TDR was contacted by a customer whose landline phone service was being withdrawn. Their provider was discontinuing providing traditional copper-based services in his area. The customer believed that the provider was exploiting a loophole, as they are a retail service provider who decided to remove the product and therefore did not have the same obligations under the Copper Withdrawal Code that Chorus, a wholesale service provider, has when removing copper services.
The customer expressed concerns that the service withdrawal would impact his ability to communicate with family and friends, and in particular his ability to check on their wellbeing during an emergency. He noted that mobile service in his area is unreliable, which limits the reliability of cellular or wireless services as a sound means to communicate. He wished for his copper service to remain functional.
TDR contacted his provider, who shared details about the complaint. They provided a copy of the customer’s contract and correspondence notifying the customer of the withdrawal and alternative options. As this service was due to be switched off imminently, the dispute was fast tracked to adjudication with the agreement of both the customer and their provider.
The adjudicator’s role was to decide whether the provider could lawfully withdraw the landline phone service. In considering that question, the adjudicator would also consider whether there is a contractual obligation for the provider to continue the service, and secondly, whether there is a general legal obligation to supply.
The adjudicator considered the information provided and the codes that applied. He concluded that there was no legal or regulatory obligation for the provider to continue providing this service to this customer or any customer, and that no provisions applied in the customer's contract that would prohibit the provider from doing so. He determined that the provider was entitled to withdraw the service, provided they gave adequate notice. He confirmed that the provider had given valid notice, as per the contractual requirements, and as such the provider was entitled to proceed with withdrawing the service.
The adjudicator also considered the customer’s concerns about exploiting a loophole. He noted that he understood how the customer came to this perception, however as the service was being withdrawn by his retail service provider, the Copper Withdrawal Code did not apply. The adjudicator did not find any evidence that the provider, by withdrawing the phone service, was attempting to skirt any obligations under the Copper Withdrawal Code – that would apply to Chorus.
The adjudicator stated that without any reservation he accepted that the withdrawal of the phone had put the customer into a difficult position, however TDR’s role was to decide on the question of whether the withdrawal on notice was lawful, and for the reasons above, the adjudicator found that it was lawful. The adjudicator could see no obligation on the provider to fund and supply any alternate service or hardware.
The final decision of TDR was that the complaint was not upheld. The decision was issued within 5 weeks of the customer
making initial contact.
Want to find out more about copper services being withdrawn?
This short factsheet provides information on the coming changes to copper-based landline and broadband services.