a bonus of a text message enabled cordless twin phone if we stay for 12 months on this plan. The phones comes when you sign up, if you leave before the 12 months, you have to repay the price of the phone - $150.

I'm not sure yet what we'll do with the broadband and mobile. If Telstra can offer a good enough deal, we'll transfer them over too.

I'd be interested to know from the Australian readers if you know of any good deals going and what the service is like on your own service. I have until 9 September to decide what to do and change over.


  1. GGrrr, phone companies make me mad ~ that is ridiculous what Optus has done without your knowledge let alone consent to continue with them!!

    We are with netspace
    for home phone and internet. hubbie likes unlimited broadband so we hunted around when we moved into this house in Feb. and this was the best for us. No paper bills either, all done on line.

  2. I know mostly this won't help you much because I'm in the US, but I offer it as my solution to inexpensive phone connection:

    When I moved to northern Idaho in January 2004, I had only my cell phone (with Verizon Wireless). It took moving to a different city to 'cut the cord' from my landline phone, which I basically used for Internet access (which was cost free from my job at the University).

    Luckily, I currently have Internet access at work, and have enough 'down tie' that I can use it for personal communication. I refuse to pay for cable or a landline or satellite television that I don't want just to have Internet connection.

    My monthly phone bill is around $44.00. One of my daughters is also with Verizon so all of my calls to/from her are "free" (no minutes charged). My calling plan is a national one so I can call anywhere in the U.S. with no minutes charged on the weekends & after 9pm and before 6am on weekdays. Since my mother lives 2 time zones away, the before-6am works well if I must call her during the week.

    I have found this the simplest & most frugal method for me to have phone access. I always have my phone with me (unless I'm working in the garden). I've already found it very useful when I've have car problems, so won't be without one.

    When I retire in a few years, I'm hoping the technology will have improved AND be priced more reasonably for me to gain wireless hookup. Right now, Verizon has developed a PC Card wh/eliminated either cable or landline hookups - I saw one in action at the local county fair last evening & asked questions about it. It seems to be what I'm looking for, but costs around $60.00/month - too much!

    I have found that I have none of the problems with my cell phone service that I had with the landline company. I have a very plain phone, not a lot of 'bells & whistles' - which I probably couldn't use anyway (ha-ha) I can barely manage the functions that DO come with the phone.

    Okay, I'll get off my little soapbox now - I guess I have some strong feelings about this!?!
    Carla in North Idaho

  3. Hi Ali, I'm going to check out Netscape now. Thanks for the tip. : )

    Carla, even if you are overseas, there are many readers here from the US, Canada and the UK and your info may help one of them. I did want to get rid of the landline, but wireless broadband is still to expensive here. Maybe it will be affordable in the future. I must say thought that your deals over there are similar to the ones we have here. Thanks for your input. : )

  4. Rhonda, a friend on an internet parenting forum was complaining of exactly this a couple of days ago - a massive increase in line rental to $55 (with GST?) and no advance notice. She is furious too, and I'm disgusted.

    I don't really have a solution as phone bills are what I am working on reducing constantly. I do have a good mobile deal with Telsta - $250 worth of calls/SMS for $50 rental per month. I try to use that before using my landline, but other people aren't so inclined to call you on a mobile as a landline so I don't think it is a substitute. The only advice I really have is to avoid Dodo. They do cheap packages for everything but I have heard nothing but complaints about their internet service.

  5. Telstra will get you too, don't worry.
    I just received my latest bill from them.
    They tell me that "in response to customer preference" I am now to be billed monthly instead of quarterly for my landline, and that my landline and internet will be billed together instead of separately. Quietly and sneakily bundled into this change they have also started billing a month in advance instead of a month in arrears, so this month I have to give them an extra two months payment ($120 or so) which will now earn interest in their account instead of mine.
    Their bill says it was issued on 10 August, but I only received it on 23 Aug and it is due for payment on 27 Aug. If I don't pay it on time, they will charge me $5 extra.
    The last two pages of their bill list several other services that have been reduced, removed or will cost more. Grrr indeed.
    I have found Virgin pay as you go great for mobiles - my daughter and I both use this and we get free text and 5c per minute calls between our phones. Like you, my calls cost very little, but the surrounding fees and charges are nothing short of scandalous compared with the affordable public telephone service that used to be provided in the past. Go free enterprise - I think NOT.

  6. Check out this site Rhonda - I haven't looked at it closely, but it might help to compare services.

  7. Oh man. That's an ENORMOUS bill. We pay $19.95 p/m for budget line rental with Telstra, and then about $5 of local calls each month. I guess this would go up a bit if you made more local calls, but we don't make many. We make long distance calls on our mobile phones as we have good deals with these - I am on the Virgin mobile beancounter plan (20c flagfall plus 10c per minute means a 10 minutes phone call costs $1.20, and a 20 minutes phone call costs $2.20 (I never usually talk longer than 20 minutes)).

    As far as broadband goes, we are on $39.95 for 512/128k 5GB. If I see a better deal plan, I will seriously consider changing, as I think this is far too expensive. It was the best deal I could find when I was looking six months ago. There are better deals if you bundle other services, but as we only play around $5 per month for our home phone calls and you still need line rental if you want ADSL, they didn't actually save us any money.

    PS I remember hearing that Telstra don't offer the budget line rental to new customers anymore. I don't understand why line rental has gone up so much... it's not like we're getting better service than we used to!

