Six-month battle over $29 phone bill

Wednesday

Optus Australia advert about “show me the simple life”.

Plenty of Optus customers have voiced their frustration with the company’s customer service, but Lucy Ghattas’ experience may take the cake.

IN NOVEMBER, Lucy Ghattas made the difficult decision to move her mother to an aged care facility due to the 81-year-old’s deteriorating mental health.

A tough time with plenty of admin tasks, that Lucy says was made harder by a six month dispute with Optus.

Late last year, Ms Ghattas took a day off from the Sydney insurance firm where she works as a business development manager to take her elderly mother into an Optus store to arrange for her no longer necessary home phone service to be cancelled.

She had tried to do it remotely, but Optus customer care kept pointing her to their online chatroom where she had not been able to fix the issue.

She left the store believing the account had been closed and the expenses finalised. But since then she has continued to receive monthly bills for her mother’s home phone service.

“I paid the December one, I paid the January one but then in February I thought this is a joke. They obviously haven’t disconnected it so I’m just not going to pay this bill and hopefully someone will contact me,” she told news.com.au.

They didn’t, so she went back to the chatroom and tried to find somebody who she could call to resolve the issue.

She eventually got a number which she said put her in touch with someone she believed to be “an offshore person” and received a “robotic response” telling her they needed to speak to her mother to cancel the account.

Lucy Ghattas has been given the run around by Optus.

Lucy Ghattas has been given the run around by Optus.Source:Supplied

“(I told them) she has dementia, she can’t walk, as you can see there’s been no phone calls made or received on that number since November, common sense should prevail,” she said.

“She doesn’t even understand me.”

The monthly bill is only $29 but after letting it sit idle, she now owes them $85.47. Since the majority of the amount if overdue, the bills also come with the threat of eventual legal action.

“I understand there are polices put in place for security and to protect your average person,” she said. But Ms Ghattas doesn’t understand why such a simple task has proved almost impossible to achieve, especially after making the initial trip to the store with her mother before her health worsened.

The latest bill received by Ms Ghattas.

The latest bill received by Ms Ghattas.Source:Supplied

Optus is bound by privacy laws in these types of matters and Ms Ghattas has not organised power of attorney over her mother’s affairs — seemingly leaving her and the telco at an impasse.

“There’s just no common sense in customer service right now,” she said.

After being approached by news.com.au, Optus reached out to Ms Ghattas to resolve the issue and told news.com.au that their records showed it was resolved in store yesterday.

While that appears to be the case, it required Ms Ghattas to get her son, who coincidentally works at a Sydney Optus store to cancel the account.

“It shouldn’t have resorted to me getting my son or anyone I may know to fix it,” she said. She had originally avoided involving her son because she didn’t want the dispute to impact him.

Optus said it will now remove the extra charges on the account since November.

“Any charges relating to the home phone service from November onwards have been removed,” a spokesperson said.

“Optus apologises for any inconvenience this has caused Ms Ghattas,” they said.

Looking at the Optus Facebook page suggests Ms Ghattas is not alone in her frustration.

Customers have left angry messages on the company’s Facebook page complaining about their experiences.

“Absolutely the most disgusting lack of service I’ve ever encountered! I cannot even speak to some one who’s (sic) speaks English! They signed me on a contract I did not agree to and they cannot even provide unlimited home internet. So now we have to use our 4g,” Facebook user Chris Tania Yarnold wrote this week.

After multiple angry posts, they reported to have finally had their complaint resolved. But plenty of others voiced a similar frustration with the telco.

Optus' FB page has attracted angry customer complaints.

Optus’ FB page has attracted angry customer complaints.Source:Facebook

Some claimed to have been misled and given services they didn’t want, while others complained about the long waiting times to receive products or technical assistance.

“Totally agree with Chris. Optus you suck. You stitched us up with an iPad we did not order, then made it impossible to return even when you agreed it was your stuff up,” wrote Queensland Facebook user Tony Zieth.

“Even the debt collector you have hired thinks we will win when we go to the ombudsmen. We have spent at least 20 hours trying to work through this with you.”

News.com.au contacted both Chris and Tony but at the time of writing had not heard back.

For the past two years Optus has largely been the most complained about telco provider but according to the industry ombudsman’s latest quarterly report, Telstra overtook Optus in terms of complaints per customer in the period from October to December 2016.

Nicholas.whigham@news.com.au

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