Summary of the issue
A customer may bring a complaint to TDR in relation to their services being affected by the malicious conduct of another party. This may include, for example, the effects of viruses, freeloading (unauthorised use of a customer's internet connection), or physical damage to the network or equipment.
TDR has also received complaints from customers who have had their services suspended for alleged misuse of the Scheme Member's service.
Usual positions of the parties
The position the parties take depends on the circumstances of the complaint. However, the customer may take issue with being unable to access services, or effects to their computer and phone equipment, or being charged for excess user fees for unauthorised data transferred on their internet connection. In the case of customers who have had their services suspended because of misuse, those customers typically challenge the basis on which that suspension was applied.
The common position expressed by Scheme Members is that customers are required to take reasonable precautions to protect from malicious interference with their telephone and computer equipment, and that any resulting charges are reasonably brought.
TDR's view of the issue
TDR recognises that malicious use of services is an international problem which plagues both telecommunications providers and customers. TDR recognises that typically Scheme Members have some processes and facilities to protect its network and customers from some malicious attacks, but those actions do not preclude all risks to the customer. However, TDR considers that customers must also take reasonable actions to protect their service and computer equipment from malicious interference. This may include:
- The use of software to protect from viruses, and to provide a firewall. TDR notes that various programmes are available on the internet to the public free of charge for that purpose
- Taking reasonable efforts to protect physical property from loss or theft, such as protecting SIM cards, mobile telephones, and laptops
- Using complex passwords which are not disclosed to protect computer equipment and connections, including wireless (Wi-Fi) connections
In cases of hacking and physical damage or loss of property, TDR encourages customers to report the matter to the Police.
In cases where a customer's service has been suspended for misuse of the service, TDR notes that the NZ Telecommunications Forum Customer Complaints Code (the Code) allows for disconnection without notice when a customer's use of services is malicious, illegal, fraudulent, or an activity which poses a material threat to other users. TDR will generally uphold a Scheme Member's decision to suspend a customer, providing there is sufficient evidence to confirm the misconduct described by the Scheme Member. TDR would make a finding of fact as to whether the misconduct warranted immediate suspension based on the individual circumstances of each case.
TDR may also uphold a Scheme Member's decision to disconnect or suspend a service, when lawfully required to do so by another body or authority (for example following Copyright infringements).
Other guides which may be relevant