Telstra hints at more price hikes after bumper profit

Telstra has moved to delay the shutdown of its 3G network to give people more time to upgrade.

Telstra has moved to delay the shutdown of its 3G network to give people more time to upgrade. Photo: AAP

Australia’s biggest telco Telstra has foreshadowed even higher prices for its mobile plans just months after hiking bills for millions of customers amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Buried in an investor report published on Thursday, Telstra said economic headwinds were going to be the biggest risk for its business in 2023-24, and higher prices may be needed.

This came on the same day it announced a 13.1 per cent lift in its annual after-tax profits to $2.1 billion.

“Last year we let our customers know we would be doing a yearly review on the prices of our mobile plans, and that the prices of those plans may increase in July each year in line with CPI,” Telstra said.

“This allows us to alter prices as economic pressures act on our business.”

It comes after Telstra unveiled a $36 to $72 a year increase in the annual price of its mobile plans in May, drawing sharp criticism from consumer advocates who argued such big price hikes were unnecessary – given the company’s profits.

“Our mobiles business remains central to our growth and continues to perform very strongly,” Telstra chief executive Vicki Brady said of the result in a statement to investors on Thursday.

The telco has rewarded all of the usual suspects for the bumper profit.

Investors will receive an 8.5 cent per share dividend in late September, while executives have been rewarded with more than $5 million worth of bonus payouts.

Ms Brady alone has received a $1.2 million cash payout on top of her already lucrative $2.1 million base salary for the 2022-23 financial year, according to Telstra’s corporate reports.

Aside from higher prices, Telstra’s bumper profit over the past financial year has been attributed to savage cost cutting, including the retrenchment of hundreds of staff that were announced in July.

The telco wants to cut $500 million from its cost base under a much-vaunted plan called “T25”, which has also seen the company make a number of other changes.

“In a few months’ time we will hit the halfway point in delivering our strategy and the response from customers tells me we are absolutely on the right path,” Ms Brady said.

“We continue to see the positive impact of product simplification, digitisation, answering consumer and small business calls in Australia, and bringing our retail stores in house.”

Unhappy customers

But higher prices have most definitely not made customers happy, with the chief of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) saying in May that the latest round of Telstra price hikes were “shocking”.

“It’s pretty tough for customers considering the cost-of-living pressures,” he said, of the 7 per cent price hike Telstra unveiled.

An ACCAN survey earlier this year found more than a quarter of people (26 per cent) think their phone and internet plans are unaffordable.

More than 20 per cent said they had missed telecommunications bill payments because of high prices.

And Telstra has routinely in recent years been the target for regulators.

It has copped fines for unfairly penalising vulnerable customers; delayed compensation payouts for wrongdoing; overcharged customers and made misleading claims about broadband speeds.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.