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In the international terminal of Sydney Airport there are several Optus kiosks. When I flew to Sydney for the first time, I didn't know that, and I proceeded to the first Optus kiosk I saw (assuming there is only one Optus kiosk in this terminal). I knew that there was a promotion ongoing that would get you 35GB of data for 15AUD (it was in July-August of 2019). However, when I asked the people at the kiosk about the cheapest plan, they said that 30GB for 40AUD was the cheapest plan. Assuming that the promotion I had in mind ended, I went ahead and purchased this plan. But then as I saw another Optus kiosk, and there was an ad "35GB for 15AUD; promotion valid until August 26" (I flew to Sydney well before August 26).

So I was wondering if the kiosk I used was some kind of a scam?

Here are some additional things I've noticed:

  • That kiosk, as far as I understand, mainly targets Chinese and Indian tourists. (They were trying to get attention of Chinese and Indian people passing by by speaking to them in Mandarin and Hindi.)

  • I was offered a 5AUD "student discount". I agreed. They said there was a 2AUD fee if I pay by card, I said ok. But the final amount I was charged, as per the receipt was more than 38AUD. 2AUD is more than 5.7% of 35AUD, which in hindsight I think is a ridiculously high fee. Plus I have no idea why I got charged more than 38AUD instead of 37AUD.

  • I haven't found the kiosk I used on Google Maps. The kiosk that had an ad about 35GB for 15AUD is on Google Maps though. Also, the kiosk I used didn't look stationary (as opposed to the one which is on Google Maps).

  • It is highly unlikely. Airports are very controlled environments; not only for the security aspect but because stands pay good money to get permission to be there. You do not just setup a stand without somebody noticing and checking who are you and if you are allowed to be there. – SJuan76 Oct 25 at 18:17
  • In the future don't just ask for the cheapest plan, mention the specific promotion and explicitly ask if it is available. If you are explicitly lied to instead of just given a sleazy deal then you have a tangible cause for action with customer service. – arp Oct 25 at 20:14
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    $2 is exorbitant. Does the receipt not tell you what the breakdown on the $38 is? – jcm Oct 25 at 20:14
  • @jcm The charge was $38.20 or something like that. This amount was split as $36.20 and $2.00. Unfortunately I don't remember what the receipt said about $2.00. – user77409 Oct 25 at 20:31
  • You can try contacting the merchant and then the ACCC (see my answer). Also, because there are 3 main providers and countless reseller networks, someone always has some promotion going on. I got some relatives -$13 (yes, negative after the rebate) sims with 30GB each in July. – jcm Oct 25 at 20:37
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Not a scam in the sense that they did provide a working sim and didn't run away with your money. But definitely some dodgy behaviour there.

  1. Not offering you the promotion when asked about the cheapest plan: technically they could have been telling the truth in that 30GB for $40 was the cheapest non-promotion plan at the time. Regardless of legality still very shady.

  2. Extra charges: merchants are banned from imposing excessive surcharges on customers that use credit cards. From the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) site:

The purpose of the ban is to stop businesses from charging payment surcharges that are excessive. That is, from charging a customer more than what it costs the business to process the payment.

...

Credit cards usually have a higher cost for businesses, and may cost the business up to 1-1.5 per cent for Visa and MasterCard, and between 1.5-2 per cent for an American Express card payment.

It is important to note that different businesses have different costs of acceptance. In general, smaller merchants' costs may be higher than these indicative figures.

Check your receipt on what the breakdown of the $38 is. I think $2 is definitely too high.

If you wish to take this further contact the merchant detailing the situation and how you want it to be rectified. Make sure your own demands are reasonable. If you and they can't come to an agreement contact the ACCC. Let them know what steps you've taken to resolve the problem with the merchant. This probably won't get you your money back but it may help other travelers in the future.

When traveling it helps to do a little research beforehand. I had some relatives come over in July and I got them $10 sims (that came with a $23 rebate!) that came with 30GB each and unlimited calls and SMS to any number in Australia.

4

The kiosk is real, it's Australian cell phone pricing that's the "scam". Pricing plans are hideously complicated, change all the time, and it's common for there to be old plans that are not advertised anymore, but can still be activated if you say the right magic words to the customer service rep. This thread gives you some idea of the complexity: https://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/2687103

So it's far more likely that the people you talked to either didn't know about the promotion you found, or were under instructions not to mention it proactively (scummy, but not quite "a scam"). Credit card fees are also legal in Australia.

  • Credit card surcharges are legal but $2 on a $35 charge is exorbitant. Visa/MC/Amex probably charged 1-2% and the merchant pocketed the rest. – jcm Oct 25 at 20:14
  • "... it's common for there to be old plans that are not advertised anymore, but can still be activated if you say the right magic words to the customer service rep." But the plan I'm talking about in my question was available at the time, it wasn't an "old plan". As for the credit card fees, I don't question their legality, but as @jcm mentioned, $2 is too much for a $35 purchase. – user77409 Oct 25 at 20:55
  • @jcm Legally merchants are only supposed to charge enough to cover their costs. I've seen pretty generous interpretations of this though... – lambshaanxy Oct 25 at 21:50
  • People often forget that Australia is a gigantic country with a population of only 25 million people. Plus it's far from every other population center. As a result nothing in Australia is cheap compared to other Western countries. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 26 at 16:58

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