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Topic # 99205 14-Mar-2012 17:34

Warning: It’s a bit of a long story…but I would be interested to hear the view of other GZers. Am I being unreasonable in thinking that this represents a pretty shoddy approach to customer service on the part of TelstraClear?

I received an automated “courtesy call” from TCL last Friday…advising me that unless I paid an outstanding amount on my account that my services would be discontinued. That struck me as a bit heavy handed, and not very courteous – especially as my current invoice was sitting on my desk showing a typical monthly amount due to be paid next week and a couple of lines above showing previous charges having been met with an equivalent payment received – and a nice little “thank you”.

But obviously I’m not too keen on losing my Internet, phone and tv (although whether the T-Box qualifies as “service” is an ongoing debate elsewhere Wink). Only thing to do is phone up and try and speak to a real person who can tell me what’s going on. Flask of coffee and energy bars assembled on the desk, the call is made.

A mere 15 minutes later and I’m speaking to a real person who checks my account details and tells me it doesn’t look like there is anything to pay. Yup, that’s what my invoice seems to say. So he transfers me over to “Collections”.

Cutting a long story short – no, really this is the short version (any TCL customers will not need to hear the details of the ensuing 90 minute saga, it will be only too familiar), the Collections person advised me that it looked as though another customer had wrongly paid an amount against my account back in December last year, and that payment had subsequently been “reversed out”.

My reaction was, “Well if that’s the case I can hardly be expected to know about it. As far as I am concerned, you send me an invoice asking for an amount and I pay it. And that’s what I have done. So back to my original question as to why I am receiving an automated call threatening me with disconnection when this is the first I am hearing about a problem that is nothing to do with me.”

At this point, the Collections person asks if I would like to speak to his supervisor who can “help”. Foolishly agreeing, I end up effectively repeating the conversation, with the added bonus of the supervisor experiencing “system problems”, preventing him from checking my statements. But that’s fine, I have paper copies in the filing cabinet (some geek I am huh?)…which show invoiced amounts along with corresponding payments, the details of which I relay to him, repeating my point that as far as I am concerned I’ve paid what has been asked, so why am I receiving a call threatening to disconnect me.

The final straw is the Collections Manager offering that he is “happy to allow me an extension to pay the overdue amount…” Realizing that he and I have a different interpretation of “overdue amount” – i.e. I can’t consider something overdue until some point in time beyond which I have been asked to pay and failed to do so, a point not yet arrived at as I haven’t actually been asked to pay, I suggest this might be more of a Customer Service issue and I should probably speak to someone in that area. I asked for the name of the person responsible for Customer Service… and after a few minutes more of “on hold” music he had managed to uncover that obviously internally secret piece of information (apparently it’s a Richard Myers) and kindly (!) dropped me back into the automatic queuing system to await my opportunity to discuss the matter with “Customer Care”

My issue is not one of paying the amount TCL have discovered they never asked me for. As I explained to the CS rep (who, to his credit did seem to understand my argument), I would have preferred (and indeed considered it reasonable on the part of TCL) for them to have written to me (or at least had a real person phone me) to explain that they had stuffed up and actually they would like me to pay an amount they forgot to ask for three months ago, that they recognized that I had paid every invoice with which I was presented and to apologize for the inconvenience.

As they failed to do that, the least I now expect is a written apology for both being threatened with disconnection for their billing error, and for the unprofessional attitude of their Collections department.

This is what I requested of the CS rep and I actually got a follow-up call to discuss my complaint on Monday. However, this person immediately made reference to the “outstanding invoice” and failed to understand the point I was making.

The upshot of all this after speaking with her supervisor (another hour of my life gone by) is that I am now expecting a letter of apology along with a request for payment (which will be the first such request to be received) and an explanation of how the billing error occurred. Let’s see what actually arrives.

So, if you managed to stay awake through that, are my interpretations of invoices and expectations of courtesy reasonable and rational?

 

IG

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BDFL
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  Reply # 595224 14-Mar-2012 17:53 Send private message

Let's make it short then:

- someone pays into your account in December
- You paid all invoices since after
- The December payment was reversed
- Your account is subsequently in arrears since December
- TelstraClear knows this is the case but is not really having it

One thing is not clear to me: did you get an invoice in December with a credit or at least a zero balance to pay - one identifying the incorrect payment, therefore thought there was nothing to pay?





