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EYE-BALL Opinion on – Telstra-Bigpond – A protected Corporate species WHY? – Part 1 – Telstra-Bigpond Billing Problems –

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Title:
– Telstra-Bigpond –
– A protected Corporate species … WHY?
– Part 1 – Telstra-Bigpond Billing Problems –
| Author: EYE-BALL Opinion | 18th Aug 2012 |
T he last five months have been spent in a paper shuffle with Telstra-Bigpond, Federal Telecommunications Minister Conroy, his counterpart and Opposition spokesperson Malcolm Turnbull,  my local Federal Member Mr Paul Neville, National Regulators including the TIO, ACCC, ACMA, OFT, and QLD State Ministers responsible for telecommunications, and other attached regulatory portfolios.

The issues raised with these Members of Federal and State Parliaments, and the Regulatory Authorities concerns persistent Billing errors.   Over an 18 month period I increased my internet download limit 11 times, i.e. upgrades to my Bundle Plan.  On each occasion the Bundle Plan changed, it resulted in an overcharge on the next bill cycle.

That represented a 100% bill error whenever a Plan Change was requested.   That is why the claim that there is a systems and inherent ‘billing’ problem.

There had to be a systems error was my thinking, or a processing error.   This was established to be so after many phone calls over the many errors with customer service, and dispute resolution staff.

The errors happen in the manual process’ of the pro-rata refunds for the pre-paid Bundle Plan.  The process generates calculations that produce shortfalls in refunds due, and incorrect new charges applied.   This is not deliberate, it’s a systems problem and Telstra-Bigpond will not acknowledge they have the problem.

Telstra-Bigpond have made settlement payments to the value of near $3000 over this 18 month period because they were happy to settle rather than fix the problem.

That was up until this last dispute over the April 2012 bill.

Several of the previous billing errors were referred to the TIO because Telstra staff would not deal with the issue to my satisfaction.  The TIO involvement assisted in Telstra-Bigpond agreeing to settlement terms – except for the Apr 2012 bill errors.

The April 2012 error it would seem was a bridge too far given that Telstra CEO, David Thodey became involved, along with several other Management types.   The compensation package offered for this dispute was minute compared with previous settlements, and given the resources applied to see the dispute settled,  it was hard to understand Telstra-Bigpond’s stance.   They altered the settlement terms and wanted signed release forms that covered all previous disputes, after agreeing to terms to just cover the april 2012 errors.

The TIO’s advice throughout all of these complaints was to write to my Local Member with a request to have the ‘Legislative Act’ –  Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Services Standards) Act 1999 – reviewed in light of how Telstra-Bigpond use this Legislation as protective of their position. This Act gives protection to Telstra against consumer issues that other Business’s do not have.

Telstra-Bigpond refuse to acknowledge they have a billing problem in the way they process pre-paid and new pro-rata Bundle Plan changes.   This is obviously a mistake in the way they deal with their in-house protocols and how they interface with clients when these problems are exposed.

As part of the settlement process throughout all the above bill errors, assurances were given that the problems were progressively being fixed. The repeat history of errors clearly refutes these statements.

This attitude and to make continued false statements that Telstra will fix the problem, leads to the assumption they have no intention of fixing these types of problems.  This is evidence of larger problems, and a mindset that the Legislation in place gives them a protection that severely disadvantages customers.

You have to fight to have your money returned and Telstra’s attitude is that a refund of the overcharged amount should be compensation enough.

How many customers pay their bill believing the amount billed is correct?   My errors have had value in the $100’s, and as low as less that $10.  They are still errors and to not acknowledge they have a billing problem – makes a mockery of the Regulatory Authorities ability to assist in these protracted disputes.   The TIO is a toothless tiger on matters like these disputes.

The TIO only have jurisdiction to pursue the value of the error.   These disputes can involve 10-20+ hours of protracted and repeated discussions with different staff explaining over an over again until you get someone who can assist.

To add insult to injury, a week ago I read about David Thodey receiving a pay rise to an annual remuneration of $5.1 million – a leap of 59% in spite of an 18% fall in profits.  ‘The Australian’ also mentioned that the ‘incentive’ parts of the bonus amounting to an increase from $1.7 to $2.4 million were in part because he met – ‘customer service targets’.

Well – Mr Thodey this post is an example of a customer whose expectations under your so called ‘customer service targets’ were not met.  ‘The Australian’ story on Mr Thodey’s pay increases is part posted below:

Thodey, McKenzie, Akhurst pocket pay rises at Telstra


| Author: John Durie | Date: Aug 9th 2012 | Link to On-Line Story. |

TELSTRA chief David Thodey received a big pay hike in the last financial year, after meeting customer service targets and financial metrics.

His base pay increases from $2.1 million to $2.4m, short-term incentives are up from $1.7m to $2.4m and overall pay has risen from $5.1m to $7.7m.

Mr Thodey was paid $3.1m in the 2010 financial year.

Marketing boss Kate McKenzie also had a big increase, and her total pay has gone from $1.7m to $2.8m.

Former Sensis boss Bruce Akhurst, who was shown as working for just under seven months, received $1.3m.

