Friday, November 7, 2014

The Optus experience - Part 1: Research

I've been looking into the Optus Prepaid Daily" mobile plan. As a very light user, this plan, with a 6 months expiry on credit (as opposed to 30 days with most other plans) and overall reasonable rates, seems to be the right product for me.

Navigating around the Optus website is mostly straight forward; you'll find the product you're after fairly quickly. The basic information regarding voice calls, messaging, and data use within Australia is clearly spelled out. Other items, such as international rates, are listed "somewhere else".

International call rates are easy enough to find. International messaging (SMS / MMS), however, is a different story. No price, no hint as where to find it, not even a link along the lines of "click here for more prices".

With roaming, it's a similar story. It starts out promising enough, with a "see our prepaid roaming rates" link on the product page taking you directly to the, well, roaming page. That's as straight forward as it can be, I give you that (ok, listing the link under the heading Low roaming rates constitutes a blatant lie, but that's a different story).

On the roaming page, you pick the relevant country, and a pop-up window gives you all the rates – well, sort of. The price for MMS to AU number is listed as Standard national MMS rate for your plan. Huh? Under the prepaid plan in question, I get unlimited (national) MMS (and SMS) messages once the daily $ 1.00 has been triggered. Does that mean I can send unlimited MMS to Australian numbers for $ 1.00 per day while I'm overseas? Considering that SMS to AU number is listed at $ 0.50 per message, I find that highly unlikely.

At this stage, I naively decide to give the Optus live chat feature that's so heavily promoted thruout the site a go. Blake, the friendly Optus Sales Consultant, responds quickly, but it's all downhill from there (I should have been warned when he introduced himself as a "consultant"). I put the question regarding SMS / MMS to international numbers to him, and he says he'll be "right with me". What follows are a series of "Thank you for waiting. I'll be right with you" messages (presumably automated), and then … Blake is gone! Disconnected.

Back on the product site, at the very bottom, is the infamous small print. Well, some of it. And among that small print, a link to the Critical Information Summary" (CIS) indicates that all might not be lost after all. The link takes you to the CIS library, rather than to the document that actually applies to the product, and you'll have to find your own way to the document (PDF) that applies to the product of your choice.

Once you have found the relevant CIS, you are rewarded with most of the information you've been looking for. It's all listed right there; non-standard call rates (directory, video calls, premium messages, etc), and International Messaging rates.

The CIS seems to be a pretty comprehensive source of information. It's mind-boggling that it doesn't occur to an Optus sales rep to at least look it up and see if it might answer the questions of the customer they're "helping".

On a side note, the CIS also states that while your credit on the Prepaid Daily plan expires after 6 months, you must recharge at least 30 days before expiry in order to keep the service active. That's not mentioned anywhere on the shiny product page, where the (supposedly) low rates and the long expiration period are advertised. Sneaky bastards!

Despite all this, I decide to go ahead. Read about actually signing up here.

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