Customer Review

1,509 of 1,646 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buyer beware ------ of uninformed reviewers! Update: 1 year later, December 29, 2009
This review is from: Ooma Telo Free Home Phone Service (Personal Computers)
February 11th, 2011 -- update:

It's been a little over a year since I wrote this review. Approximately 6 months after installing the Telo, I wrote an update that outlined an issue that diminished my initial enthusiasm about it. That update concerned an annoying delay that we experience, likening some conversations to that heard with 2-way radios, where it's easy for users to "talk over" one another.

This update, however, reports on the failure of my unit and Ooma's customer service response in addressing it.

Sometime during the post-Christmas, year-end holiday chaos, my I noticed that when I would press the Play button on the unit to play back messages, there apparently weren't any messages to play. But I use the feature found in the Premier service that allows you to listen to the messages online, so I didn't really think too much about it and didn't really seriously consider that it was a failure of the unit. After things settled down into the new year, I did look into it and discovered that it was, indeed, a defective Telo.

I called Ooma support and they told me 'Too bad - your warranty expired LAST YEAR!' Yeah, they were right -- it expired on December 29th, 2010 and it was now January 2011. They steadfastly refused to consider the hustle & bustle of the holidays, and said that I hadn't reported it before the warranty expiration, so there was nothing they could do for me. I reported my experience in their customer support forum online.

Several days later, I received an email offering an extended warranty for $39.99. I checked to make sure that they would replace the device under the extended warranty, despite the fact that I was purchasing it after the original warranty had expired and the unit had already been reported as defective. I was told that it would not be a problem.

The bottom line is, I accepted their terms and they have replaced my Telo under the extended warranty. They shipped a new unit before requiring the return of the defective one, and they even supplied a prepaid shipping label. While I'm still a bit aggrieved that they were so inflexible about the original warranty expiration, I am grateful that they extended an offer that I found palatable. I've downgraded my overall impression of the unit, somewhat, and only offer conditional recommendation of Ooma, based upon the voice delay issue and the what I consider to be a premature failure. I'm not suggesting that there's a lot of evidence that this is a chronic problem for the Telo or that the same thing will happen to you, but it is something to consider when making the decision to purchase.

Now -- my original review:

After reading many reviews of the ooma Telo here on Amazon.com and elsewhere, we decided that it sounded like a product that would be helpful in reducing our monthly phone costs while maintaining our current phone number and equivalent basic functionality. We actually received the unit on Christmas Eve, but haven't attempted installation until today - nearly a week later.

We found the installation to be a very simple process, accurately described and directed by the Quick Start guide included with the unit. All of the uncertainties that arose in my mind while reading some of the negative reviews here quickly vanished, one-by-one, as the clear, guided steps left no unanswered questions. It is because of this that I'm prompted to write a review.

Several reviewers have complained that ooma is 'sneaky' or 'deceptive' in their business practices -- that ooma signs you up for the premium service and automatically bills you monthly without your foreknowledge. They also claim that they take pains to hide the fact that the Federal government has begun to assess a yearly fee of about $12 for using the device.

These reviewers - to be charitable - are terribly under-informed. They have failed to avail themselves of the copious information available on review sites or on ooma's own website, or they're just lunging ahead with activation and installation without bothering to read the instructions.

For example, during the activation process, which is the first thing you're instructed to do with your new Telo, you are presented with the following admonition: "At the end of your trial period, you will automatically be enrolled into Ooma Premier and charged $9.99/month. If you do not wish to keep Ooma Premier, you can opt-out inside My Ooma and not be billed." That seems pretty clear to me.

The yearly Federal service charge also seems to be 'hidden' in plain sight. It's printed in 2 different locations on the box, and also appears on the ooma website, as well as in several reviews. And it's not necessarily in 'fine print', requiring you to strain your eyes.

I'm all for writing negative reviews that are fact-based and created by users who do their homework and try to educate themselves about a product. There are plenty of bad products out there and they should be exposed. But I find it misleading and unhelpful to rush headlong into something without understanding the technology or reading and following setup directions, and then write a scathing review that says "this sucks", when it's consumer ignorance that has produced an unsatisfactory result.