… read more …

How about that … another CEO fattens his wad on the sacrifices and efforts of others …

The ABC reported on the same story and it appears below:

Telstra boss’s $5m pay packet revealed


| Author: Elysse Morgan | Date: Aug 9th 2012 | Link to On-Line Story. |

The total pay of Telstra’s top executives has jumped by more than 70 per cent, despite an 18 per cent fall in the company’s profits.

The payouts are contained in Telstra’s just-released annual report.

It reveals chief executive David Thodey received a 59 per cent jump in pay, totalling $5.1 million.

Former chief operating officer Mick Rocca’s pay packet rose 39 per cent to $4.3 million, boosted by termination payments.

Retiring chief financial officer John Stanhope’s pay rose 44 per cent to $3.3 million.

The fourth highest-paid executive was Bruce Akhurst of phonebook company Sensis.

He predicted Sensis would make a loss for the next three years, but he still pockets $2.9 million – an increase of 53 per cent.

The collective pay for the top executives and managers rose from $14.5 million to $26.5 million over the period.

Centre for Corporate Government director Professor Thomas Clarke says it has been a difficult year for Telstra and executives have had to work hard.

“What people will be worried about is that if this size of award can be made in present circumstances, what will happen at the end of the NBN deal when its concluded?” he said.

“Will the executives be receiving another 80 per cent increase just for selling off assets of Telstra?”

… read more …

You could have knocked me down with a feather upon reading these stories.  The GFC is still wrecking havoc and CEO’s think it should not apply to their greedy grubby bonus triggers.   Telstra shareholders had to have voted to approve these incentive payments, so there is not a lot that can be done other to register the protest.

Mr Thodey has a direct e-mail access – … linked here … – where you can send him a message about any billing or service issue you have with your Telstra-Bigpond account.   It is then forwarded on to a ‘complex assessment’ division where young ‘turks’ respond with one goal in mind – to play hardball with the customer, and to never acknowledge a Telstra-Bigpond mistake or weakness.

I walked away from the April 2012 bill dispute because Telstar’s offer included a ‘release document’ that put all the previous billing errors off the table in any future problems on this ‘billing errors’ issue.   It was just not equitable given the 30 hours invested to resolve the dispute.   It was a matter of principal and Telstra-Bigpond could not give a rats arse.

Let me be clear – Telstra have always refunded the error value – the dispute was in the reasons why the bill had errors in the first place, and the cost of my time and efforts in reporting the errors, and having Telstra-Bigpond acknowledge the error, and for them to come up with a suitable package to compensate for their continued mistakes that were happening 100% of the time when ‘plan-changes’ were requested.

I turned to my Local member as suggested by the TIO and provided all the details to this dispute and a history of all my previous Telstra-Bigpond billing errors.  I sent a copy of that message to Mr Conroy and Mr Turnbull and the other Regulatory Authorities mentioned above.

To read the submission sent to all these parties, please click on the links provided hereto – … PDF or Word

The most common response to these submissions was – ‘not our jurisdiction‘.  The ACCC stated that they needed a number of complaints about the same issue before they would get involved – they would not give the number needed.  They suggested to get in touch with the QLD OFT and the TIO.

The TIO said that they could only investigate refunds for bill disputes and because I was seeking additional compensation for my time and efforts to which Telstra had always agreed to in the past – they said their hands were tied.

The Regulatory Agency responses are published below:

ACCC:

– received June 27th 2012

Thank you for your email of 21 June 2012 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding your ongoing dispute with Telstra. Your reference number for this matter is [withheld].

The ACCC is responsible for administering the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 which incorporates the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). The ACL is a national law which applies to all business sectors. It covers general standards of business conduct, prohibits harmful practices, regulates specific types of business-to-consumer transactions, provides basic consumer rights for goods and services and regulates the safety of consumer products and product-related services.

I note from your email that you have sent this matter to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). In this instance I strongly suggest that you continue to pursue this matter with the TIO as they are an independent, non-government scheme which has been set up to assist consumers with speedy dispute resolution with their telecommunication service providers. The TIO can be contacted on 1800 062 058, or at www.tio.com.au.

If the TIO is unable to provide you assistance in this matter, I recommend that you raise this matter with the Queensland Office of Fair Trading as the ACCC does not provide an individual dispute resolution service. Local fair trading or consumer affairs agencies are best placed to assist with localised or individual disputes and can suggest a range of strategies that you may wish to explore to resolve your concerns. They can also provide information on how to make a claim through the small claims court or tribunal should this become necessary. Finally, they can conduct their own investigation if they have evidence of systematic breaches of their legislation. The Office of Fair Trading can be contacted on 13 74 68 or www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au.

Please note the details of your complaint have been recorded in the ACCC’s national database which will assist the Commission to establish whether there is a pattern of behavior by Telstra or a wider issue within their industry that may raise broader concerns.

Thank you for contacting the ACCC with your concerns.

See the QLD OFT response further below …


TIO:

The TIO believed that the documents sent to them along with all the other recepients was a part of the April 2012 billing dispute they were investigating. As such, it became a part of that resolution and no further response was received when Telstra refused to consider any compensation package.


