Case Studies - Billing (including roaming)

TDR Case Note T004222 (2010)


Disputed charges, disconnection of mobile services, early termination fees. 


The customer subscribed to a package of services with the Scheme Member Provider (Provider) in October 2009.  On 18 December 2009 the customer advised the provider that she was transferring to other company’s services.   The provider responded that a disconnection fee would apply. The customer did not agree, stating that she had never been advised of such a fee. Later that day the customer’s service was disconnected and she was without telephone services over the Christmas period. The customer lodged her complaint through TDR in February 2010.   
The customer added that she had been put on the wrong services plan. She considered that the provider’s salesperson bullied her into accepting the plan, which had not resulted in the savings  promised in the sales call.  She also complained that services should not have been disconnected prior to Christmas, and that the provider should have informed her that the new company had not connected her services.  She also objected to the disconnection fee.

The provider responded that it had provided the services and packages that were agreed to by the customer, and that the disconnection was only undertaken following the customer’s instructions.

Adjudicator’s decision

The adjudicator found that there were four main issues.

The first was whether the customer had been put on the wrong plan and overcharged.  After comparing the customer’s two accounts for November and December 2009 with the fees disclosed during the recorded sales call, the adjudicator was satisfied that the amounts charged to the customer’s bill were consistent with those quoted by the sales representative.  The customer had selected a plan for which she would be charged $0.40 per minute for mobile phone calls, rather than a plan for capped mobile phone services. Therefore, the final account would vary depending on the mobile calls made. In addition, the adjudicator found no evidence that the provider had a better plan that the customer should have been advised about. In any event, there was no requirement in law or under the Customer Complaints Code (the Code) that a provider must provide a customer with the least costly option. The adjudicator therefore considered that the provider had not overcharged the customer.

The second issue was whether there had been any breach of law or the Code in disconnecting the customer’s services.  The adjudicator found that the customer had expressly terminated the contract and that there was no requirement in law or in the Code requiring the provider to investigate whether the transition to the new company would be seamless.  The customer had also been advised by the sales representative about the potential delay in having services transferred. Therefore, there was no merit to the customer’s complaint regarding the disconnection of services.

Thirdly, the adjudicator considered whether there was bullying from the sales representatives in the sales call or the conversation during which the customer requested the service to be disconnected. After listening to recordings of the two conversations, the adjudicator found that the representatives’ tone and manner were entirely appropriate. There was no impression of an aggressive or bullying approach.

Finally, the adjudicator considered whether the provider was able to apply a disconnection charge. The adjudicator found that the customer had been clearly advised of the disconnection fee of $99 at the time of the sales call, and had also acknowledged this in later communications with the TDR service. The provider was therefore able to apply a fee, given that the disconnection occurred within one year of the contract.    

Final outcome

The adjudicator dismissed the customer’s complaint and concluded that: (1) there was no evidence suggesting that the customer had been overcharged by the provider; and (2) there was no breach of the law or the Code in relation to the disconnection of services. There were therefore no remedies awarded.