Common Complaint - Customer Service

Disconnection or suspension of services

Summary of the issue

A Scheme Member may suspend or disconnect a customer's service for a range of reasons (for example non-payment of an account, or misuse of the network). The issue arises as to what notice a Scheme Member must provide to its customer before services are suspended or disconnected.

Usual positions of the parties

TDR has received complaints from customers concerned that their services have been suspended, or disconnected, without adequate notice to allow the customer to remedy the situation. Issues also arise relating to the practical effect of customers' services being disturbed resulting in inconvenience and loss of business. Customers have advised TDR that, had they received better notice, they could have remedied the situation and therefore avoided the suspension or disconnection. The position often taken by Scheme Members is that there was good reason to restrict services, and may point to the terms and conditions which apply to the customer's service.

TDR's view of the issue

TDR considers that a Scheme Member is within its rights to suspend or disconnect a customer's service for non-payment of an overdue account, providing the customer has been provided with reasonable notice of the amounts outstanding.

Where a Scheme Member intends to disconnect a customer's service, at least five working days notice must be provided to the customer. Where a Scheme Member only intends to restrict a service (for example a toll bar, or internet bar), no notice is required. TDR considers 'reasonable efforts' to notify the customer to be two or more attempts to contact the customer by phone, email or text message, or a combination of those methods. If the notice has been made by letter, TDR accepts that one letter would be sufficient, providing the proposed date for disconnection takes account of the delays experience in the normal course of a postal service.

The NZ Telecommunications Forum Customer Complaints Code (the Code) prohibits a Scheme Member from disconnecting a customer's service for non-payment of an account that is the subject of a complaint to TDR. However, a Scheme Member may disconnect any services which are not the subject of any complaint (for example in a dispute over telephone charges, a suspension may be made of internet services). A Schme Member may disconnect a customer, without notice, when they reasonably deem the customer's activity to be malicious, illegal, fradulent, or for any activity that may pose a material threat to the Scheme Member's network, or to any other user.

TDR will uphold a Scheme Member's decision to disconnect a customer's service, when satisfied that the customer has a history of abusive behaviour toward the Scheme Member's staff. TDR may also uphold a Scheme Member disconnecting or suspending a service when lawfully required to do by another body or authority (for example following Copyright infringements, or at the direction or a receiver).

Other position statements which may be relevant