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The hard-to-reach businesses frustrating Australians

We put companies you said were the hardest to reach, including Qantas, Telstra and Aldi, to the test. Here's what happened.

Last updated: 18 April 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • We asked our supporters to tell us which companies they've had trouble getting in touch with to resolve an issue
  • Posing as a customer, we tried contacting the most-mentioned businesses to see how long it takes to get support
  • Some companies have relatively few or ineffective support options, but others have improved since recent investigations

Ever had an issue with a product or service, but found getting through to someone at the retailer nigh on impossible? We know the feeling.

When it comes to contacting companies with a complaint or query, consumers can sometimes find themselves stuck in a rabbit warren of forms that go nowhere, phone on-hold music, and emails that disappear into the ether.

Believing businesses shouldn't be allowed to create unfair barriers to customers seeking support, we set out to see which brands are giving Australians the most grief and tried contacting them ourselves.

The hardest-to-contact companies and how we tested them

We received over 150 submissions when we asked for your nominations for the hardest-to-contact companies.

Coming out on top, the seven companies mentioned the most by members and supporters were Telstra (9), Uber (7), Ticketek (5), Optus (5), Couriers Please (5), Qantas (5) and Aldi (5).

While several of these businesses such as Uber and Qantas offer recommended solutions to myriad customer queries on their websites, we tested the businesses' customer support avenues that allow personalised, open-ended and unique queries, often by phone, live chat or filling in a web form.

We received over 150 submissions when we asked for your nominations for the hardest-to-contact companies

Posing as a customer, we reached out to each company during business hours, lodged a query and waited to see how long it would take to receive responsive support (to the extent that we were able to carry out a conversation with the representative) relevant to our request.

It's worth noting that we were only trying to get this sort of response, so if you're contacting these companies for a solution to a real issue, it may take longer than suggested by this article.

What happened when we contacted them

The results of our experiment varied widely depending on the company, from quick responses received through relatively easy-to-use platforms, to contact avenues that were dead ends.

Telstra and Optus

Both of these major telcos received a relatively high number of nominations from our members and supporters.


Major telcos such as Testra were nominated by supporters. Image: Telstra

And while it appears many consumers have struggled with these companies, when we contacted them posing as a customer, we managed to start receiving responsive assistance relatively quickly.

Both companies took about a minute to connect us to a human operator when we contacted them by phone.


Optus was another telco called out by consumers. Image: Optus

Getting responsive support from what seemed to be a human staff member via live chats on the Telstra and Optus websites took 11 and seven minutes, respectively.

Both telcos promise quicker remedies for users who log in and communicate via their respective apps and this was borne out in our exercise.

Telstra took four minutes and Optus three to start providing reasonable assistance when we contacted them as a logged-in customer.

Telstra tells CHOICE its support wait times have improved in recent weeks after it hired more staff, but says these periods can be longer during "wide scale issues" such as major weather events.

Optus says it's committed to "raising the bar" on customer service and has invested "significantly" in its offerings.


In addition to more than a few nominations as a hard-to-contact company, Uber's customer service was given the rating of "zero" by one unhappy CHOICE member.


Global brand Uber was hard to reach for some local consumers. Image: Uber

Doreen Buckley says she struggled to get in contact with the global ridesharing brand last year after she started getting charged for services she hadn't used.

"I did everything to try and contact Uber, without any success," she recalls.

CHOICE found Uber's contact options more limited and difficult to uncover than those of other companies we looked at. 

Users of the company's app and website can send it a query via a live chat function, but the link to this was hidden away in a list of FAQs.

Once we found this option, we were able to receive responsive support within six minutes as a logged-in user.

A separate search engine query reveals Uber does have a phone number customers can use to book a journey without using the company's app.

This "dial-a-ride" service has been running in Australia since February, but plays a message directing you to its website when you select the customer help option.

Buckley says she eventually became fed up with not being able to reach Uber and gave up on the company completely, only managing to stop the payments by asking her bank to block any Uber-related transactions.

"I've never used them since … I've gone back to taxis," she concludes.

Uber tells CHOICE it's "committed to providing best in class customer service" and is able to "resolve millions of interactions every year". It maintains there's a wide range of ways customers can contact it.


If you go to the Ticketek homepage looking for customer support, it takes several clicks to access a series of web forms where you can send a query to the company.


Ticketek was regularly named as being hard to contact. Image: Ticketek

However, even the business's "general enquiry" form only lets you ask about specific events it's selling tickets for. It won't accept more general, personalised queries such as those we were using to test companies for this article.

CHOICE member Phillip Thompson is one of many consumers who has struggled to get in touch with a human being at Ticketek.

"I spent hours and hours on it," says the Sydney resident, describing his attempt last year to buy seats in a specific location for an NRL game.

