Xtra mail outage frustrates and annoys

Xtra says its ongoing problems with email should be fixed by now, but it's too late for at least one subscriber.

Xtra says its ongoing problems with email should be fixed by now, but it's too late for at least one subscriber.

Jane Montgomery, a Christchurch barrister who specialises in intellectual property and technology and is chair of the Canterbury Software Cluster, says she has given up arguing with Telecom over email problems dating back to August. She says the latest round of delays and Telecom's attitude towards her problem have been the last straw.

"Telecom has some major issues at a technical level and also with the people who answer its phones."

Montgomery, who says she's no newcomer to IT and telecommunications, believes emails have gone astray.

"The frustrating thing was that the person I spoke to did not understand and would not accept that particular circumstance."

Montgomery says she has signed on with a new ISP after being offered reimbursement of a month's fees, which amount to less than $50. "It's another indication of Telecom's problems as a whole. Telecom was the single biggest impediment to my setting up in practice. Whatever could go wrong did."

In a written statement Xtra spokeswoman Anna Kermode says the current problem has been happening since last week, but Montgomery says she's been experiencing problems since at least August.

Kermode says Xtra hasn't been losing email. "Affected customers will experience intermittent delays in delivery of email. We do not believe email has been lost and this problem affects only a portion of Xtra's customer base."

Montgomery says she has noticed a drop in email traffic to her account of up to 80%. "I would say nearly 95% of my communication with clients is via email. I receive probably one fax a week and I don't make anywhere near as many phone calls as I used to. It's all done by email now."

Kermode won't say what the problem is with Xtra's email services, nor which overseas vendor Xtra is working with to fix the problem.

"We prefer not to discuss vendor relationships. Following on from recent virus issues, we have been conducting upgrades on our messaging platform and have experienced unexpected issues as a result of this. We are currently working to resolve this and expect this issue to be resolved [by Tuesday]."

However, a message on Xtra's site this morning says the ISP hopes to solve the problem by 11pm tonight.

Those affected by the delays and outages aren't entitled to a refund, says Kermode.

"Xtra strives to provide a reliable email service to its customers; however, like other ISPs, we are unable to provide guarantees for delivery of email. Be assured we have technicians working around the clock to resolve this issue".

Xtra's terms and conditions page outlines a limited compensation plan should Xtra fail "to meet our obligations to you".

"To the extent you incur actual and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses (of a nature not expressly excluded in the above provisions) as a direct result of us failing to meet our obligations to you, we will refund those expenses to you" up to a limit of $5000 for any "event or for any series of related events".

However, customers must provide "satisfactory proof of the expenses" incurred to claim the refund.

Montgomery says it isn't so much the lost time spent sorting through the problem or the actual business that has gone elsewhere that bother her; it's the fact that Xtra's problem makes her look unprofessional to her clients.

"I've had to ring some of them and ask if they've sent me an email lately and if so could they resend it. It makes me look unprofessional because basically I'm hassling my clients to fix a problem that's not their fault."

The issue affects customers around New Zealand using both POP-based Xtra email and web-based Xtramail.

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