An unauthorised transfer request saw New Zealand’s online media archive NZ On Screen go offline on April 8, losing its landline with voice, internet and alarm services on it for over a week. Project director Brenda Leeuwenberg says she discovered the landline in question had been disconnected on Tuesday April 8, and rang Telecom’s business helpline to find out what had happened. To her surprise, Leeuwenberg was told that the line had been transferred to another provider. Leeuwenberg is the only person at NZ On Screen to authorised to make changes to the organisation’s Telecom account, and says she did not ask for the line to be transferred. Making matters worse, an already livid Leeuwenberg was told by Telecom that they couldn’t reveal who had authorised the transfer or where the line had been shifted to. Leeuwenberg was told by Telecom that current regulation prevents them from disclosing such information and also, once it receives a transfer request, it has to act on it. Telecom’s helpdesk staffer told Leeuwenberg that NZ On Screen’s line had been “slammed”, a practice that means telcos take over customers’ connections without their authorisation. As there was another order on the line, the helpdesk staffer told Leeuwenberg it couldn’t be transferred back. NZ On Screen’s line was through Telecom Wholesale, with Actrix providing VDSL2 broadband over it, and Telecom Retail’s Business Unit voice services. By contacting Actrix, Leeuwenberg was able to find out that the line had been transferred to Orcon. Initially, Orcon denied all knowledge of NZ On Screen’s phone number or the transfer according to Leeuwenberg. Computerworld contacted Orcon and was told through spokesman Duncan Blair that the landline had indeed been transferred to his company. This was however done by accident, as the customer requesting the transfer had moved into NZ On Screen's old offices and given Orcon a phone number found on telephone jack there. There was a misunderstanding as to whose number this was, Blair says. Orcon's service provisioning team took it as belonging to the customer requesting the transfer, which was wrong. Blair says the phone number wasn't correlated with the account number, and that Orcon will tighten up its provisioning processes from now on to stop accidental service transfers. Explaining why Telecom couldn’t tell Leeuwenberg the provider where the landline had been moved to, its spokeswoman Julia Bell says that once Orcon sent a request to Telecom Wholesale to transfer the customer from Telecom Retail, there is no visibility for the latter as to what’s happening. This is due to “separation rules”, Bell says. “We are not allowed to know, nor are we allowed to contact the customer at any stage during or after they change to a new ISP.” The request for transfer was for “Naked DSL”, that is broadband without voice service, which further complicated the issue as Chorus technicians removed NZ On Screen’s landline. Bell says Telecom has credited NZ On Screen for the disconnection fee charged when the connection was transferred to Orcon, even though this wasn’t Telecom’s mistake. By the time Computerworld spoke to Orcon, NZ On Screen had been without landline service for six days. Leeuwenberg says NZ On Screen has eight full-time employees who were left unable to do their jobs without phone and internet access, and she was also concerned about the office being left without alarm. Leeuwenberg told Computerworld that by April 14 last week, full service had been restored to NZ On Screen. Also, Orcon sent a case of wine to NZ On Screen as compensation for the outage. Spokesman Derek Pullen from Telecommunications Dispute Resolution services says his organisation doesn’t often receive complaints about scheme members transferring services without authorisation. Any such complaints are “promptly resolved” he says and advised customers with non-TDRS scheme telcos to write to their providers and if that fails, speak to their local Community Law Centre or approach the Disputes Tribunal. Such complaints should also be registered with the Commerce Commission, Pullen says. Neil McKellar, chief executive of Dispute Resolution Services Ltd that manages complains for TDRS, says “this is an unusual case”. McKellar referred to the Telecommunications Carriers’ Forum (TCF) Customer Transfer Code that members are bound by, and which says the responsibility to obtain valid and complete authorisation for a transfer lies solely with the gaining provider – in NZ On Screen’s case, Orcon. His understanding is that Telecom would be unable to advise NZ On Screen where the services had gone due Privacy Act provisions. He invited Leeuwenberg to contact TDRS if the situation with Orcon reached a “deadlock”. Orcon left the TDR scheme end of April.
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