  8. I feel an Optus rant coming on :( I have had nothing but trouble with Optus for the last 12 months and getting onto their 'service centre' is a joke. Just finding someone that can speak english is a nightmare.
    I had recently switched to their all inclusive homeone plan for $59 which includes line rental, and $59 worth of calls. Sounds great in theory but what they don't tell you is they jack up the price of all the calls!! Then they sent me a letter saying that my $59 plan has risen to $69!!! Now with the $69 I get local, mobile, national and international calls and at reasonable prices so it will be interesting to see if I actually end up saving any money. Both my dd's are std calls so I do make quite a few calls but very few local and mobile calls. I got a bill last week for $75.71 because they 'forgot' to take off the national saver plan(extra $5) which I was paying extra for with my last plan. National calls are capped at $2.27(plus GST) 24/7.
    I am paying $51.95 for my internet(with Optus) which is far too high so I need to look for something cheaper. Mobile I pay $18 p/m with $18 calls, I rarely go over that.

  9. Rhonda that's disgusting, but I'm not surprised unfortunately :-( I've had nothing but trouble from both Telstra and Optus over the years, and I refuse to use either. Even the small local company I was using until last year eventually changed their billing service and I couldn't stand the invoice stuff-ups anymore. I now hunt around for small service providors, I find that they are easier to deal with and are *much* more likely to negotiate, and provide good customer service. I'm now with the Southern Phone Company, a community-owned company which services a lot of NSW and they have been excellent to deal with (so far). Doesn't help you though I'm sorry! My bill is still around $45 per month - for which I pay around $35 in line rental and caller ID (in advance).

    I hope you find a plan that works for you, it's an onerous task comparing isn't it? Cheers, Julie.

  10. Thanks Deborah, I need to know who to avoid.

    Marg, yes, I really like the Virgin mobile service. I also found this morning that Virgin have a good home phone and wireless broadband bundle that's quite good. It's $60 a month for phone + broadband with unlimited local calls and free calls to Virgin mobiles. Only problem is they don't have coverage over our area. Thanks for the link.

    Louise, I think we might end up with something similar to what you have. Having spend much of the morning comparing plans, I'm convinced they complicate things just to confuse us.

    Michelle, it's incredible how many people complain about then big two. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't end up calling the telecommunications ombudsman.

    Julie, thank you for the tip to look for the small local providers. I actually know the people who run the wireless service at Maleny. I'm going to ask what they charge. Thanks. : )

  11. I am in a funny spot for phone calls. My partner lives half an hour away and its a long distance call (call me soppy but I like to call him each night!) My mum also long distance and even to call my workplace (only 20 from here) long distance! Ridiculuos, I have a plan with Telstra and pay $90 a month and that covers all calls! it works out heaps cheaper than what I was paying! Still pricey but it is always $90 never anymore and Ive been on it for 12 months

  12. We are in exactly the same boat... and I mean exactly. I phoned OPTUS and argued with them about quality service for regional people, but unfortunately we are not the demographic they are trying to reach. So, I too am currently doing my homework to avoid paying $55 line rental to make 14 local calls a month. At this stage I think I will go with the Telstra budget line for $19.95 and use a phone card for my long distance calls. The only problem is that I had a deal with optus that gave me discounted internet. I am concerned that if I change to Telstra Optus will drop my internet or change my plan. The biggest problem is changing your email address for everything like bill etc that come electronically to reduce paper.
    So, I am right there with you Rhonda and if you're listening optus, we are not happy consumers !!!

  13. I am with Telstra homeline plus rental and pay 29.94 per month. Local calls about 16 cents, and STD calls capped at $2 for 20 min calls between 7am-7pm. $2 capped for 3 hours 7pm -7am. I can also ring any telstra mobile for $2 for first 20mins. My internet is now a bit expensive compared to your other comments but I signed up for a 2 year contract which I think was in the long run a good deal. I have broadband unlimited or 10GB and pay 69.95 per month Bigpond Telstra.(for the first 1 year I only paid 39.95 for unlimited broadband). I have been very happy with the service although I initially had big doubts and concerns with Telstra, they have been good. I was reluctant to go with the smaller companies as I didn't want technological gliches or problems. Also I wanted to really get into learning and using the internet to its best use and so wanted unlimited or 10GB. I also pay 4.95 per month for anti virus, and 4.95 per month for firewall, again through bigpond. My new change to reduce my costs is that I have a telstra prepaid mobile phone and I can choose any 5 telstra landlines or mobiles numbers, and I pay $30 and get 30 days of ABSOLUTELY FREE calls any time, any day, for as long as possible for FREE. After the 30 days I plan still to have my $30 day credit unused and so will use that for the next month. Thus making my mobile bill hopefully $15 month and significantly reduce the STD charges I incur on my landline bill when I make STD calls to family.

  14. Hi rhonda, thought I would throw my 5c in - I am with AAPT for home and broadband and virgin prepaid mobile - couldn't be happier. Go check them out :) The rates seem a bit less than the other big two - my only gripe would be I waited about 20 minutes one night on hold for some tech support on my broadband - but I only see that as one small glitch. They also have a BYO mobile plan which is $5 a month for I think $20 calls but since I use my mobile very little I like the virgin pre-paid I have :)
    Hope this helps
    take care.


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