Sunday, December 6, 2009

letter to David Thodey, CEO, Telstra

Thank you for your response to my letter to you and Ms Livingstone. You did get me some high-class attention from your staff

Sadly, however, most of the problem persists. Your staff did find the conditions under which I COULD upload to a BigBlog photo gallery but they are rather mad. I can upload only if:

1). I use the IE8 browser

2). I have the latest version of Java loaded

There are MANY photo hosting sites on the net and NONE of them have those restrictions. The restrictions are pure BigPond brainlessness.

About a third of Australians use the Firefox browser for a start and that is excluded by your very limited facility

May I suggest that the BigPond programmers need new blood? Someone should be fired if they cannot even manage a photo uploading facility of normal usefulness

Monday, November 23, 2009

A typical Telstra experience

I too have got this sort of "service". One overseas helpline operator could not understand what I was saying at all so just hung up on me. Sheer arrogance. I should have been referred to someone higher up, preferably back in Australia

Like most horror stories, this one begins with an everyday setting where the familiar gradually gives way to the sinister. The first harbinger of the pain to come, not recognised at the time, was a letter sent out to me and millions of other Australians on July 20 by Ramon Gregory, "Executive Director, Customer Sales and Service", at Telstra, Australia's largest service company. This places Gregory at the centre of an enormous commercial machine, with huge databases, thousands of operators in call centres, and billions of customer inquiries recorded with Orwellian efficiency.

A study of the conditions in call centres conducted by Ruth Barton of RMIT University, released last week, found high stress levels and oppressive management control, as call centres field an average of 16 million calls a day.

Ramon Gregory's letter was also oppressive. It announced that people who paid their Telstra bill by return mail, or in person, or by credit card, would in future be charged a $2.20 "payment administration fee". He suggested various ways to avoid the fee, which actually did not avoid the fee at all. The letter was so infuriating and so poorly drafted that Telstra customers made their displeasure known in an outbreak of spontaneous combustion. Telstra rescinded the fee earlier this month.

But the company's latent aggression remains. Last Wednesday, my internet service was cut off by Telstra even though I have paid my bills on time, year-in, year-out, with a Telstra home phone account, and a Telstra cable account, and a Foxtel account. My bank statement shows Telstra banked my latest cheque on October 19. I had assumed I would be treated as a valued customer and notified before any drastic, summary action took place. How naive.

Telstra has shown, repeatedly, that it does not grasp the concept of political and consumer blowback. That's why the Rudd Government is destroying Telstra's market value, and why I have the Telstra support number, 133 933, programmed into my mobile phone, because losing service is part of the Telstra experience.

When I called Telstra's inquiry number at 9am last Wednesday, I got a "consultant" called Craig. When he turned out to be a drama queen, I began taking notes. When I suggested that Telstra should have contacted me before taking such draconian action, given my long history of reliability, Craig threw a tantrum. "You can't expect us to send out 50,000 notices to people," he said. Yes, I do. It's part of the service.

"You have to step up to the plate!" Craig replied. "It's your responsibility!" I asked him why he was treating me like a retard. He directed me to "credit management". I called credit management and got a message: "All our operators are busy. You have been placed in a queue." I was not surprised.

A heavily-accented young man came on the line and gave his name as "Matt". I realised I had been directed to a call centre in India when Matt insisted my name was not Sheehan. After he had called me "Mr Goodhope" three times I hung up.

The next operator was "Beau". He, too, was Indian, and simply not coherent. I politely abandoned the call and tried again. Next on the line was "Chari", another Indian. He was the first person I could describe as pleasant and competent that day. He set up a direct debit payment system for future bills, took care of the small outstanding amount, and thanked me for the call, the first of the five Telstra operators to do so. He said my service would be quickly restored.

It was not. It was still blocked the next day. And so the merry-go-round resumed. I was directed to technical support, because the billing department said there was no problem. A technician told me to switch off my modem and then try again. That did not work.

I called the original number again. Another heavily accented operator eventually responded. Her name was "Marie". "Are you in Australia?" I asked. "No," she replied. She told me I could not have my service restored because my account had not been paid. "You need to speak to the billing department." I told her I had spoken to the billing department at great length. She was adamant.

