Telstra apologises as some incorrect bills 'fall through and cracks' to south-west customers

TELSTRA has apologised to south-west customers who received a bill for services during the Warrnambool telephone exchange outage.

In December it promised to credit its line rental for fixed landline phone and ADSL broadband customers for a month from the November 22 fire and those who had to use their mobile phone as their primary voice or data service would not incur additional standard charges above their included plan.

But bills kept coming for some customers, who have told The Standard of their annoyance.

One Warrnambool man said he rang Telstra on the due date of his mobile bill and had the bill wiped after having to explain to call centre staff about the fire.

“Is it Telstra’s way of getting the cash from people until they say something about it?” he asked.

However, Telstra spokesman James Howe said it was not deliberate, but rather an administrative slip-up.

“We tried to stop bills being sent after the outage, but we knew that with 100,000 some would fall through the cracks,”  he said.

“We are sorry for the errors.”

A fresh lot of bills will arrive in the mail from Monday with an explanation letter detailing credits and charges for early November and late December.

“Ignore the first bill because the second bill will cover the period and includes rebates,” Mr Howe said.

Mr Howe said Telstra’s internal review into the exchange fire was expected to  be made public next month.

“We have nothing to hide,”  he said.

Meanwhile, a federal departmental inquiry instigated by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will hold more south-west hearings.

A spokeswoman said yesterday the minister’s department had contacted local councils to arrange dates and venues for consultation with local businesses. 

“These are being sought for Camperdown, Warrnambool, Portland, and Hamilton in the period of mid-to-late January,”  she  said.

The first hearing was in Warrnambool last month.

Senator Conroy last year indicated findings from the inquiry were likely to have national implications.

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