NFPs Empower Teenage Mobile Phone Users to Speak Up
30 August 2011 at 3:15 pm
Young mobile phone users want Australia’s Telcos to be more truthful and less misleading according to a new study carried out in a joint initiative between Not for Profit organisations.
Australian Not for Profit organisations joined with young Australians on a youth advocacy and discussion forum to reveal the results of the study which explores what it’s like to be a young mobile phone user in Australia.
The project – a joint initiative between the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and students from four Melbourne secondary schools – lets young telecommunications consumers have their voices heard about issues which affect them as consumers.
The ‘A Call For Change’ Forum heard from teenage Australians about their concerns about misleading and expensive “capped” mobile phone plans, deceptive advertising, lack of clarity around call and data rates and being locked into lengthy contract periods.
At the forum, ten students from four Melbourne secondary schools presented peer-to-peer research findings on the views of young consumers on the mobile phone industry, made recommendations for change, and invited discussion and feedback from an audience of representatives from business, government, regulatory and community organisations.
Year 11 and 12 students of the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) from Padua College, Carrum Downs Secondary College, McClelland College, and the Brotherhood’s Community VCAL Program have participated in the first year of the project, which has been undertaken during two school terms this year.
Leo Fieldgrass, Coordinator of the project at the Brotherhood of St Laurence says the students refined their research skills in workshops, and then conducted comprehensive interviews and surveys amongst their peers to determine how they generally find the experience of being mobile phone users.
Fieldgrass says the results offer an interesting insight into the technical, customer service, contract and billing pitfalls commonly encountered by people of this age group.
Out of these, he says the students have devised some ingenious and well-considered recommendations.
ACCAN Chief Executive Teresa Corbin says the forum is a unique opportunity for dialogue between young consumers and the industry.
The recommendations from the ‘A Call for Change’ youth advocates are:
Messages for young mobile consumers:
• Before you buy a phone, work out your mobile needs and your budget
• Take your time and shop around – try to compare plans
• Check for hidden costs in plans or ‘deals’ – ask questions and don’t agree to anything you’re unsure of
• Be aware of what “cap” actually means (i.e. it’s a minimum amount you’ll spend)
• ALWAYS read the fine print!
Messages for the telcos:
• We want you to understand what it’s like for us to be young mobile consumers – we don’t just use our mobiles for texting and mucking about, we need our phones to arrange work and education, contacting family and in emergencies, and they are expensive things for us to run
• We want you to be more truthful and less misleading – the language you use (especially) “cap” is confusing
• We want you to stop hiding all the important stuff in the fine print – be honest, tell us about all the charges up front
• We want you to stop making phone plans so complicated
• We want you to stop unfair charges, like fees for using our message bank/voicemail, late fees when we’ve had no bill reminder, and charges for calling ‘free call’ (1800) or ‘local rate’ (13/1300) numbers from our mobiles
• We want shorter contracts – 18 / 24 month contracts are too long, the maximum length should be a year because phones don’t usually last that long
• We want trial periods for plans so we can leave/change if they’re not right for us
• We want telcos to make more of an effort to help us keep a check on our call or data usage