Computerworld goes in to bat for telco customer

Stephen Bell investigates Wellington customer's struggle with finding a telco provider

Telecom’s structural separation and local-loop unbundling services have brought about an almost farcical tale of confusion — though genuinely distressing for the Wellington customer involved.

Some months ago, the customer — not getting good service from her existing home internet/phone provider — decides to shift. She gives Telecom first right of refusal. Its staff were unsatisfactory in getting installation attended to promptly, the customer says, so she terminates the conversation with them and turns her attention to Orcon.

After she’s waited some time, an installation engineer turns up at the home and announces “I’m from Telecom.” “But I cancelled the arrangement with you,” says the customer. “Go away”.

She waits a bit longer and phones Orcon to see what’s happened to their man. “He arrived at your place and you sent him away,” says the Orcon representative on the phone. “But he said he was from Telecom.” “Yes, they all work for Chorus,” says Orcon’s staffer – an “explanation” that could have created more confusion.

Chorus head of communications Melanie Marshall says the engineer was certainly not adhering to the training he’d been given. “We tell them to say: ‘I’m from Chorus and I’m here to install your — in this case Orcon — connection’,” she told Computerworld. “But that doesn’t always happen.”

The saga moved beyond mere annoyance when Orcon charged the customer a cancellation fee of $250. This is standard for termination of a signed contract for a 24-month plan, says Orcon spokesman Quentin Reade.

The customer has protested and explained the misunderstanding, but has been getting nowhere and last week got a letter from a debt-collection agency.

Computerworld donned a cape borrowed from Fair Go and spelt out the saga at a sufficiently senior level in both companies – we went initially to Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett, and he passed the inquiry on to Reade.

Action ensued and the cancellation charge will be rescinded, Orcon’s Reade says.

Thanks, Orcon, for sorting it. But the real problem seems to lie with some Chorus engineers remembering which company they’re working for.

Who got the customer’s business in the end? Woosh. They were prompt, polite and efficient, she says and the internet connection works well. Unfortunately on the phone side there are still some difficulties with voice quality and unscheduled call termination.

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