As for my brief evaluation of the Telo, it's very positive. Activation online was easy, as was installation. My Telo connected reasonably quickly and was ready to try out in about the amount of time estimated. (20 to 30 minutes) After that, I placed a call from my cellphone to the temporary number given to me while my home number is waiting to be ported. Voice mail picked up and I left a message, which I was later able to retrieve after returning home. I also placed a call to a friend to evaluate voice quality, which we found to be excellent.

That's it for the first day -- not a big test, but it worked as-advertised and I believe we'll be very pleased with the service.

To clarify for those who have read the review expressing uncertainty about when it's safe to use the service after initial installation: During the first phase of the connect/update process, the ooma symbol, a flower-like design located in the center of the telo, blinks repeatedly, and all the other symbols are unlit. At some point, the bottom row of symbols, which are used for navigating through and playing back voicemails, are lit and unlit sequentially, like a theater marquee. Finally, when it's ready to use, all the symbols are illuminated blue. And you'll probably see that there's a blinking red light, indicating that you've received a voice message. (it's from ooma, welcoming you to the service and helping you set up the voicemail features)
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Comments

Tracked by 18 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 139 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 29, 2009 2:34:24 PM PST
I have to side with the other reviewers. When I was researching Ooma, I was under the impression that it was "free for life." It's a semantic to say "free of monthly fees" but then to be stuck with the annual fee. I think they should put that in much bigger font on their web site and the product descriptions.
It wasn't until I started reading these reviews that I'm aware of the $12 fee as well as the lack of 911 service. Now I think I will hang onto my landline.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2009 8:13:28 AM PST
Tom says:
Ooma claims "free for life" for the original Ooma hub. I don't see that claim for the Telo, which is what you are commenting on. Instead, it says "no monthly fees." The $12 per year is not a fee, but a tax, if I understand correctly. That is still way better than paying more than $40 per month for a traditional land line.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2009 12:56:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2009 1:29:22 PM PST
ooma refers to this as a "fee for regulatory recovery and other costs". 'Regulatory recovery' almost certainly means "tax", but it's levied on ooma, not individuals. ooma can't tax us, so we pay a 'fee' to help them pay the 'tax'. It's hair-splitting at its best, but I think it's moot to argue tax vs fee when the reality is taxes are ALWAYS passed on to the customer in the form of higher prices or extra fees.

You can thank your friendly neighborhood Federal gov't for sticking their big noses in, and they should also be the ones to scream at as the yearly fee increases, which it almost certainly will.

Yes, I am commenting on the Telo, which is the product I searched for at Amazon. I was dismayed that they mixed reviews for both products under a single category, and wanted to make it clear that I was referring to the Telo.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2009 1:24:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2009 1:26:41 PM PST
Well, at least you did your homework, which was my issue with several posters who obviously stumbled along blindly. As another user has already pointed out, the "Free for Life" claim is not made for the Telo. I will agree that there should be more prominent mention of the fee on the ooma website.

However, given that most potential customers are looking to reduce their phone costs, many of them by eliminating their landlines, I'd think that a lot of these customers would prefer to pay a $12 annual fee, which is minuscule in comparison to the yearly sum of the taxes, surcharges and service fees found on monthly phone bills.

Your statement '... the lack of 911 service...' is misleading, because it is implicit that there is no 911 functionality to be had. There are differences in the way 911 calls are handled in voip systems, cell phones & landlines, and there may not be an acceptable solution for your particular case. But one size does not fit all, and there are certainly people who are quite satisfied with the way 911 is implemented in ooma. My argument is with people who say "This doesn't work", because they had difficulty. "It didn't work for me", along with a rational explanation of problems encountered is a much better way to go.

In the end, you've made your evaluation and settled upon a course of action. Hope it's the best decision for you.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2009 10:12:12 PM PST
L. D. Morgan says:
So how are 911 calls made with Ooma? I've been on this site for 2 or 3 hours and this is the first time I have seen it mentioned that 911 calls cannot be made. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2009 8:13:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2009 8:13:51 AM PST
This is precisely the reason for my initial post -- somebody makes a negative or incomplete comment that gives others false impression of the product or service, which leads to additional incorrect information being disseminated.

The short answer to your question is: to place a 911 call, you dial 911. Now, if I were a reviewer who wrote the way I'm complaining about, I would leave it at that.

The more complete answer is that ooma provides enhanced 911, also known as E911, *where supported*. This is an important distinction, because it's telling you that E911 is not universally available.