I called the billing department and Kirsty came on the line. She was working from a call centre on the Gold Coast. When I explained that she was the eighth person I had spoken to in two days, and my account was fully paid, she put me on hold and got someone further up the food chain. When she came back, she said the problem was a "shadow" payment system, which was showing my account to be inoperative. Kirsty was a pleasure to deal with, and restored my service.

The real problem was not the shadow payment system. It was the incompetent Indian call centre operators, and it was Telstra's attitude towards its customers. Nothing of my experience will show up on Telstra's key performance indicators.

And Ramon Gregory, it turns out, is yet another American brought in to run Australia's service giant. That explains his tin ear. I received another letter from him on Friday: "Telstra is reinventing the home phone," he proclaimed. He was selling an upgrade called the Telstra T-Hub. I'm interested in going in exactly the opposite direction - getting rid of the Telstra fixed line altogether. And that's just the start.

By the standards of global telco giants, Telstra is an efficient, productive enterprise, but you have to ask at what cost to us, the people who used to own the company, and are now the company's serfs?


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bungled computerization worsens service

TELSTRA chief David Thodey admitted at the company's annual general meeting today that the telco's multi-billion dollar IT transformation project had stymied its ability to change prices on its products.

The admission came as one angry shareholder lambasted the board for having broadband prices that were way out of whack with the market.

The shareholder said he was no longer a Telstra customer because of the high prices and the company’s policy of allowing excess data charges on some plans to be unlimited, rather than sharply cutting or ‘shaping’ data transmission rates when a customer exceeded their plan’s allowance.

Mr Thodey reiterated a statement made last week at the company's update for investors that broadband price cuts were imminent and said the company’s ability to chop and change price plans had been constrained by its transformation project that began back in 2005 under former CEO Sol Trujillo. “For 12 months we have been unable to put new prices in the market due to the transformation," said Mr Thodey.

The pricing problems have hurt the company’s ability to grow market share. Fixed-line internet sales growth dropped from 20.5 per cent last year to 13.3 per cent this year.

Broadband shoppers don’t have to do much digging to find broadband deals far cheaper than Telstra.

A broadband customer after a fast ADSL2+ link with a data allowance geared to heavy use would pay $99.95 a month under current Telstra pricing for a 25GB per month data allowance, shaped to 64K once the cap was broken. Competitors have been offering far sharper pricing. As an example, ISP TPG advertises an ADSL2+ link with a 90GB allowance for $89.99 a month, shaped to 256K if exceeded.


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.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Telstra to cut prices on broadband

All of the below is good to hear but colour me skeptical about its implementation

TELSTRA has flagged price reductions for its broadband products and services as it fights to maintain market share in the highly competitive sector.

Chief executive David Thodey said price cuts were "imminent" as the telco wanted to compete aggressively on broadband offerings. "In some parts of the market we've gone too far out of line and we need to come back," he told an investor briefing.

Telstra's most recent annual results showed a drop in fixed broadband takeup, but its wireless broadband revenue grew by 69.2 per cent to $587 million.

A strong focus of Mr Thodey's presentation to investors was improving customer service. "We must focus on our core business and our customers, this is where we create value for shareholders," he said.

"At its simplest, the next stage in Telstra's long-term strategy is to focus on satisfying customers, invest in new capabilities, and drive growth in new businesses."


Monday, September 28, 2009

Telstra customers need to know this

ZERO is the hero which can give you back hours of your life by reducing time spent on hold by as much as 70 per cent.

Despite dwelling at the bottom of the keypad, it has been revealed that the humble 0 is at the top of the dial pile when it comes to fighting the dreaded automated phone "services".

It was in researching a cheat sheet to help readers beat interactive voice response (IVR) systems that The Daily Telegraph discovered the Power of None.

We found that when ringing Optus, pressing zero four times reduced the amount of time required to reach a real person to as little as 36 seconds.

By comparison, following the menu took more than two minutes. That's a time saving of 70 per cent.

