Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ok, it's ranting time.

Everybody in Australia has, or has a friend who has, a horror story about the telco Telstra. This includes me. I have, no doubt, blogged at least once before about my problems with their broadband arm, Bigpond.

Telstra Bigpond is the biggest ISP in Australia. Whilst they do not have a monopoly, far from it in fact, they would certainly be the first considered ISP in most people's minds when first getting online. They are well-marketed, and their set-up process is easy for any beginner to follow.

Assuming you have no problems with your bundling or billing, and assuming you change nothing such as address or phone number mid-contract, their actual service is fine. I've never experienced a dropout, or significantly slowed speeds, while using the internet with Bigpond.

But the moment you come across a problem, the moment they make just one mistake, it escalates. Their customer service and complaints resolution process is unweildy and ineffective. Their right hand does not know what the left is doing. It is the problem of large companies that they have too many departments, none of whom communicate internaly, and all of which have long wait times to speak to an actual person.

This is what happened to me:

Late last year (ie, over 12 months ago), I received a phonecall from Bigpond offering me a great deal on my broadband and phone, bundled. I liked it, I accepted it. However, a couple of months later (although the service was active) I had not received a bill. They called me to advise that my account was in arrears, and advised me how much I had to pay immediately. The amount was far more than I had expected, given the deal I had agreed to over the phone, but I paid it anyway. I queried why I had not received any bills, and was told that my billing address was incorrect in the system.

Now, read this bit carefully, it's confusing, but very important: The billing address they had in the system was their own back-of-house operations area. My bill was actually supposed to be sent there, to be cancelled and re-issued to me with the correct charges and reflecting the bundling I was supposed to be getting.

Upon realising that this was not happening, and that I simply wasn't being billed, I pressed to get the bundling applied, so that internet and phone were charged as one amount on one bill. When speaking to them about this, it was determined that I had been being charged far too much, and was given a huge credit - actually I'm almost sure the credit was more than I had ever paid them in the first place, meaning that technically I still owed them money. However they apparently overlooked this, so I did too.

Despite this, bills still failed to arrive or be charged correctly. I finally went to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, who gave me the phone number for Telstra's own High Level Complaints. Upon calling this number, I finally reached somebody who appeared to have some control or authority to do what I was asking - which was what they had offered me in the first place. So, about six or seven months into my twelve month contract, things seemed to be fixed up for the first time.

BUT. Yes, there is a but. We went quite a while again without receiving bills. Now, as I'm sure you'll understand, being pregnant and having quite a bit going on right now, I really didn't think of calling them to ask for the bills. It didn't quite register how long it had been between bills. So, when our internet service was cut off yesterday, I had to call them to find out that it was for non-payment of three months worth of bills. Bills which, once again, had been sent to that back-of-house operations area, and not re-issued to me at all.

There wasn't much I could do about it; it had happened, and that was that. I paid the outstanding amount (which actually seemed about right) and called Bigpond back with the receipt number, just as they had asked, expecting to be re-connected almost immediately. However, upon calling them with the number, I was advised it may take up to 48 hours for the service to be re-activated. Possibly sooner, but probably not before Thursday morning. (This was Tuesday afternoon.)

And so, the last thing I asked Bigpond about yesterday was "When does my contract expire?"
I was told, to my very great relief, "You are no longer on a contract, ma'am."
"Does this mean I can cancel at any time with no cancellation fee?"
"Yes, ma'am", says Ryan on the phone.
"Fantastic," says I, "I'll be doing that in the next couple of days!"
He asked why. I told him if he had access to the notes on my file, and a few spare hours, he could certainly figure it out for himself.


Donn Coppens said...

Gadzooks what a cockup!

Eventually there will only be one global Big Brotherish internet provider and they will be monitoring every click of your mouse.

Cazzie!!! said...

Good for you Stace, I totally know where you are coming from because we had the same issue, with City Link!

Hilary said...

They're all pretty much the same. Customer service is not their strong point. If it was, there'd be no such thing as "If you want to speak to a live representative, press..."