Determinations

TDR Case Note T010891 (2012)

Issue

Billing and fees - disputed charges

Background

The Customer (a small business) subscribed to landlines, broadband and cell phone services with the Scheme Member Provider (Provider). In October 2011, the Customer received two new mobile phones with a new service contract to sign, and a covering letter advising that the Provider was switching to the mobile network of another wholesale Provider. The Customer responded saying that it wished to keep its mobile services with the existing network. The Customer was advised that it would have a week to consider what it wanted to do, but only a day or two later it was contacted by the Provider and advised that its mobile phones would be cut-off, and that the Provider urgently needed the Customer to sign the new contracts to enable the Provider to migrate its mobile phones to the new mobile network.

At the end of October 2011, the Provider verbally confirmed to the Customer that it did not have any ongoing contract with them, and he could decide to transfer to another provider, and all services with no termination or exit fees. The Customer duly decided to transfer to another provider, and all services the Customer had with the original provider were terminated on 15 November 2011. However, the Provider continued to invoice the Customer up until March 2012 and also charged early termination fees. The outstanding amount was then transferred to a debt-collection agency, with yet further charges added.

The Customer complained through the TDR service and requested the Provider to adjust the outstanding balance so that it only related to services provided by the Provider prior to the Customer terminating the services, and excluding early termination and debt-collection fees. The Customer also requested a full written apology.

The Provider responded that the Customer was aware of the migration prior to getting the letters, and that all the Customer's requests were complied with. The Provider considered that the Customer was liable for all charges, including $909.57 for early termination fees, and value of two new mobile devices.

Adjudicator's decision

The Adjudicator found that the timetable for the Customer's service to be migrated to the other wholesale Provider was as follows: (1) 27 Oct 2011 for mobile phones; (2) 2 Nov 2011 for the work 0800 number; (3) 5 Nov 2011 for home phone number/broadband; and (4) 15 Nov 2011 for work/fax/0800 numbers. Having considered the circumstances and the Customer Complaints Code, the Adjudicator considered that the Provider had terminated the existing contract with the Customer when it changed its wholesale Provider. From that date onward there should not be termination fees improsed on any account that the Customer had with the Provider.

From teh date of the Provider's move to the new wholesale Provider's move to the new wholesale Provider, the Provider needed to enter into new contacts with its clients. This is evidenced by the sending of new written contracts to its Customers. The Customer denied that it enter into any new contract with the Provider for home or work telecommunications services. The Adjudicator found that the Customer owned payment for the telecommunication line rental and activity charges as follows: (1) monthly charges and call activity for the Customer's home phone number and broadband connection and activity to 5 November 2011; (3) the Customer's small business telephone, fax and 0800 number monthly charges and activity charges to 15 November 2011.

Final outcome

The adjudicator upheld the Customer's complaint and concluded that: (1) the Provider terminated the existing contract when it changed its wholesale provider, and that from that date onward no termination fees could be imposed on any account that the Customer had with the Provider; and (2) the Provider should calculate and submit statements of accounts owing by the Customer for services up to the timetable as set out above.