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  Reply # 595225 14-Mar-2012 17:55 Send private message

It seems to be very poor customer service. I like you would have been some what annoyed by your treatment.




that would be an ecumenical matter

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  Reply # 595228 14-Mar-2012 18:01 Send private message

Prima facie very poor service. I have the same question about the December invoice as freitasm.




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  Reply # 595229 14-Mar-2012 18:04

That's the short version *but* with the benefit of hindsight and all of the apparent facts.

Yes we had an invoice in January for around $10 instead of the usual $120-160 *but* the apparent previous "overpayment" could easily have been a typo on our part when paying the previous invoice.

My point was, I was asked to pay $10 then, I paid it. I was asked to pay $150 the following month and paid it. I have been asked to pay $130 this month and have paid it. The first I knew of the circumstances of the "overpayment" which was subsequently reversed was when I called to find out why I receive an automated call telling me to pay up. To pay what? I still haven't had a request for payment to make up that amount. How can it be overdue if I haven't been invoiced?

Sounds like you are coming down on the side of "unreasonable customer"  Laughing

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  Reply # 595239 14-Mar-2012 18:37 Send private message

soleil24: That's the short version *but* with the benefit of hindsight and all of the apparent facts.

Yes we had an invoice in January for around $10 instead of the usual $120-160 *but* the apparent previous "overpayment" could easily have been a typo on our part when paying the previous invoice.

My point was, I was asked to pay $10 then, I paid it. I was asked to pay $150 the following month and paid it. I have been asked to pay $130 this month and have paid it. The first I knew of the circumstances of the "overpayment" which was subsequently reversed was when I called to find out why I receive an automated call telling me to pay up. To pay what? I still haven't had a request for payment to make up that amount. How can it be overdue if I haven't been invoiced?

Sounds like you are coming down on the side of "unreasonable customer"  Laughing


If the TelstraClear bills are anything like the Telecom bills then it would show two different payments in the detailed section.

Not saying that is defense for TelstraClear though, my take is that it's a bit of both sides fault (mainly TelstraClear).

Where it sounds you stumbled, was although you noticed that the amount looked odd, you didn't check up on it to see if the bill was correct, (and especially if they itemize deposits/payments).  Possible to argue though, that someone should  be able to safely assume in good faith that the bill was correct.

TC's mistake is not sending out a revised bill, billing mistakes happen but there should be ways to correctly handle it, a CSR/payments person/etc must've realised that when Customer A complained that their payment wasn't credited, that YOU may have got a bill with a now incorrect amount.

I'd also say TC's 2nd mistake is the phone call, surely something like that without prior notice that was the case, makes the whole thing (at least partially invalid), I know it's not likely at the point where you could say it's "Demanding with menace" but it must be getting close.

But overall, it surely must be breaching some of the rules where it comes down to debt collection etc (does NZ have any laws where this is written down?)  - check your contract too, maybe they have the procedure that they use to claim outstanding fees, you could potentially claim that they broke their end of the contract.

My 2 cents

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  Reply # 595360 14-Mar-2012 22:05 Send private message

soleil24: Sounds like you are coming down on the side of "unreasonable customer" 


Not at all, just trying to understand, since this wasn't written in the first post.

 




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  Reply # 595434 15-Mar-2012 06:47 Send private message

+1 to Nigelj's points.







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  Reply # 595436 15-Mar-2012 07:34 Send private message

If your account shows no overdue and you pay your current amount plus the amount TCL say you owe for December then wont that mean you will just be putting your account in credit? Surely they have to apply a debit adjustment to YOUR account that will mean both the missed December bill and the current account when paid will zero your account.

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  Reply # 595446 15-Mar-2012 08:34 Send private message

I am going to go with Poor Customer Service.

Given the mistake in billing (not TCL's initially but still thier responsibility to manage the impact of) this should then have been notified to you and a revised invoice sent. Something like a courtesy call and adding the amount onto your next bill ? with possibly options to pay off over a period of time if that double bill is going to make you struggle.

To let it get to the stage of collections is only giving you a negative experience (other than Tbox ;)) for someone who has only being paying what they were asked to.

That said if I got an invoice for an unusually small amount for services that were normally worth $130 odd dollars I might have taken a closer look to double check.





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  Reply # 595449 15-Mar-2012 08:39 Send private message

riahon: If your account shows no overdue and you pay your current amount plus the amount TCL say you owe for December then wont that mean you will just be putting your account in credit? Surely they have to apply a debit adjustment to YOUR account that will mean both the missed December bill and the current account when paid will zero your account.


