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Telco watchdog speaks out about cold calling

19 May 2010

Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR) chair David Russell says the service received 66 calls regarding unauthorised transfers in the twelve months to March 2010, more than double the number of complaints on the previous year.

He warns that customers need to be careful if they’re cold called by a company offering better deals because if they do wish to return to their original telco, they may be liable for a reconnection fee. In particular, it appears that elderly customers are being targeted.

“If the customer says they might be interested in transferring, some companies are taking this as an authorisation. In no time at all the customer has been moved to the new telecommunications company,” says Russell. “In some cases it appears transfers have been undertaken when the customer merely said they’d think about the offer, or worse, actually said no.”

The TDR is an independent service for residential and small business users, under the auspices of the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF). It’s a free service for customers, however they can only seek redress through the service after they have approached their telecommunications provider with the complaint first.

In addition, the service only applies to customers who’s provider is one of ten telcos signed up to the service. Russell says these telcos – which include Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear – accountfor more than 90% of the total residential and small business market. However he says that some of the complaints regarding unauthorised transfers relate to telcos that haven’t signed up to the service.

TCF CEO David Stone told the audience at the TUANZ Telecommunications Day last month that the ICT Minister Steven Joyce is considering bringing in a regulated complaints service – in other words, it would be compulsory for telcos to join and be bound by its rules – if more telcos don’t sign up to the TDR.

This issue came to light recently during the XT outages, when CallPlus, which is not currently a member of the TDR, suggested that XT customers should seek redress from the service.