Jurisdiction decision

This is a complaint that TDR can consider. This is primarily about customer service and communication.


1.1         The customer disputes the final charges from the retail service provider on cancellation of her account.  The customer states that she shouldn’t have to pay for a full month when she cancelled her account 6 days into her billing period and that a second account has been inappropriately charged at the maximum amount as a primary account holder.

1.2         The Jurisdiction decision explicitly dealt with this issue as follows:

1.3         The retail service provider believes the complaint is excluded under Clause 18.1.5. of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code), if it relates to the level of charges Scheme Members choose to set.”

1.4         However, the level of charges is not really the prime reason for the complaint but rather the communication over the closing of the account and whether she is being charged for a period which she believes she was no longer a customer.

Final determination

1.5         In making this final determination I have considered the information provided by the customer and service provider and:

•            Fairness in all the circumstances

•            Any relevant legal requirements

•            The Code and its service standards, including position statements; and

•            Any other relevant telecommunications code.

1.6         Having discussed this with the customer on 01 June and with retail service provider later on 01 June (along with email correspondence with the parties), it was clear that this matter would not resolve by agreement. I therefore make the following final determination:

Dispute outcome

1.7         Not upheld for the following reasons:

1.8         The retail service provider terms of service are clear to show that customers are liable for the cost of their service plans up to the next billing date regardless of use of that service. These terms of service were appropriately communicated to the customer and available for viewing on their website.

1.9         The customer made a genuine error in closing her account, leading to the secondary account discount being lost and that secondary account becoming the primary account automatically (and charged accordingly). The resolution already offered by the retail service provider of applying the secondary account discount is a reasonable one to resolve this dispute. In response to the proposed decision, the retail service provider confirmed that this correction has already been applied to the customer’s account.

1.10       I find that the communication and customer service the customer received from the retail service provider since raising her concerns was appropriate throughout and conforms to its obligations under the code.

1.11       The customer has requested that the retail service provider issue a new bill with the final amount owing, which is a reasonable request. The customer has also requested an extension of time to 21 July 2023 to allow her to pay the final invoice and I encourage the parties to agree on a timetable for payment, but I make no orders in this regard.

Positions of the respective parties

Customer’s position

1.12       On 16 of April 2023, the customer switched to another telecommunications provider, she says as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle.

1.13       Prior to shifting to the new provider, the customer had a joint account with the retail service provider, under which she paid $80 a month and the other person/s paid $30 (for a total fee of $110).

1.14       The customer attempted to close her account via the retail service provider app and assumed that this would close both accounts. Instead, she was removed from the account and left the other person on the account paying the full fee of $80 (as there was no applicable discount for a second account).

1.15       On 17 April the customer received an email stating that they had put the other person on a $80 [REDACTED title] plan. She immediately went into a store to discuss this and because she was having issues switching to the new provider. She requested that both accounts be closed.

1.16       On 11 May the customer received invoice for $150 for the billing period 10 April to 9 May 2023. This total is made up of $80.50 for the customer’s account and $69.50 for the second connection on the same account. The secondary account charge is made up of 6 days at the discounted rate of $35, with the remainder of the billing period being charged at the full $80.

1.17       The customer submits that she should not have been charged this amount as she was “no longer a customer” of the retail service provider from 17 April.

1.18       The customer also detailed issues in customer service, saying that they failed to answer their phonelines and disconnect calls due to the inability to handle their workload, or leave customers to wait an hour or more to speak to someone. She submits that response times on social media are no better, taking 4 to 7 days to respond.

Scheme member/service provider’s position

1.19       The retail service provider says that the customer’s main account was signed up to the $80 Plan and the second connection to the $30 Plan.  The second connection saw a price increase to $35 in January/February 2023.

1.20       The retail service provider submitted that to have a group plan function, there must be a plan leader (also known as a primary plan), in this case a $80 connection.  If a plan leader is removed or cancelled, another member of the plan will be moved to a leader plan to continue services.

1.21       In March 2022, one of the group plans was removed from the account and moved to prepay services. As the customer’s leader plan was still active, there were no changes to the remaining connections.

1.22       On 16 April 2023, the number attached to the $80 leader plan was removed from the retail service provider network by port action to another network. This in turn left the remaining group plan without a leader.  Therefore, through the retail service provider automated systems, the remaining connection was moved to the leader plan to remain active. The retail service provider submits that its Terms and Conditions regarding group plans are clear in how they will function should a number as the leader be removed.

[REDACTED terms of conditions]

1.23       The retail service provider goes on to state that once the network registers that these changes need to occur, a notification is sent out via an automated email to advise that changes would be occurring.

[REDACTED automated message]

1.24       The retail service provider further submits that the remaining connection was also removed by port action thereby fully closing the account on the 18 April 2023.

1.25       The retail service provider also says that it is not possible to close phone accounts through the retail service provider app as the customer suggested, as detailed in para 4.3 above as this is not an app function. When accessing the area of the app that says, “close account”, the disclaimed copied below appears and advises the customer how to close the account. It also advises that should an account be closed during the billing cycle, a full cycle will be invoiced:

[REDACTED disclaimer]

1.26       The retail service provider have also provided their Terms and Conditions which they submit are consistent with this message.

[REDACTED Terms and Conditions]

1.27       The retail service provider did offer to reduce the final charge that the second connection had from $69.50 (as detailed in para 4.5 above) to the $35 discounted rate for a second connection, thereby crediting the customer’s account with $34.50. The customer’s response to this offer was that this offer does not make up for the fact that the retail service provider charged $80 for both people on the account.

Reasons for the decision

1.28       I find that the customer’s accounts with the retail service provider were cancelled on or around 17 April 2023. I accept her submission that she thought she was cancelling all her accounts with the retail service provider at the same time, rather than only removing herself as plan leader. Given this genuine understanding, I find that it was not reasonable to charge the customer for two full $80 plans for that billing period.

1.29       It is unfortunate that the offer detailed at para 4.16 above was not made immediately when that this understanding was known. Pursuant to para 34.8 of the TCF Customer Complaints Code, the TDR adjudicator is precluded from considering claims for compensation for (amongst other things) pain, suffering, inconvenience and mental stress. Therefore, even if I found that the retail service provider has breached the code by initially charging the customer $150, I am not able to award compensation for this error.

1.30       I find that the offer of a $34.50 credit on the account was reasonable and order that this should be applied against the customer’s final account. This recognises that the customer cancelled both accounts at once, so should have only been charged for her plan as plan leader ($80) plus $35 for the second connection under her account.

1.31       However, the retail service provider terms and conditions are clear that customers will be charged for the full billing period regardless of usage during the billing period and regardless of cancellation date. Accordingly, the customer hasn’t been charged for the full month for “6 days usage” as she submitted to TDR; she has been charged for the billing period 10 April to 9 May 2023.

1.32       As the customer cancelled her accounts with the retail service provider after the commencement of the billing period on 10 April then she is contractually obliged to pay for the complete billing period up to 9 May, irrespective of her cancellation of her accounts and porting all numbers from the retail service provider during the billing period.

Future actions

1.33       As I have found that there is no breach of the code, I do not order future actions to be performed.