The nought (dialled seven times) also stopped us getting caught on the line to St George, cutting the wait from over five minutes to 2 min 44 sec.

Whether it was AGL or the Commonwealth Bank, AAPT or Country Energy, "0" was the way to go if you simply wanted to speak to a human being.

The revelation is sure to anger big business and government, which have shelled out billions on systems seemingly designed to annoy the hell out of users.

But the real aim is to cut costs.

Minimising human contact keeps down customer service staff numbers, said Allan Asher, head of ACCAN, the telecommunications consumer organisation.

Cheat sheet

AGL: Press 0 three times

Centrelink: Press 0 at each prompt

Energy Australia: Press 0 then wait

Jetstar: Press 1 then 1

Telstra: Press 0 seven times


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TO: CEO, Telstra

Dear Sir,

I have just spent about half an hour wending my way through the maze that is required for me to recharge my mobile prepaid A/c online. At the end this is the message I got:

Mobile Number: 044828xxxx

Thank you. Your Recharge has been successfully processed.

Date: 15-09-2009 12:07 PM
Telstra Pre-Paid Mobile Number: 044828xxxx
Receipt Number: 2582870354
Current Account Balance: $53.93
Credit Expiry Date: 26-11-2009

Why was I given only an extra two months to spend the money? The $30 option I selected should have given me a year. Please adjust it.

I have tried calling various Telstra help numbers but when I finally got through to an operator he said that there was nothing he could do.

I have in total wasted half of my morning on this

Yours disgustedly

Dr John Ray

Update 22 Sept.

I have just got a call from a PR person admitting that Telstra goofed but she had no idea why the fault occurred and seemed uninterested in finding out why until I threatened to raise the matter with the TIO. I extracted a promise for an investigation and follow-up letter.

Telstra will be forced to split by Government

Anything that cuts Telstra down to size sounds good to me -- JR

THE Rudd Government has introduced major changes to telecommunications laws, including the separation of Telstra. "Today we are delivering historic reforms in Australia's long term national interest," Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said this morning. "The Government will require the functional separation of Telstra, unless it decides to voluntarily structurally separate."

Telstra has been given the choice of voluntarily separating its infrastructure and retail arms in a manner approved by the competition watchdog.

If it chooses not to, the legislation will let the Government impose rules on the way it operates.

The rules include making sure Telstra charges other companies a fair price to access its network.

Telstra will also be prevented from moving into advanced wireless broadband unless it separates and divests its cable broadband and Foxtel assets. "These reforms will address Telstra's high level of integration to promote greater competition and consumer benefits," Senator Conroy said.

The changes, included in an update to the Telecommunications Act, will be tabled in Parliament today.

Senator Conroy said Telstra and the Government had already been in talks about the move. "Telstra are very constructively engaged in discussions with us already," Senator Conroy said. "They were very well prepared already when we had our first meeting."

The Government was flexible on how Telstra may choose to separate, he said. "The Government maintains an open mind on how structural separation may be achieved," he said. "It may include a new company Telstra that may transfer some of its fixed-line assets to."

Senator Conroy said previous governments of both persuasions had failed to address telecommunications reform. "The measures in this legislation will finally correct the mistakes of the past," he said.

Telstra has previously strongly resisted moves to separate its infrastructure and retail arms.

The new laws will also give more power to the competition watchdog and the communications minister to protect consumers and issue warnings to telcos. A new Universal Service Obligation will ensure "all people in Australia to have reasonable access on an equitable basis to standard telephone services".

It will also regulate the removal of payphones and include serious penalties – up to $10 million – for Telstra if it fails to comply.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Telstra technical bungle takes a life

A clear case of a system breakdown. Emergency calls are supposed to be allowed even on a phone that is otherwise limited in some way. In this case the emergency exemption was clearly not operational and she got the normal "piss off" message

Perth lawyer John Hammond has called for a coronal inquiry into the death of Karl Feifar after his partner was unable to get through to the emergency 000 service on her home phone.

Kathleen Clarke today told 6PR radio that her partner collapsed around 10.30pm on May 29, and when she tried to call emergency services three times on her Telstra home phone she got a recorded message saying "this number is not available from this service".

