Saturday, March 8, 2008

More Telstra arrogance

FOUR loyal Telstra customers are considering legal action after the giant telco stripped them of their profitable business phone number and handed it to a competitor just two doors away. The move plunged the Capalaba Raine & Horne real estate business into turmoil with its four owners claiming $312,000 in lost business. It had the "established real estate number" for only six weeks, after a transfer of business from the now liquidated Kanga Cove. "And to think Telstra gave that number – which was well established in the community – to LJ Hooker down the road really rubs salt into the wound," co-owner Margaret Enbom said yesterday.

Although technically a phone number cannot be bought, it is common for it to be transferred with the sale of a business. The value of an established business phone number, particularly in real estate, may surprise those unaccustomed to the phone-reliant industry. "In real estate it's paramount to the value of street position and taking it from a business is tantamount to identity theft," said private accountant Surome Singh, who consulted with the industry before costing the losses for the owners.

Mr Singh said the matter had dragged on since 2004, with Telstra in 2006 offering $50,000 in compensation for "poor delivery of service". Last month, Telstra downgraded its offer to just $5000. Mr Singh said that in May 2007 he calculated a fair settlement of $256,345, which had risen since to about $312,000.

Telstra yesterday denied it had even suspended the number, despite a previous verbal admission it suspended the service because it associated Raine & Horne (incorrectly) with Kanga Cove's incapacity to pay its telephone bills. "Telstra maintain the number was terminated by the administrator when the former business went bankrupt," a spokesman said. "The number was then made available and reissued."

Ms Enbom said her business enjoyed fair trade until the phones were cut, without warning, and then plunged into silent turmoil with the goodwill provided by the established number lost. She derided Telstra for its latest offer and questioned how many other businesses had suffered the same fate.


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