We have agreed with the ACCC to jointly submit to the Federal Court that we pay a penalty relating to the management of our PDB service.
Premium Direct Billing enables our mobile customers to buy content such as games, apps or videos from third parties by subscribing or purchasing online and have it charged to their mobile phone bill. These services had been introduced by a number of mobile providers to give customers a convenient way of charging certain types of online services to their phone bill.
A large proportion of customers who decided to subscribe to a service were happy with it, however the number of complaints received over time shows there were issues with the PDB service that needed to be addressed.
I want to apologise to any customer who has been charged under our Premium Direct Billing service unexpectedly for these subscription content services and to those who may have experienced difficulty when trying to opt out from them.
And I acknowledge that customers may have raised concerns and I understand that the steps we took over the years in response were not effective and put in place fast enough. We did not get this right, and I apologise.
Following our decision to stop providing new subscription based services in December, from earlier this month we completely exited this service.
PDB services have been recognised as an issue for the broader telecommunications industry – we took a number of steps to improve our processes, but acknowledge we could have done more and done it faster. At Telstra, providing a great customer experience is our top priority and we recognise that our management of this service hasn’t always allowed us to deliver good experiences.
Our number one priority, right now, is working to continue to identify customers who have been impacted through being charged for third party PDB subscriptions, they either didn’t knowingly subscribe to or had tried to opt out of unsuccessfully.
We have a dedicated team working through this and we will commence contacting these customers from next week.
Once we have identified impacted customers, we’ll be proactively reaching out to them, but if you’re concerned about PDB charges on your account you can contact us directly.
Our number one priority is customer experience and the large majority of our customers have a great experience, but we don’t get it right all the time and in cases where we identify issues we will absolutely take the steps to rectify it. In this case, we have committed to identify, contact and offer to refund impacted customers, and we have now completely exited this service.
Background: Premium Direct Billing enables mobile customers to purchase online content such as games, apps and videos from third parties on a subscription or one-off basis by pressing on a subscribe now or purchase now button or similar and to have it charged directly to their mobile bill. We exited this service entirely on 3 March 2018. We will continue to enable customers to purchase some content from third party providers and have it charged directly to their mobile phone bill – more information on these services can be found here.
Vicki Brady is currently Group Executive Telstra Consumer & Small Business, commencing in the position in September 2017. She has extensive executive leadership experience in telecommunications and services companies both in Australia and internationally.
An interview with our CTO: How technology will find better ways for people to connect
Håkan Eriksson is Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) charged with the exciting responsibility to inspire, set direction for and accelerate Telstra’s journey to being a world class technology company. Originally from Sweden, Håkan has held similar roles and responsibilities across the technology industry in addition to holding an Honorary Ph.D and studies at the prestigious Stanford University. Here’s an exclusive insight to his first 120 days in office.
I started in my role at Telstra in early 2017 by attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it wasn’t my first time attending, but this time would be different.
Walking through the conference for the 19th time, I was seeing things in a new light as this time I was coming as an operator and not a vendor.
This time I could look around, ask questions, and see what everyone else was doing rather than being relegated just to the Ericsson booth. While it was fun, wearing a competitor’s badge meant you weren’t allowed into other stands to see what they were showing off.
In my new role, I could go anywhere, talk to anyone, hear fresh perspectives and critically think about how I could apply them to the work I knew I’d be starting as the Chief Technology Officer at Telstra.
But of course, this begs the question, why Telstra? I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years and seen much change in that time. I’ve worked on 2G, 3G, and 4G. Now, 5G is just around the corner and Telstra will be the operator conducting the first live trial in Australia.
That technology is really exciting and that’s part of what drew me here – it’s an opportunity to work on pioneering tech that’s going to build upon and improve what already exists.
Personally, I’ve got lots of connected devices at home like tablets, Sonos speakers, Telstra Smart Home appliances and more. People have been slowly collecting these connected devices, part of what we call the Internet of Things, without realising it so you might be surprised by how many devices you have already that are part of this connected future.
This presents a unique opportunity for us to ask some important questions about how we can best use this technology, how can we secure it, and how can we help people to adopt it so they can thrive in a connected world.
The technology we’re working on at Telstra extends beyond this to include AI, Big Data analytics, and more. To some extent, these technologies already exist in some form. Even now, when you’re leaving the office (at least for me) when I look at my phone, it tells me that it’ll take me 23 minutes to get home. This is a type of artificial intelligence and in the future it’s only going to get smarter.
It’s exciting, but not without its challenges. It’s funny to think about because technology is the easy piece, we can design and test all forms of technology until we get it right but it’s meaningless unless people are ready and interested in what you’re creating.