She then spent 10 minutes running to a neighbour's house for help, before remembering she had a work mobile phone in her car and eventually getting through to 000.

She performed CPR on her partner while she waited for a St John's ambulance officers, who took a further 20 minutes to arrive at their Orelia home. By this stage the 36-year-old "looked dead".

He died from a cardiac arrest in hospital later that evening. "I wholly believe that the first 10 minutes did take his life," Ms Clarke said.

In a written statement, Telstra spokesman Craig Middelton said: "Mrs Clarke has our deepest sympathies for the tragic loss of her husband and Telstra will endeavour to continue talking to Mrs Clarke about the circumstances.

"We have conducted a high-level investigation of the situation and have found no faults with the service to the Clarke home or the 000 service, which manages more than 10 million calls per year.

"We also did not find any calls from Mrs Clarke's home phone made directly to 000." [Of course you didn't: Your system was malfunctioning!!]

Ms Clarke's Telstra home phone is set up on a pre-paid style plan known as an InContact service, but it is meant to allow 000 calls. Mr Middleton confirmed the 000 service should be a free call from any fixed or mobile phone.

Her contract states that Telstra would accept liability for breaching their contract or committing negligence if it caused personal injury or death.

Ms Clarke is now looking to sue the communications company, but she is waiting for the telecommunications ombudsman to conclude its investigation, including getting a clear explanation from Telstra about their actions.

"We would fully cooperate with an independent investigation into the facts," Mr Middleton said. "It would be inappropriate for us to debate the facts in the media."

Mr Hammond today lashed out at Telstra's actions, saying Ms Clarke had a valid case to sue for negligence.

"Her husband had collapsed on the floor. It was an outrageous suggestion to put to someone like that, and it was treating Kathleen with contempt, in my view, to put it to her that she never actually called 000," Mr Hammond said.

Ms Clarke said her partner's eight-year-old daughter just wants her father back.

"She's very distressed, she doesn't understand, she leaves him notes around the home everyday asking for him to come back," she said.

Meanwhile, Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the matter, criticising the slow response times to the emergency by St John's Ambulance.

"It is clear that St John Ambulance is not meeting community expectations and does not have the resources to do the job," he said.

"When a vehicle finally arrived, the staff started to work on Mr Feifar but advised Kathleen that they were waiting for another ambulance crew to come."

A Parliamentary Committee hearing has confirmed that at least another 50 full-time paramedics are needed in WA.

"Kathleen and her daughter deserve answers and a full parliamentary inquiry is the only way to ensure that all cases are investigated thoroughly and that people are able to give evidence with the full protection of the Parliament," Mr Cook said.

Mr Feifar won a gold medal representing Australia at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics in the 4X100m relay and he went on to be awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to sport.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amazing impudence: Telstra fined for phoning 'do not call' list

TELSTRA has been fined more than $100,000 by the Federal Government after it admitted making unsolicited phone calls to numbers on the 'Do Not Call Register'.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received numerous complaints after the telco made calls to people on the register in 2008.

According to ACMA, an investigation found "inadequate compliance systems, procedures and supervision had contributed to calls being made to numbers on the Register where the consumers were not existing Telstra customers". Telstra admitted to the breaches and was fined $101,200.

"The ACMA expects large businesses like Telstra to be leading the way and setting an example when it comes to compliance with the Do Not Call Register – not falling behind," ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in a statement. "The market leaders in the telco industry should consider themselves soundly on notice – size and complexity are no excuse for non-compliant practice."

Mr Chapman said Telstra has since paid the fine. "Telstra has paid the infringement notice, acknowledged that there is work to do, and is now setting about fixing these issues," Mr Chapman said.

The Do Not Call Register was launched in 2007 with 3.5 million phone numbers currently listed. ACMA said it had received 12057 complaints between May 2008 and May 2009, a drop from 2007 figures.