QLD Minister for Attorney General and Justice:

… received Jly 25th 2012 –


Minister Conroy:  Minister for Telecommunications.

The Minister received the submission on the 21st June – I received a response on the 10th Aug.  That response is linked below as PDF files.

Needless to say – Conroy has received a further letter with more direct questions.


Office of Fair Trading – QLD:

received – Aug 13th 2012 …

I refer to your complaint lodged on 25 July 2012 with the Office of Fair Trading regarding Telstra Bigpond to the Minister Jarrod Bleijie, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice for response. Thank you for your patience.

As discussed, I suggested that the appropriate agencies you have already approached are the best ones to handle your concerns.

Based on your incoming letter, the Commonwealth legislation you may be referring to is the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Services Standards) Act 1999. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) administers this act.

Please find attached direct link to ACMA’s website http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_1598. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is a statutory authority within the federal government portfolio of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

You allege there appears to be breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act (Cth) (CCA). The competition aspects of the CCA are administered by ACCC. The Fair Trading Act 1986 (Qld) contains just the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) schedule and not the other parts of the CCA. As you stated over the phone that the ACCC haven’t addressed your concerns, however, I believe that the ACCC would be the agency best positioned to look at this issue if they have the authority (ie, other legislation doesn’t take precendence) under the CCA.

Under ACL (telecommunications being a service, for personal use, supplied in trader or commerce etc), it doesn’t appear this is a ‘fault’ with the telephone service but disputes over billing. Overall, I suggest that you contact the TIO again http://www.tio.com.au/about-us/contact-us and also follow up with ACMA as to how your complaint is going.

Any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.


Mr Malcolm Turnbull – Opposition spokesperson for Telecommunications:

Similarly, Mr Turnbull took his time to respond and only did so after several calls were made to ask when a response could be expected.  The staffer spoken to wanted to see Minister Conroy’s response before he asked Mr Turnbull to respond.  I declined her request.

Received on the 16th Aug 2012.

Thank you for your email. I have contacted Telstra on your behalf, and they have confirmed they have dealt with you and your concerns.

I have included the Minister responsible, Mr Stephen Conroy, to ask again for a Government response.

Kind regards

Mr Turnbull has also received further correspondence refuting the comments made about Telstra’s position – hell ‘dealt with you and your concerns’ – Mr Turnbull how much of the complaint registered with you … you were supposed to challenge Telstra about how they dealt with the complaint as the Opposition spokesperson on Telecommunications.


ACMA:

No response has been received from the ACMA – follow up enquiries are ongoing.

The war continues – Telstra-Bigpond need to be exposed for using Legislation to hide and protect them from their consumer problems.

Part II Preview:

Part II of this story will reveal more on Telstra-Bigpond monopoly practices and how they over charge rural and regional internet users to subsidise metropolitan prices.

It concerns – The Bigpond Internet speed delivery service – and how the sale of the ‘copper-network’ netting Telstra some A$ 12 billion has compromised exchange upgrades, and forced contracted Telstra-Bigpond clients into an NBN rollout timeframe before they can expect high-speed internet service.

This is a discriminate policy Telstra-Bigpond has towards Rural and Regional internet users.   They know there is a massive ‘speed delivery’ difference yet they charge Rural and Regional on slowed speed networks the same cost as high speed networks.

This ‘copper-network’ deal was a sellout – and the deal allowed Telstra/Bigpond to walk away from the contractual arrangements they had with their clients to upgrade their Rural and Regional exchanges.   The Telstra clients received no compensation for this betrayal.

There was a planned rollout by Telstra to upgrade their exchanges – that is no longer in place and is now co-joined with the NBN rollout.   A so-called ‘top-hat’ upgrade system has be instituted to appease the upgrade issues.  Yet to try and find out when a Regional exchange is to be upgraded you are referred to a website – linked here.  The NBN rollout webpage – linked here – does not have the 4655 postcode on a 3 year timeline.   That means no NBN for 4-5 years … hopefully.

The main concern is that these rural and regional areas receive ADSL 1 service, and this is somewhere around a third of the speed available in metropolitan areas – mainly ADSL 2.

Yet – the monthly cost of the service for this ADSL 1 service is vastly inferior service is the same as the metropolitan client pays.  Telstra/Bigpond know this,  yet they refuse to consider they have breached any contractual arrangements by abandoning their pre ‘copper-network’ sale commitments, nor have they considered a class compensation due to the sell-out to millions of clients.

This is a moral wrong …

More on this in the next report …


Have your say where it counts: – contact your Local Federal Representative via the links below and let them know how you feel about this, or any other topic that you feel strongly about – or you can just post a comment below and let off some steam.

Links to Australian Parliamentary Website – MP’s


The EYE-BALL Opinion …

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  1. wyroby betonowe
    August 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I always was concerned in this topic and stock still am, thank you for putting up.

  2. February 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing this interesting post with us. I enjoy at the time of reading this post. You have done a awesome job by sharing this post with us. Keep it up.

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