Someone else paid his account in December. He received the invoice for $10, assumed he made the a payment in excess the previous month and let it be.

TelstraClear then reversed the payment someone else made. His account now has a payment due again. 

Apparently this is not noted in subsequent invoices, so he doesn't know there's a pending payment.
 




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  Reply # 595450 15-Mar-2012 08:40 Send private message

I did some more thinking, and decided to look at TelstraClear's T&Cs, doesn't actually write down the exact process they will follow for overdue amounts, but http://www.telstraclear.co.nz/company-info/terms-and-conditions/residential.cfm

Part 6 says:
We will send you a bill at regular intervals. Some charges may be billed one month or more in advance or arrears.
Please contact Customer Care if you have any questions about your bill. If we agree that we have made a mistake then we will correct the bill. If we find that there is no mistake and the due date for payment has already passed, you agree to pay your bill (and any late payment fee - see below) straight away.
If you have not contacted us before the due date shown on your bill then you agree to pay the full amount.
If your account is overdue, we may:
  • suspend any of the services that you have asked us to provide;
  • charge you any temporary disconnection charge; and
  • continue to charge you any recurring monthly charge applicable for those services during the period of suspension.

So, I stand by my original thoughts that, you received a bill, you paid on the due date the due amount (although an incorrect amount due to an error at TelstraClear) in good faith, it's certainly not 'good faith' to instantly decide an amount is overdue, unless I'm mistaken, it certainly requires a new invoice.  Best guess is that there is something in the legislation that covers contracts, or perhaps in one of the general consumer protections laws, Consumer/ComCom sites may know more.

I'd also like to say on a previous comment...
nigelj: I'd also say TC's 2nd mistake is the phone call, surely something like that without prior notice that was the case, makes the whole thing (at least partially invalid), I know it's not likely at the point where you could say it's "Demanding with menace" but it must be getting close.

So I looked it up, Section 239 of the Crimes Act suggests that it isn't "Demanding with Menace" as it requires "intent to steal", TelstraClear's intent seems to be "get what we are owed" (although in the wrong way, as there was no prior notification).  (that said, if you look at Item 1, they have altered a document, not told you, and now trying to get the pecuniary advantage, but I doubt any court/cop would see it that way (and to be honest, neither do I)).

Standard disclaimer too... IANAL ;)

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  Reply # 595457 15-Mar-2012 08:42 Send private message

I like part (6) there. So, is TelstraClear correcting the bill?





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  Reply # 595470 15-Mar-2012 09:15 Send private message

I'm going to go with "poor customer service because TCL's billing system(s) need a revamp"

My own experience was around moving house. Apparently when I moved house, they changed my account number, without notifying me (other than the new number appearing on bills). I did notice this and thought it was strange but wasn't too worried until I got a fairly large bill the other day that indicated I hadn't paid them for a while. Turns out my "old" account was sitting there with a hefty credit balance, and my "new" account was in debt.

They hadn't bothered to tell me the account number was changing, that i'd need to update my AP particulars, or think to automatically move the money between the two accounts. /facepalm


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  Reply # 595476 15-Mar-2012 09:27 Send private message

The automated call was just that, automated, so you can't really blame them for that. Maybe they should look into this situation and change the call criteria.

The 90 minute call and the lack of information is poor customer service, which unfortunately is pretty much par for the course with TC. Generally the products work well, but contacting customer service is a minefield.

It took them 14 days to connect my brother to phone + ADSL recently, along the way they lost documents and gave him a lot of misinformation. The only way anything was sorted was by PMing the TC rep here on Geekzone. He still doesn't have wireless working, because while TC supply a WAP they don't actually support it. The TC rep is trying to help unofficially, but I find the lack of support weird.

It's hard to make any progress with a big company that has a reputation for poor customer service. Just pay the amount due, even if you don't have an invoice, and be done with it.




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  Reply # 595506 15-Mar-2012 10:29 Send private message

+ 1 for poor customer service. I do accept that the automated call about the outstanding balance would not see the problem with calling about an outstanding amount, however, reading the long version of the post I would have thought that the people involved could have been a bit more understanding.

Just them calling it an outstanding amount would be irritating, it's not an outstanding amount so much as an unbilled amount (to you). The $10 bill could have just been compensation for some prior problem, or, a loyalty payment or whatever (depending on the detail shown).

I would be unhappy if it had happened to me and, given that you have contacted them and explained the situation, they have not been more understanding and apologised for the situation (the fact that you were called with the threat of disconnection as a first contact about the situation that was not of your making).


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