A Telstra spokesman apoligised for the company's behaviour. "Obviously, we are sorry that it happened, it shouldn't have happened and we have been working cooperatively with ACMA to put in a range of measures to stop it happening again," the spokesman said. "It was a combination of human error and a breakdown of our strict processes." [Strict processes?? That's a laugh!]


Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Gorilla Telco again

Telstra admits denying access

TELSTRA could face a fine of up to $300 million after admitting to the Federal Court it was guilty of misleading and deceptive conduct in denying competitors access to its copper network.

It is understood Telstra made the startling admission in a defence filing lodged with the Federal Court on July 31. In it, the telco admitted it had failed to comply with its access obligations as outlined under the Telecommunications Act 1997, thereby contravening a condition of its carrier licence.

The admission relates to a court case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in March, which alleges Telstra violated its obligations to users of its unconditioned local loop services and line-sharing services.

Under standard obligations, Telstra is legally required to allow access to its telephone exchanges so competitors can install equipment to provide new voice and broadband offerings for customers.

The ACCC has said Telstra refused access at seven of its metropolitan exchanges by claiming they were full and there was no capacity left for rivals to install new equipment.

The watchdog also alleged Telstra engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by publishing lists of capped exchanges on the Telstra wholesale website.

In the March filing, the ACCC said it would seek declarations, pecuniary penalties and injunctions against the telco.

The Telecommunications Act says a contravention can carry a penalty of up to $10m per breach. Thirty alleged breaches have been filed, but it is unclear how many of these Telstra has admitted guilt to.

The Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday held a directions hearing to gather additional evidence from access seekers before an appropriate penalty could be imposed by the court.

The next directions hearing has been set for October 2.

Telstra's humbling admission to the ACCC's allegations is in stark contrast to the combative stance the telco adopted under the tutelage of former chief executive Sol Trujillo.

But with Mr Trujillo out of the picture, new chief executive David Thodey has moved to clear its legal deck of any embarrassing anti-competitive misdemeanors.

Mr Thodey's conciliatory approach has helped mend bridges with the government and comes as the telco is preparing to re-engage the government with its new national broadband network plans.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The ugly face of Telstra just got uglier

The new boss of Telstra is clearly no better than the greasy Mexican

TELSTRA customers who pay their phone bills in person will soon be charged for their efforts. The telco giant yesterday introduced a range of steep fees in an attempt to herd its customers into making online BPAY payments and to eliminate costly face-to-face customer service, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The penny-pinching tactic will cost as much as 2 per cent of every bill and is set to save it "several hundred million dollars" a year. From September 14, Telstra will charge a $2.20 administration fee for bills paid by mail or in person at a Telstra Shop or Australia Post. The telco's existing credit card payment processing fee will also rise to 1 per cent of the payment amount for MasterCard, VISA, and American Express cards, and 2 per cent for Diners Club.

However, so as not to penalise elderly customers, Telstra will exempt those with a pensioner or disability card from paying the new fees or credit card charges. Telstra Pensioner Discount customers or customers who have already registered their eligible pensioner card details with Telstra for the credit card payment processing fee discount are automatically exempt as are Telstra Disability Equipment Program product customers or those registered for another Telstra Disability Service.

All customers who pay their bills through an online savings or cheque account will also be exempt from the fees.

The telco said the fees were consistent with industry practice. "Every year we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on billing, which includes processing bill payments, paying third-party billing service providers, answering customers' questions about their bills and operating systems to support billing," Telstra Consumer Executive Director Jenny Young said. "We're introducing or changing our fees for some payment options which incur higher administration costs. "However, Telstra will always be conscious of customers who are experiencing hardship."

Ms Young said for customers with more than one Telstra service, the changes represented a chance to move these services on to a single bill to avoid fees if customers choose bill payment options that incur fees.

Since taking over Australia's largest telecommunications company in May, chief executive David Thodey talked openly about Telstra's tattered public image which has been crystallised by its increasingly poor customer service. A Telstra spokesman said yesterday the introduction of new payment fees would not contribute to a further erosion of public confidence in the telco. [Who does he think he is kidding?]


