Voyager bites back at Xtra pricing

Voyager has cut Internet pricing for its customers promising a further change in its rates on September 16.

Voyager has slashed its prices to compete with Telecom Xtra. A newsletter to Voyager customers this week anounced price cuts--which take its rates below Xtra some regional centres--and promised "a further pricing announcement" on September 16.

Voyager customers will feel immediate benefits this weekend as Voyager declares Saturday and Sunday a "$5 Internet weekend" to celebrate the new prices. Local node customers will get unlimited connect time for $5 per connection and the entire weekend is free for Frequent User Plan customers.

The new rates see Voyager draw ahead of Xtra in Ashburton, Blenheim, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga and Timaru, where Voyager has local dial-up nodes and Xtra does not. Its new casual dial-up rate of $4.95 an hour matches the 0800 rate offered by Xtra.

Voyager's Frequent User Plan of $49.95 for 20 hours takes the rate down to $2.50, but additional hours are $2.95. Casual users also benefit from extended off-peak hours (7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and all weekend) at $.3.95 an hour.

The most intriguing feature of Voyager's new pricing is its 0800 access rates. Xtra's new 0800 rate of $4.95 an hour has been condemned as predatory by O'Hara and others, but Voyager has come down to $6.95 an hour for casual use--and even matched Xtra with a prepaid rate of $49.95 for 10 hours and $4.95 thereafter.

And while competing ISPs continue to demand to know what Telecom is charging Xtra for 0800 services, O'Hara admits that he does not even know what rate his own company is paying Telecom.

"We made an agreement with them on 0800 access in May," says O'Hara. "But we haven't actually paid any money because we don't have a final price. We were eligible for various discounts, including one we couldn't be told about until after we had signed up. We've asked them on a number of occasions to finalise the price, but I still don't know exactly what I'm paying."

On another front of the current ISP price war, Voyager has also received clearance from its parent company, OzEmail, to proceed with what managing director John O'Hara says is a "very detailed" complaint against Xtra under sections 27 and 36 of the Commerce Act.

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