Telcos play pass the buck with customer

Why can't the two companies talk to each other direct, asks one frazzled customer

What should have been a simple rationalisation of billing for internet and phone line charges has brought confusing messages and changes of direction for a high-profile customer of both TelstraClear and Telecom.

Writer Rachel McAlpine has been using a Telecom JetStream connection, resold through Paradise.net and using TelstraClear for voice toll calls. In October, she says, she was told this split mode of operation was no longer permitted under new wholesaling arrangements, and she would have to change to one provider or the other.

She attempted to shift entirely to a TelstraClear service, to find the Telecom elements of the service apparently could not be shifted.

Telecom, however, insists the October change was merely an attempt to rationalise billing, and there should have been no need for McAlpine to change her service provider.

McApline says the letter she received, and subsequent conversations with helpdesk staff, gave the distinct impression that a complete change to one provider was necessary. A number of acquaintances in a similar position had also got that impression, she says.

The policy is a result of the UBS wholesale agreement and the termination of the old resale arrangement, the JetStream Partnering Programme, says Telecom spokeswoman Sarah Berry.

Under the old arrangement, a Jetstream customer using an ISP other than Xtra would pay a line charge to Telecom and a separate service fee to the ISP. Under the wholesale arrangement, customers are told their ISP will bill them for the full service and pass the line charge on to Telecom. This is to simplify the customer’s relationship with the provider and allow the latter to sell the customer additional services more easily.

McAlpine first chose to move in the TelstraClear direction. Mistaken or not, that was when the difficulties started.

“Basically, Telecom [apparently] said they wouldn’t hand over my account to Telstra because I was in their database as a business customer,” McAlpine says. “Actually, I am a home business and I pay residential rates.

To compound the confusion, “I received most of the Telecom “rules” and ultimata through the filter of their competitors,” McAlpine says. “No wonder it was so confusing. Eventually, I complained to the Telstra supervisor, and stopped calling either party — even though I had been told I would have my internet access cut off by November 30 if I didn’t consolidate with one or the other.

“Finally, [on January 19] a Telstra person phoned me and said Telecom refused to relinquish my account to Telstra because — get this — I live within 100 metres of a Saturn-Telstra cable. In other words, if it is simple to swap to Telstra it is not permitted. I was advised to phone Telecom immediately or risk getting cut off or paying two bills.”

This part of the mix-up was an admitted mistake on TelstraClear’s part “and not a common occurrence,” says TelstraClear spokeswoman Jodine Laing.

“The customer ... apparently had a business line with Telecom and the particular residential HighSpeed Internet service the customer required cannot be sold with a business line. We do not sign up HighSpeed Internet customers unless they also have a phone line with us.

“The customer still hadn’t been migrated off the JetStream Partnering Programme service just before Telecom went to withdraw it, so we again investigated the account. This is when we mistakenly told the customer we could not sign her up because she was in what Telecom refers to as Zone 1.”

Under the Commerce Commission determination on residential resale TelstraClear is not able to sign customers up to its HomePlan phone line if the line is within 100 metres of TelstraClear’s cable.

“In actual fact, the reason why we could not sign the customer over is because we have the residence down as a multi-dwelling unit and, while our cable service is available in the area, we do not put our cable services in multi-dwelling units unless the majority of units wish to use our services.

“We apologise for any inconvenience created by the situation,” Laing concludes.

Faced with this apparent impasse, McAlpine has decided to shift all services to Telecom and Xtra, but still had trouble in January getting the connection set up and working.

McAlpine reports an abrupt tone from helpdesk staff at both companies and says she felt she was “piggy in the middle”, being asked to convey messages from one company to the other. “I would ring Telecom and tell them what the Telstra person had told me. I would still get no progress and when I went back to the Telstra person, they’d tell me ‘you should have told them [Telecom] this’. I don’t see why they can’t just talk to each other.”

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