Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marathon gripe heading for Telstra AGM

A NSW man, tired of waiting more than eight years for a refund from Telstra, will confront the telco's annual general meeting in Sydney tomorrow to demand the issue be resolved.

Alastair Marshall has had little luck over the years but with a new Telstra boss onboard, he is feeling confident David Thodey could go where Sol Trujillo and Ziggy Switkowski would not.

More than two months ago Mr Marshall decided to air his grievances directly to Mr Thodey, who since taking the hot seat has pledged to focus on customer satisfaction.

Mr Thodey says he reads every customer complaint that lands on his desk.

Lengthy email correspondence between Mr Marshall and Mr Thodey, obtained by The Australian, reveals that the chief executive has personally intervened in the matter.

Since they both first communicated, however, discussions have reached a stalemate and Mr Marshall is frustrated that Mr Thodey has not been able to settle the matter.

The story began in January 2001 when Mr Marshall was trying to obtain a residential internet service to his home in the suburb of Hall, on the NSW-ACT border.

He was advised he would need a separate telephone line to connect to the internet.

After waiting and complaining to Telstra for more than 29 months, the company finally came to the conclusion that Mr Marshall did not require the extra line but still billed him for the service.

Subsequently, on August 6, 2003, Mr Marshall was offered a full refund of $1208, but there was a catch.

"We accepted the refund offer and agreed to Telstra's promise of our ISDN internet installation within 10 days," he said.

"However, Telstra said the amount would be given to us as credit. We paid them hard cash, so this was not acceptable."

It took nearly three years before the ISDN service was finally installed as "technical issues with the phone line and exchange" complicated matters, he said.

Mr Marshall then continued to push Telstra for a settlement and was offered $3560, but was told it also would be in the form of credit.

In 2006, when Mr Trujillo was at the helm, Telstra made an offer of $5000 to settle the matter, but the cheque never arrived, Mr Marshall said.

"After David Thodey became the new chief executive in June, he announced a new high priority for resolving customer problems. I thought this was a departure from the old mob," Mr Marshall said.

In mid-August, he raised his problems directly with Mr Thodey, who he described as "quite pleasant, humble and even apologetic" in their initial phone conversation.

By the end of August, Mr Thodey had made an offer of $8000 but that was rejected as inadequate.

"If you miss paying your Telstra account, within a week it's a $30 late fee plus a $20 administration fee and 22 per cent interest daily," Mr Marshall said, choosing to not to comment on an acceptable amount.

Mr Marshall has compiled copious amounts of documentation with Telstra and feels the offer is not fair, although Telstra begs to differ. "We have made a genuine effort to reach a fair outcome with Mr Marshall including offering him what most people would consider a very generous goodwill gesture back in August when David became personally involved," a Telstra spokesman said.

"We aim to resolve customer concerns as quickly as possible, but not all cases are black and white and in Mr Marshall's situation we feel we've exhausted all reasonable options."

Mr Marshall said he had been left with no choice but to pursue the matter at the AGM.

He continues to be a Telstra internet subscriber.


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