Determinations

TDR Case Note T003797 (2009)

Issue

Billings - charging for internet usage and accuracy of billing information

Background

The customer had a 10GB per month internet plan with the Scheme Member Provider (Provider). For a period of 28 months the customer did not fully use the allowable data allowance, but in January 2009 his usage was 85 GB.  He was billed an additional $ 226.29 for this excess.
The customer considered that this was a “massive anomaly” and that there must have been either an error in the meter reading or the equipment was inaccurate.  He stated that the provider gave him no believable evidence to satisfy him that there had not been a technical problem or error in reading the meter.

The provider responded that the data usage originated from the customer’s computer but that for privacy reasons it did not monitor or record the customer’s internet activity and so was unable to provide details about the sites visited. The provider advised that notifications that the customer’s usage crossed 80% and 100% of the 10 GB allowance were sent to the customer’s email address.  The provider also confirmed that the terms and conditions of the service provided that it was the customer’s responsibility to protect his computer against viruses, spam and unauthorised usage.

Adjudicator’s decision

The adjudicator found that the essential issue whether there had been a technical or system failure that resulted in an inaccurate meter reading and billing, and that clause 12.2 and 12.3 of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code) applied.

The adjudicator considered that the customer had provided no technical evidence to suggest that the billing was inaccurate or that the usage for the disputed period had been inaccurately recorded.  In fact, the provider had clearly shown that the usage billed was the usage originating from the customer’s computer. The provider’s extract from the usage meter also indicated that the upstream and downstream email traffic was relatively proportional, which generally indicates use of peer-to-peer software or file sharing.

The material on file also disclosed that a member of the customer’s family was at home over the disputed period and downloaded music, which often involves file sharing and results in data usage that may not be noticeable. In addition, after checking the recorded usage for the disputed period as well as all prior and subsequent periods, the adjudicator found no evidence to suggest that the data usage was inaccurately metered.
The adjudicator was therefore unable to make an order allowing the customer to escape liability for either the whole, or any part of the $226.29 for his internet usage for the disputed period. 

Final outcome

The adjudicator concluded that: (1) the customer’s complaint regarding the internet usage billed could not be upheld; and (2) the customer’s claim for a reduction of the billed amount of $226.29 had to be declined.