Back in 2009, after a trip to Sydney (at the time my first in 3 years after having moved to London), I wrote a post looking at the Australian mobile market.

checkout-abctvSome 4 years on from that post, I was reminded of it when I came across a very funny, and well-produced Australian Comedy show called simply “The Checkout”.

It has been put together by the team behind The Chaser – a very smart group of Australian Comedians who are not afraid of telling it like it is.

The show “reinvents consumer affairs for the twenty-first century, giving viewers a healthy and/or dangerous mix of info and attitude that hopefully might lead to smarter spending decisions“.

They also have a segment (and website) called “F.U. Tube” which allows consumers to vent about companies that provide poor service. They even had Dave Carroll of United Breaks Guitars fame on their first episode.

I watched the second episode of their show, and in particular a segment on Australian telecommunication pricing and complaints, which prompted this post.

You can see the show below – the telco segment starts at the 0:50 mark.

In the part about complaining to telcos, there is a scene where a man on the phone to a telco’s customer care line literally pokes himself in the eye with a fork in frustration (warning: the special effects team has gone to town here, and even though they switch to black & white, it looks a bit gory).

They also compliment the UK operators in having somewhat more sensible and transparent pricing – as many know in the UK, all operators state exactly how many minutes, texts and data you get per month.

Way back in 2009, my post called out Australian operators for being one of the few in the world that have “capped” pricing. This complicated method of charging was designed some years ago to (in my mind) deliberately mislead consumers to think they were getting a good deal.

For example (and shown in the program), an $80 “capped plan” per month gives you “$800 worth” of calls, texts etc. Diving deep into the small print, you discover that calls cost over $1 per minute – which will eat up your “$800” worth of “value” pretty quickly.

I am amazed that this is still the case in Australia, and the telecommunications regulators only seem to be making slow progress in cleaning up this opaque way of charging.

I am glad that for whatever reason the UK operators have not gone down the “capped calling” path, and are very transparent with what you get.

Well done to the Chaser team – you made me laugh more than I had in years, so much my cheekbones literally were sore from laughing. My daughter Madeleine (6) thought I was crying because I was sad, and I had to explain that I was crying with laughter.