Thompson says he phoned Ticketek on a call centre number that appears as the top result following an online search.

"I rang them over three days and there's no offer there which said: hold the line if you want to speak to someone," he recalls.

When CHOICE tried calling the same number multiple times over different days, an automated message suggested we could wait to speak to a customer service member (all of whom were purportedly helping other callers) but advised us to go online for assistance.

I don't want to deal with Ticketek, but I don't have a choice. If they're doing the ticketing, you have to deal with them

CHOICE member Phillip Thompson

All of this lasted less than a minute before we were hung up on.

Thompson describes Ticketek's customer service as "zero", but says it has a monopoly on many of his favourite events.

"I've been following rugby league since my father used to take me out when I was five years old," he says. "I don't want to deal with Ticketek, but I don't have a choice. If they're doing the ticketing, you have to deal with them."

In a statement to CHOICE, Ticketek defends its customer service and says it has customer service lines dedicated to answering accessible booking, memberships and venue queries from customers.

Couriers Please

Courier companies got plenty of mentions in response to our sweep for hard-to-reach businesses, but Couriers Please was mentioned the most.


Several supporters told us they were unhappy with Couriers Please. Image: Couriers Please

When we called the company's phone number, saying we were having trouble booking a parcel delivery, we were connected to a human operator within one minute.

Using the firm's live chat function advertised prominently on its website, however, was more difficult.

We were only able to get personalised and responsive assistance by selecting an option to provide feedback on the service – the only avenue left after failing to get help through the chat's "Send a parcel" function. 

All up, it took 13 minutes to start getting responsive live chat assistance from what seemed to be a human staff member.

We later found that you can also type in "Can I speak to a person?" into the live chat to connect to the company's customer service.

Couriers Please didn't respond to our request for comment on its customer service offering.


We gave Australia's most famous airline a Shonky back in 2022 for its poor customer support and long phone wait times, but it appears its service is still rubbing some people the wrong way.


Previous Shonky recipient Qantas was labelled hard to contact. Image: Qantas

Qantas offers relatively few customer support avenues that allow you to contact it with a unique query, with a phone number being the most obvious option.

However, it only took us five minutes to be connected with a staff member when we called – a vast improvement from 2021, when a CHOICE investigation recorded wait times of over an hour on some occasions.

Qantas says it's made "substantial investments" in customer support and this has led to a "significant improvement" in service levels.


Cult favourite supermarket Aldi was also regularly mentioned by supporters putting forward their suggestions for the most evasive businesses.


It's a savvy shopping favourite, but Aldi was hard to reach for some Australians. Image: Aldi

The retailer's most prominently-advertised assistance avenue is a series of web forms.

We submitted a query via one of these, pretending to be a customer looking for more information about a product we'd bought, and received a phone call following up with us over 24 hours later.

In the world of supermarkets, it's common for retail chains to provide unique phone numbers for each store (however, their reliability can vary).

Anyone searching online for the phone number of their local Aldi may be initially pleased to see the company appears to be extending the same courtesy.

That's until you notice the number (13 25 34) is the same for every one of the German company's outlets in Australia.

Calling this number doesn't connect you with a human operator, but rather an automated message directing you to the online support options detailed above.

When we asked Aldi about how available it makes itself to customers, it said only that it "strongly encourages" them to contact it via its online portals.

What about via social media?

While none of the companies we examined for this article encourage customers in need of help to contact them via social media, it's an increasingly popular way Australians are attempting to communicate with businesses.

With that in mind, we also tried posting our queries to the most complained about companies via direct messages to their Facebook profiles.

The results were mixed.

Messaging Telstra's page elicited reasonable support within eight minutes. For Optus and Uber, this took 23 and 31 minutes, respectively.

This sort of information is especially vital when there's an emergency, such as when a consumer suspects that they've been scammed. 

CHOICE campaigns and policy advisor Yelena Nam

Ticketek's profile took almost a full day to respond, and while Qantas has a message function on its Facebook page, a prompt told us none of our messages could be delivered when we attempted to contact the airline.

Couriers Please and Aldi both have Facebook pages, but there's no option to send them a direct message.

Evasiveness legal, but unfair

"It's disappointing to see businesses making themselves difficult to contact," says CHOICE campaigns and policy adviser Yelena Nam.

"This sort of information is especially vital when there's an emergency, such as when a consumer suspects that they've been scammed," she adds.

"Missing details of businesses can cost people their time and money and cause unnecessary stress."

Australian Consumer Law doesn't specify how accessible businesses should make themselves to the public, but CHOICE believes evasiveness is bad for consumers.

"While this practice is unfair, it's not illegal," Nam explains. "We're calling for strong new fairness laws to ban these unfair business practices, which include creating barriers for consumers seeking support or redress."

Sign CHOICE's petition to make unfair illegal.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.