If your live in an area where E911 is available, and you have provided your correct name and address when you activate your ooma equipment, dialing 911 should connect you with the appropriate emergency service. It is important to note that your internet connection must be functioning at the time you call, just as it must be functioning when you want to make a voice call.

If you choose to keep your landline for use in conjunction with ooma (and you've connected it properly), your 911 call will be routed over your landline, rather than the internet.

To sum up:

ooma offers E911 service, using the internet.
E911 may or may not be available in your area.
Your internet connection must be active when you dial 911
If you keep your landline, your 911 call will be routed via that.

The foregoing was summarized from ooma's website, which has much more comprehensive information. It can be viewed at http://www.ooma.com/911/

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2009 10:15:10 AM PST
L. D. Morgan says:
Thanks for the clarfication, cbrillow.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2010 3:11:48 PM PST
R. Iredale says:
When I set up my Ooma Hub/Scout here in Portland, Oregon in late January 2010, the 911 people said that "almost everyone in the USA" had E911 capability by now. So the issue is moot.

Posted on May 3, 2010 3:07:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2010 3:23:33 PM PDT
Carson says:
Ooma is a bit sneaky. They claim Free service but its really $42/year in taxes and fees. They advertise caller ID but leave out that does not include caller ID names. Unless you are Rain Man or only have 5 friends caller ID numbers does no good. Ooma knows people expect the caller ID they advertise for free to include the names.

As of 2010 the taxes & fees are now several dollars a month depending on your location. The average is $3.50/month in taxes and fees. In case you are not up on Ooma's history over the last year they went from Free to $11.75/year to $42/year in taxes and fees. Do your homework before signing up.
http://www3.ooma.com/tax_calculator.php

$200 Ooma + $42 in taxes = $242 minimum for the first year and $42/year thereafter if Ooma doesn't decide to add more fees again. If you want to port (keep) your phone number it will be another $40. So that's a minimum of $282 in the first year. If you want caller ID names you need to buy the $10/month premium service. This adds another $120 each year.

My cable company charges $20/month for service that includes caller-ID names, call waiting ID, call waiting, etc. For someone like me to switch it will cost $200 for Ooma + $42 taxes + $120 premium for caller ID names = $362 in the first year and $162 each year thereafter. It would take someone paying $20/month for cable phone service just shy of 3 years (>34 months) to break even before they start saving a dime. There is no way someone with cheap cable phone service should basically prepay 3 years of phone service with Ooma. Someone replacing $20/mo service is gambling Ooma will be around in 3 years and that they will be the best phone option in 3 years. The Ooma device can't be used with other providers unlike a Linksys ATA you can use with almost any VoIP including the upcoming Google service.

By the way Ooma has already acknowledged the taxes and fees will go up again as they have not added the local and state fees and surcharges yet. Just try your zip code in the link above and you'll see they have a blank field for state and local taxes. The $42/year is only federal taxes, 911 costs and "regulatory fees". Regulatory fees are NOT taxes but FEES Ooma is charging to recover some costs. "Ooma uses this fee to recover certain of Ooma's costs associated with compliance with regulatory, legal and tax requirements." So its really an administration fee that Ooma pockets. It's one thing to collect fees like a Telco but another to get money upfront with device sales and money on the back-end in fees.

Posted on Jun 12, 2010 5:59:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 14, 2010 11:04:00 AM PDT
I truly appreciate this reivew. As a potential customer, I am considering purchasing Ooma from Amazon, trying it in an integrated way (with my Cable TW VoIP) and checking out the quality and reliability. I DO have slight concerns with the business model (having been a Sunrocket customer) but I guess telephony is moving in the direction of voIP, so any solution is a gamble and a look at cost-benefit. $42 a year is better than an extra $480 a year. I will try the integrated set-up keep my TW and banging the tires on the Telo until I am convinced. I will then either cancel my other TW cable phone or send the Telo back to Amazon. One of the reasons I love buying from Amazon :)

UPDATE: I did purchase the Ooma but actually returned it because I am not sure of the entire Ooma business model. I am risk-averse in this area because of the need for a landline (well Cable VoIP landline) connected that is absolutely reliable. I'm going to keep my eye on this but as hardware prices drop I wonder where the company is going to start making their money if most opt for FREE service. Weird to say, but it is almost like a Phone Ponzi Scheme. Early adopters win out. That's just my take. Watchful waiting.
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