TelstraClear denies Telecom’s contention that a letter that went to their users publicising its new Anytime charging plan only went to those who also used Telecom services for toll calls.
“The letter was definitely received by some of our customers who do not use Telecom,” says TelstraClear spokesman Mathew Bolland.
However, none of those users were willing to go on the record. Those contacted say they are willing to add their evidence to TelstraClear's Commerce Commission complaint, but not to talk to the media.
TelstraClear says the letter went to thousands of its users and led some of them to think that Telecom was monitoring their TelstraClear calls and that it proposed switching them from TelstraClear to its own services unless they specifically requested otherwise.
The letter begins: “Now you can save even more with Telecom. We’ve looked at your calling patterns on [telephone number] over a four-month period and, based on this, we believe you’d be better off on our new Telecom Anytime plan …”
Telecom public affairs manager John Goulter confirms that the letter quotes a bare telephone number (in the letter as published by Telstraclear on its website, the information is obscured). It does not specify that only Telecom traffic was measured, though Telecom now emphasises that that was so.
A Telecom account number is specified in the “opt-out” clause at the end of the letter.
Under the Telecommunications Privacy Code and its cross-references to the Telecommunications Act, a carrier is allowed to collect “call associated information” — such as the source and destination, time and duration of the call — for charging and statistical purposes. The use of such information pertaining to an individual account for marketing is not clearly sanctioned by the code, but Goulter says this kind of use is provided for in “the terms and conditions which every Telecom customer signs”. Every customer has therefore consented to monitoring of such information, pertaining to their Telecom account only, and to its use in marketing.
David Russell of the Consumers Institute says the organisation has had no complaints from TelstraClear (or Telecom) customers about the promotion.
“I’ve seen one copy of the letter, the one TelstraClear publicised,” says Russell, “and on the basis of that, I can’t pronounce on whether it’s an honest mistake by Telecom or a convenient phrasing which could have been designed to confuse.”