Telco tricks

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In Australia right now there are more mobile phones than there are people and each day that number continues to grow. So too does the bottom line of the three main Telco's that provide us with service.

But now the Industry has been caught out, “snaring" millions of dollars from unsuspecting mobile users and incredibly they get you to activate the trap.
Jonathan Creek reveals the phone companies secret swindle.

If you own a mobile phone, chances are you've been caught out, tricked into programming it yourself, to cost you more.

Phone industry insiders call it a "snare", a default setting that earns Mobile phone providers millions of dollars, straight out of your pocket. “At the moment I seem to be experiencing, over quite some time, that the phone will only actually ring a couple of times and you rush to go and pick it up and then straight away it goes to your answering machine”, said Restaurant worker, Annick Tsilimo, who claims she's a victim.

“There’s nothing wrong with my phone, it is a brand new phone, so I don't understand if my settings are there to ring for 30 seconds, why it doesn't ring for 30 seconds. It gets a bit frustrating”, she added.

The main "snare" works like this -- When you buy a mobile phone you can choose to set up a message bank. If you don't, your phone will ring for thirty seconds before cutting off -- at no cost.

But if you activate a message bank, the default settings determined by the Telco's halves the number of rings, reducing your chances of being able to answer your phone before it diverts.

And that's just what they want, because they charge fees to leave messages and charge again when you connect to your message bank to listen to them.

“I'm absolutely sure it's pre-programmed by the phone companies to raise more revenue, it's just another one of those small, hidden charges that makes ownership and use of mobile phones more expensive that it could be or should be”, Alan Asher from the Australian Communications Action Network.

Alan has calculated that an average missed call costs $1.50 in fees and charges by the time you retrieve the message. Plans vary, but 30 cents connection fee plus 30 cents per 30 seconds is about standard.

Calculate that across Australia's 19 million mobile phone users, multiplied by the number of missed calls and it's clearly big dollars. “Phone companies have been getting away with too much for too long. It's time that consumers took over", Alan added.

2UE radio talkback host Steve Price, was swamped by callers when the "snare" tactic was raised. The complaints are spread across all three major providers ��" Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

Both officially Telstra and Optus' default setting is fifteen seconds to answer a call. You better be quick off the mark if you are signed with Vodafone -- it only allows ten seconds. “ I don't know what Telstra is doing or what Vodfone's doing or 3 or Optus or whoever it is, but there are a lot of people out there who believe that these guys are deliberately gouging money out of them by playing around with the amount of times their phone rings”, Steve said.

Telstra's Craig Middleton denies there's any sinister intent, explaining that 15 seconds is a standard setting adopted when message bank was introduced back in 1996. “The people that are concerned that 15 seconds might not be long enough, our message is if you like 30 seconds, then give us a call -- no problem”, Craig said.

But on the other hand, that's 13 years Telstra have been keeping a code from us, that allows users to increase their own default settings and avoid those added fees.

“Telstra says they are not doing it. I'm still of the view that there is enough suspicion in there to believe that some of the phone companies are trying this on”, Steve said.

“Really you should be given much more choice in the first place”, Alan said.

If you want to change your call duration time before it diverts to voicemail this is how you can do it:

Telstra: dial on the home page ** 61 * 101 ** (Enter No of seconds required) # (green call button)
Optus: Dial 1300 300 937 for customer care
Vodafone: call Customer Care on 1555 from your mobile. It can also be done online, if you are registered for a MyVodafone account.

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