Need to know
- TPG Telecom is shutting down email service across its brands, which include iiNet, Internode, and Westnet
- Customers can transfer their current email service to The Messaging Company or get a new email address
- Telco consumer advocates say having an email address separate from your internet service provider is a good thing
When Jim received a notification from iiNet that his email service would be shut down in six weeks, it was just about the last thing he wanted to hear.
He and his family were about to go on holiday, so he really had just two weeks to go into administrative overdrive before his world descended into chaos.
For those who haven't heard, TPG Telecom has done the unthinkable and is shutting down email service across all its brands, which include iiNet, Internode, and Westnet.
The nightmare for Jim was trying to figure out his next move. He describes iiNet's notification timeline as "woefully inadequate".
"I found it even more galling because we've been long term customers," Jim says. "Up until this point, every time I phoned them up, you get this bloody platitude, 'we see you've been a customer for 16 years, and we're so grateful', and then they turn around and go, by the way your email's dead in six weeks."
What are the options for customers with a TPG email?
TPG has essentially given its customers an ultimatum: transfer your current email service to The Messaging Company or get a new email address.
Getting a new email address would mean losing all your TPG emails and having to update all your logins and contacts.
Transferring your service to The Messaging Company means you can keep your email address, but you'll need to start paying for the service in September 2024, and TPG isn't saying what the costs will be.
You can't just sort of ring up and say, hey guys, I've changed my email. There's a whole process involved.iiNet customer Jim
Jim decided to give iiNet the flick and accept the ordeal to come.
"You can't just sort of ring up and say, hey guys, I've changed my email. There's a whole process involved. First you have to identify every website where you've used your email as a user ID, which is typically most of them," Jim says.
Security protocols make the process even harder, especially with government websites such as MyGov and the ATO.
Jim estimates that he and his wife have spent several hours dealing with the email change so far, and the process continues.
Updating your email contacts and logins may seem like a herculean task, but there are benefits to having an email address independent of your internet service provider.
What happens if you opt for The Messaging Company
TPG tells CHOICE that the company has "worked closely with The Messaging Company to make this transition as simple and smooth as possible".
If you opt in to the new email provider, your emails, contacts, and calendar events will be transferred across, TPG says, "providing customers another 12 months of free access to decide if this is a service they wish to retain".
They wouldn't choose a third party provider without a significant amount of diligenceACCAN CEO Andrew Williams
It's too soon to know whether The Messaging Company will provide quality service. But Andrew Williams, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), says TPG would have taken steps to ensure that it doesn't jeopardise its customer base.
"They would not go down this path lightly. They wouldn't choose a third party provider without a significant amount of diligence," says Williams. "I think the reputational harm if TPG gets this wrong is quite significant."
Customers say it's not a fair choice
TPG customer David says "it's basically a case of they've got a gun to your head. Pay up or all your data gets deleted."
"They won't tell you what the charge will be. They wash their hands of you completely, push [you] on to this new service and absolve themselves of responsibility."
He's particularly chagrined that his TPG contract included email service, but the company has unilaterally revoked it.
CHOICE has heard from several other customers of TPG brands who are grappling with the impending cancellation of their email accounts.
Ditching your ISP-linked email could be a good thing
While there's no doubt that having your email account yanked out from underneath you with little notice is a massive hassle, there may be an upside. Advocates say that having your email service married to your internet service provider was never a good idea.
Williams explains that this move provides the perfect opportunity for some digital house cleaning for many consumers.
"I'd say that there are more positives than negatives to this move by TPG. Having your email locked into a provider makes it very difficult for consumers to change providers."
Generic emails such as Gmail, Hotmail or Outlook give consumers more flexibility, says Williams.
Having your email locked into a provider makes it very difficult for consumers to change providersACCAN CEO Andrew Williams
"Then the providers have to come up with other ways to retain their customers, which is generally customer service, pricing and other services, which I think is a real positive."
The Messaging Company will be independent of TPG, and customers can bail out without changing ISPs. If in doubt, customers should seek more information from TPG, Williams says.
Or, you can grit your teeth and get a new email address.
Either way, this may be the prompt many TPG customers need to switch to a better internet service provider, and having an email address that is not tethered to your ISP means you can continue to switch to get the best pricing and service.
Email cancellation annoying, but not illegal
The Telecommunications Industry ombudsman, Cynthia Gebert, tells CHOICE the agency has been receiving complaints about the move by TPG Telecom, but adds that "the TIO cannot compel a provider to continue offering a service or product. What we do expect is providers give sufficient notice when making changes to the services they offer and to work with their customers to find alternative solutions".
For changes in service, customers may have cause for complaint if they were given less than 30 days notice.
Even 30 days is not enough time to update all your log-ins and remember how many businesses and government websites have your current email address
For telco customers like Jim, David and others who have contacted CHOICE, even 30 days is not enough time to update all your log-ins and remember how many businesses and government websites have your current email address.
"The fundamental issue is lack of notice," Jim says. "Getting someone to use an email address with your domain name is good strategy for a business because it locks people in. But if you're going to do that you need to look after them."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.