If you’re too early it doesn’t work, if you’re too late it doesn’t work: timing is everything.
There are two things that I find most exciting about my new role. For starters, Telstra is a company that’s very willing to try and take on new technologies. Not only that, but Australians are also quite willing to adopt new technologies faster than other countries.
That puts the work I do and the people I work with in a very unique position: not only is it really interesting, in the end it’s all about how it helps the customer.
It’s fascinating to see the impact your work can have. Back when we were working on 2G technology, mobile consumption wasn’t at the level that it’s at today but it helped lay the groundwork for what followed. Now we see mobile traffic eclipse desktop traffic in some forms.
Drones can now be used for thermal imaging, to search for people at sea or in a forest when it’s dark, we can even look for sharks to keep people safe.
The mobile network of the future we’re developing is what’s going to connect all these things and I’m looking forward to seeing what impact that will have and what groundwork needs to be done for what comes next.
Telstra’s Chief Technology Office inspires, sets direction for, and accelerates Telstra’s journey to being a world class technology company. Håkan is focused on guiding the CTO to establish leading positions on priority technologies, drive value through advanced technology and capabilities, accelerate business and cultural innovation, and drive collaboration across Telstra. Prior to joining Telstra Håkan had a long career at Ericsson, where his key appointments were Group CTO Ericsson and CEO Ericsson Australia and New Zealand.
When he’s not working, you can find him with his family and daughter Matilda, exercising in the outdoors, or learning to play the piano.
Today the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC) released a report on the way telecommunications companies deal with customers in financial difficulty.
We are disappointed that the report (a survey of financial counsellors) found that financial counsellors ranked the telco industry relatively low in assisting customers in financial hardship against other industries, and ranked Telstra second of the top three providers.
Telstra has a proud history of providing the largest and most extensive offerings in the industry for low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged customers – this equates to more than $2bn in value since 2002.
It is also disappointing to see the report’s statements claim that the telco industry as a whole was more driven by sales than by customer care.
This is certainly not our objective at Telstra, but we acknowledge there are times when we may not get this right and we will continue to work with your teams to ensure they provide the best possible services to customers with financial difficulties.
At Telstra, aggressive sales behaviour is not acceptable. Our focus is on listening to our customers to understand what their needs are, and providing solutions to meet those needs.
And while we do have a range of sales incentives, we also have strong incentives based on the customer experience – not just instore, but whenever our customers need our help.
Our message to our customers is this – we are here to support you, in good times and in bad. If you ever feel like you need some extra time to pay your bill, or not sure if you are eligible for a discount, please call us on 13 22 00.
We know that connection to phone and internet services is vital for all of our customers, especially when they are facing hardship, that’s why we have such an extensive range of assistance programs in place to keep our customers connected.
We will continue to work to improve our services, policies and programs for low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged customers – and we will continue to do this by working with financial counsellors and industry groups to find solutions together.
Telstra’s programs to assist customers facing financial hardship include:
Our Access for Everyone programs are designed to assist people on a low income, or facing financial hardship, to maintain access to telecommunications. These include a range of measures to improve affordability of telecommunications including improved billing and pricing options and the Pensioner Discount Scheme.
We have a Specialised Assistance Team who help customers who are experiencing financial hardship. When a customer enters into the program, there is no set timeframe of how long a customer can stay in the program.
We also have a direct, dedicated hotline for financial counsellors to access our specialist assistance team and have a strong track record of keeping our customers connected to their essential services.
Our CEO meets twice a year with representatives from key consumer groups, including Financial Counselling Australia, and we also hold a Financial Hardship Forum every six months with financial counsellors to ensure we understand what is happening in the community and to allow for Telstra to receive any feedback for areas of opportunity.
Tim O’Leary joined Telstra in 2011 as Chief Sustainability Officer. In this role he has executive responsibility for strategic community and reputational initiatives, corporate responsibility, Telstra’s environment strategy and employee sustainability. He is a Board Member of the Telstra Foundation and The Telstra Philippines Foundation. Prior to joining Telstra, Tim spent twenty years in senior Corporate Affairs, HR and Sustainability roles at the National Australia Bank (NAB) and Mobil Oil Australia.
Tim has a vested interest in sustainability as he wants his six young children to grow up in both a healthy environment and a prosperous community.
I have been working with Telstra for 12 years which has given me the opportunity to experience many diverse and rewarding roles. I started off my Telstra career in 2002 as a Business Sales Consultant and am now the Area General Manager for the North West region.
Coming from regional Australia, I enjoy the lifestyle and culture that Armidale offers and like nothing more than popping down to the local cafe for a coffee and chat.