Sunday, August 3, 2014

Studies in Contract Law: Cancelling a Mobile Plan With Optus!

So I've been in a bit of a battle with Optus over trying to cancel my mobile plan with them since I'm now living overseas. There's been a bit of back and forth with them since I started complaining on their Facebook page, but not much real progress. I would love to resolve situations like this without resorting to bitching on social media, but since their telephone support follow a script and don't seem to even speak particularly good English, and they make it more or less impossible to find a valid email address to write to (at least I couldn't find one), they didn't leave me much option.

My one avenue (other than going to court) if I can't resolve it with them it to lodge a complaint with the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), but they will only step in if you've made a reasonable attempt to resolve the issue directly.

So I ended up writing quite a long message to Optus laying out the situation and how I want it resolved. I decided to post it here since I'm interested to hear if people think I argued the case reasonably, or if I should have worded things differently, or if you think I'm wrong!

It's also here, of course, because I think if Optus is going to treat its customers badly the least I can do is let other people be aware of it.

So without further ado, here is the full text of the third and final message I wrote to them about the problem:

Let me begin by saying that this is the third time I've had to contact Optus through this form and I won't do it again. If you don't resolve my issue reasonably this time, I will be lodging a complaint with the TIO because I've given you more than enough chance to find a fair resolution, but since you've requested for me to contact you again through this form, I will give it one last try, so please take it seriously.

As I've previously stated, I have moved overseas with 7 months left on my $60 a month iPhone 5 contract, so I need to cancel it. I understand that my iPhone was on a discount payment plan while on contract, and so by leaving the contract I need to pay 7 * $27 = $189 for the remaining cost of the phone. That is reasonable. My problem is with the extortionate cancellation fees you're trying to charge me, making the total cost to cancel first $692, then $520, and the latest offer was $470.

If I pay out the remainder of my contract normally, it is roughly $420. This is the remaining value on my contract. Optus has absolutely no standing in saying that you deserve more than $420 to cancel a contract that only has $420 of remaining value to it. There are no extra costs to Optus for me to leave early. If anything Optus gains by not having to provide 7 months of service it would otherwise have to pay.

Now, you can try to point out the fact that these cancellation fees are stated in our contract. As I pointed out on the Facebook page, these are contract terms that all Optus customers are held to, which include an entire section 2A of customer terms that list all the conditions under which Optus is allowed to change the terms of the contract, and a clause 2A.8 which states that customers effectively can't make any changes to the contract. The point here is that the contracts customers sign with Optus are clearly very one sided and demonstrate that customers effectively have no real bargaining power to negotiate the specific terms of their contracts. You can't reasonably claim that there is any way Optus would have signed an agreement with me that contained more reasonable cancellation terms.

Because of all this, if we were to go to court and Optus tried to claim that it had the right to extract cancellation fees from me greater than the remaining value of the contract, something which is clearly unreasonable, you would almost certainly lose. But of course, I'm now living overseas and am in no position to waste my time taking you to court over $420. However, I'm quite happy to have the TIO look into this if you're unwilling to be reasonable.

Given the particular circumstances that I've been a loyal Optus customer for over a decade, as well as the fact that I'm not trying to cancel my contract to go to a competitor, but simply because I've moved overseas and so can no longer make use of the service, I would think that Optus would have been happy to allow me to terminate at a reasonable cost, rather than make a few short term dollars in return for losing me and my wife as customers forever, along with potential other lost customers due to all the negative representation you're now getting amongst my social networks.

I consider a reasonable resolution of this situation to be a cancellation fee that falls between $189 and $420, plus you switching me to your cheapest prepaid plan so that I can transfer my mobile number to it so that I don't lose it for when I eventually move back to Australia.

If you don't agree to a resolution along these lines then I will submit a complaint to the TIO about the matter, since I will not consider it reasonably settled. I'm sorry for the length of this message, but given the repeated back and forth already over this matter I felt it necessary to spell out the precise details of the situation.

Adam Rutkowski

UPDATE:  After receiving this message from me, Optus finally came around and agreed to cancel my contract for $250. That seems somewhat more reasonable, and a hell of a lot better than the $692 they originally tried to charge. Moral of the story: apparently you have to bitch to big companies publicly on social media in order to get reasonable treatment these days.