Don’t stay too long on the phone. Consumer groups have hit out at Optus’ increased mobile charges, effective from yesterday. The revisions, which have been rolled out since last last year, mean Optus mobile customers will be charged in one-minute blocks – a move away from per second cost structure, for all national and overseas calls.

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Staying on the phone too long is no longer a good idea.

Basically, customers will be charged per minute of talktime, so if you talk for a minute and ten seconds you will be charged for two minutes.

So, who much will the charges set you back? Pricing differs depending on your plan but the general rule of thumb is if the pricing is 40c for 30 seconds, it will now double to 80c per minute.

Customers on $49 Optus plan will now pay $1.05 per minute, compared to 75c previously.

It is also introducing the regime for Optus home phone users from November 27.

However, the change is affecting just 5 percent of its customer base, who were on older plans and are now being moved over to the new structure, an Optus spokesperson told SmartHouse.

The vast majority of customers moved over to the new per-minute regime 18 months ago.

Optus also denied accusations of a “blatant cash grab” – voiced by consumer group Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) , saying it is simply playing catch up with rivals like Telstra, who introduced per-minute billing in March.

“Its about updating billing structure to keep in line with the market. If you look at Vodafone and Telstra they already have this in place” said the Optus spokesperson.

Telstra said the change would add an extra 2 per cent on to user bills. The per-minute regime “is just another way to make you pay more,” said Choice’s Christopher Zinn, criticising Telstra’s move earlier this year.

The SingTel owned telco are also giving users the right to walk away if they are not happy with the new arrangement: “If a customer chooses to cancel their plan as a result of these changes, their cancellation fees will be waived.”

However, Optus customers are not happy, voicing their ire on Whirlpool’s forum: “What kind of deal is this? I tried ringing Optus but their was an “extended delay”. I tried to visit the website optus.com.au/planupdate however the website has fallen over,” one wrote having been informed in a letter of the change.

Another said: “If I was in the habit of making many short (<30secs) phone calls then they have just doubled the amount of revenue they would be collecting from me.


“Even if I wasn’t in that habit, then calls I make that go just over a minute are subject to another doubling of the charge. It would appear that Optus has been taking predation lessons from Tel$tra.”
Later this month, Optus will change to the one minute block structure for all national STD and fixed to mobile calls on some fixed line phones to “bring us in line with others in the industry.”

The majority of Optus’ fixed line customers are on unlimited plans or plans with included value, thus changes will have limited impact on their monthly bill.

On the Home Starter plan, a 29 second national call costs $0.85c today; it will cost $1.25c after the 27 November.

While this is a “significant increase”, the actual impact on customers will be nowhere near this magnitude, given the majority of customers make longer calls, have call value or unlimited calls included in their plans, the telco insists.

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