Summary of the issue
A customer is dissatisfied after receiving an account for charges for periods prior to the current billing cycle. For example, the account may relate to charges for a line connection for the previous six months, which had not been included in earlier accounts sent to the customer.
Usual positions of the parties
The customer will typically be dissatisfied at receiving an account for previous periods, as often that larger-than-normal-account was unanticipated, or for significant amounts. At times customer hold concerns at being able to pay the account raised by the Scheme Member, as that account had not been budgeted for. The customer may state that had they known particular charges were being incurred, they would have taken action to stop those charges arising. The customer may seek to have either the charges waived, or a time payment arrangement applied.
Typically the Scheme Member will express regret that the charges had not been made during the appropriate billing cycle, but advise TDR that the back billing charges arose due to an error or oversight, or as a consequence of a delay in receiving charges from a third party provider. The Scheme Member will usually maintain their right to charge the missed charges, but will often be open to considering a time payment arrangement.
TDR's view of the issue
TDR notes that the NZ Telecommunications Forum Customer Complaints Code (the Code), requires that Scheme Members make reasonable efforts to ensure their billing is accurate. This means that charges should be brought in the correct billing cycle.
TDR accepts that from time to time, despite reasonable efforts, charges may be missed and not billed during the appropriate billing cycle. TDR accepts that such a situation would not excuse the customer of liability for those charges, providing the services for which they were charged were in fact used. However, TDR also notes that the Code requires that the customer provided with a reasonable opportunity to pay any back-billed account.
On that basis, TDR expects that the Scheme Member and customer would work together to determine an appropriate time payment plan to repay any back billed accounts. If there is disagreement between the parties as to what a reasonable payment plan would be, TDR could assist with that determination.