Determinations

TDR Case Note T003798 (2009)

Issue

Delay in transferring telephone and broadband services to a new property. 

Background

The customer (a small business) subscribed to the services of the Scheme Member Provider (Provider). On 1 September 2008 the customer’s representative contacted the provider to arrange for the transfer the business’ telephone line and internet services to a new property with effect from 6 September. The customer was advised that the business could keep its old phone number but that the transfer could not take place until the outstanding balance on the existing original account had been paid. The customer was also advised that the transfer could not be completed while there was an active phone at the new address and that the old phone had to first be disconnected. The customer was also told that a broadband connection was not available at the new premises.

The outstanding balance on the customer’s existing account was paid on 2 September. However, the customer was advised that the previous phone at the new property was not disconnected until 9 September.  On 12 September the customer found by chance that the connection at the new premises had been established, but the business had been given a random phone number. After several weeks, and after notifying people of the change, the business was finally given the old number back.  No explanation had been forthcoming from the provider.  The customer had also found out by chance, from the contracted technician, that broadband was indeed available at the new address.

The customer complained that there was a delay in the service transfer, which was only completed after nearly three weeks and without any information as to the cause of the delay. The delay resulted in a large cell-phone bill and significant inconvenience, and the business incurred penalties on late payments and loss of business, as it relied on email for bookings and for making payments.  The customer sought reimbursement of $2,500 for those costs and the inconvenience. 

The provider responded that the customer had been advised of the timeframes and potential delays, including information about payment of the existing account and about the active telephone line at the new address. The provider said that the customer was advised to contact its staff on 9 September to inform them of the existing number so that it could be disconnected. The customer’s new connection was available on 12 September, which was within the service delivery timeframe. The provider also responded that it was not liable for compensation for loss of business and indirect losses, as these were excluded in both its standard terms and conditions, and the Customer Complaints Code (the Code).

Adjudicator’s decision

The adjudicator identified two essential issues: (1) whether there was an unreasonable delay in transferring the telephone and broadband services; and (2) whether the provider’s communications had been adequate.

The customer sought to have telephone and broadband services connected at the new locations effective from 6 September, but the connection was not completed until 12 September.  The provider advised the customer that the new telephone line could not be connected because the previous occupier did not request a disconnection until 9 September. The adjudicator considered that the provider was unable to discontinue the services which the original occupier was receiving under another contract.

The issue therefore concerned the period between the date on which the line became available (9 September) and the date the services were provided (12 September). The provider had at the outset advised the customer that the timeframe for the connection of a telephone line was 3-5 working days, provided a line was available. The adjudicator considered that a delay of 3-4 days (9 to 12 September) was not unreasonable.
The adjudicator found that there was no liability on the part of the provider for the various costs claimed by the customer.  With reference to its standard residential terms and conditions, the provider was not in any event liable for consequential loss as a result of any delay in providing a service.

With regard to the provider’s communications, clause 7 of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code) required information and communication to be accurate, clear and up-to-date.  The adjudicator found that the provider had not provided accurate and up-to-date information with regard to the portability of the original number and the availability of broadband services. The provider therefore failed to meet its obligations under the Code.

Final outcome

The adjudicator considered that the customer was partially successful in his complaint and concluded that: (1) there was no unreasonable delay on the part of the provider in transferring the customer’s telephone and broadband services to the new property; and (2) there was some inaccurate information given by the provider that amounted to a breach of the Code. The provider was instructed to provide a written apology.