This research marks an exciting new phase in ACCAN’s advocacy for a fairer and more competitive communications market. Using qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the research goes to the heart of consumer relationships with their telecommunications providers and looks at why decisions in the market so often result in issues down the track. It helps us to gain insights into two broad areas:How are consumers navigating the telecommunications market, specifically in relation to experiences with confusion, information overload, and determining value and risk, and how can they fare better?

Understanding consumer decision-making in telecommunications can help us determine how to ensure better outcomes for consumers, particularly considering the mounting evidence that the market is not working for consumers, that telecommunications are essential utilities, and the opportunity presented by current regulatory discussions on consumer protection and customer care. 

Recognising that decision-making is complex, the research comprises:

  • a thorough review of current research in the field
  • an extended autoethnographic methodology with 22 participants. Participants recorded video diaries, written diaries and extended interviews about their experiences looking for a mobile phone service.
  • quantitative experiment with 517 participants to examine, under close to real conditions, how consumers make decisions. This involved advertising and sales scenarios looking at the effect of bundling and limited time offers in advertising on consumer perceptions and purchase intentions; the effect of unit pricing and the presentation of terms and conditions information in advertising on consumer perceptions and purchase intentions; and the effect of information and mode of its presentation in personal selling on consumers’ perceptions.


General Findings:

Current research in the field of decision-making shows that consumers are impacted by a variety of personal preferences, biases and ways of processing information, and are also affected by industry-related factors including product and pricing strategies (including bundling), market segmentation, and information and advertising. There is mounting evidence that consumers are being adversely affected by these factors in the telecommunications market, leading to stress and frustration, confusion and information overload, as well as indecision. This ultimately leads to poor outcomes for consumers.

Our findings suggest that consumers consistently found it difficult to have a straight conversation with their telecommunications provider pre-sale (through marketing communications), at point of sale (with salespeople), and post-sale (with customer service representatives). Participants generally expected that telcos should be willing to give straight answers, but were frustrated and disappointed with the way in which the telco sector communicated to them, and had lowered their expectations based on previous experience. Participants used a range of coping strategies when dealing with choice and confusion, including delegating decision-making to others, relying on simple psychological shortcuts such as brand loyalty, relying on salespeople, trying to use comparison websites, and postponing purchasing.

The findings of the report also shed light on consumer experiences with bundling, limited time offers, terms and conditions, unit pricing and in-person sales.


Top level recommendations:

  • Stronger consumer protections are needed in telecommunications
  • Consumer policy  must recognise that decision-making is complex
  • Bundles: be clear and genuine about what's on offer
  • Simplify terms and conditions and use a single page critical information sheet
  • Develop consumer-friendly trials of unit pricing and conduct further research into how consumers use unit pricing
  • Telcos should have the hard conversations with consumers about the information they want.


Download the full report:

Seeking Straight Answers: Consumer Decision-Making in Telecommunications [Adobe PDF - 2.98 MB]

Seeking Straight Answers: Consumer Decision-Making in Telecommunications [MS Word Document - 2.2 MB]