Monday, July 20, 2009

Telstra as nasty as ever under its new management

If the new manager had been on top of his game he would have pulled out of this as soon as he took over

TELSTRA'S latest attempt to inflate the price of wholesale access to its copper network has backfired, with the Federal Court yesterday dismissing 14 legal claims launched by the telco.

The proceedings, which were launched against the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission and 14 of the nation's largest internet service providers, including Optus, Macquarie Telecom and Primus, related to the access price that Telstra's competitors pay to use its copper network to offer voice and broadband services to consumers.

The copper-based services in question -- unconditioned local loop services (ULLS) and line sharing services (LSS) -- are used by many of Telstra's competitors to offer broadband services such as naked DSL to consumers. Naked DSL is a high-speed broadband offering that does not require a telephone connection to access the internet.

Currently the ACCC sets access pricing to Telstra's copper network at $2.50 a line per month for LSS services and $14.30 a month for ULLS.

But in Telstra's claim to the Federal Court, the telco argued that its competitors should be paying $9 a month for LSS and $30 a month for ULLS.

A rise in the monthly charge would out-price Telstra's competitors offering telephony and internet services in competition.

For more than five years Telstra has lobbied the competition watchdog to impose a $30 monthly access fee on wholesale customers who wish to use Telstra's copper network to deliver telephony and internet services to customers in metropolitan areas.

But in a reiteration of previous rulings on access pricing, Telstra's claims were dismissed by judge Kevin Lindgren after he found the current price declaration set by the ACCC was adequate.

Telstra has now been left to foot the combined multi-million-dollar legal bill for each of the 14 parties.

Telstra declined to comment on the judgment, but rival telco Optus did not hold back. "This is yet another failed attempt by Telstra to overturn an ACCC decision with a view to setting ridiculously high prices for access to its network. Telstra failed before the ACCC and now the Federal Court," Optus director of government and corporate affairs Maha Krishnapillai said.

"Today's outcome is a crystal-clear example of why, in the lead-up to the NBN (national broadband network), regulatory reform cannot be done on the basis of tinkering. The ACCC must be given tougher and more certain powers to ensure Telstra's ability to create delay, fear and dampen investment in the sector is eliminated."

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the regulator was pleased with the outcome.

"It vindicates the robustness and the rigour that the ACCC applies in making these decisions and it potentially has some implications for the future decisions that we have to make in respect to a number of disputes we currently have before us," Mr Samuel said.

The long-running dispute between Telstra and the ACCC about access pricing has been a costly war for the telco.

In late April, the ACCC rejected an appeal from Telstra to charge its rivals $30 a month to use the telco's last mile copper network in metropolitan areas.

That decision is under appeal with the Australian Competition Tribunal.

Many of Telstra's legal wranglings are a legacy from the telco's combative former chief executive Sol Trujillo, who never shied from pumping millions of dollars into legal battles to maintain the telco's market dominance.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I know how it feels to be mistreated by Telstra, Sol Trujillo

By Holly Byrnes

DEAR Sol Trujillo, I hear you're feeling put upon, mistreated, disrespected, made to jump through hoops by faceless millions who did everything they could to wreck your job.

Mate, I know how you feel. I just spent the day trying to get reconnected to Telstra after my mobile was stolen.

The mugging was a shock but it's the horror of trying to activate a new SIM card and dealing with your dysfunctional telco that has me rocking in the foetal position.

Stripped of my handbag and knocked to the ground during the attack last week was nothing compared to being stripped of my will to live while waiting on line to Telstra.

Reconnecting seemed simple -- after putting a temporary block on my mobile I went to a T Life store in George St, Sydney, to buy a SIM card (the little chip which makes it work, in case any Telstra call workers are reading this and are not familiar with the term).

After settling the outstanding bill, then helpfully being transferred to a more economical contract, I was assured by the first service operator it wouldn't be too long before the phone was up and running again.

And so the wait -- and phone calls -- began. When my handset flashed up a SIM card error message, I called for some of that customer service I'd heard about.

That call was answered by a service operator who asked me to phone back in an hour, when the account would be ready. I was given a 1800 number for direct "service"'.

An hour later that number reached a recorded Telstra message that informed me the number was no longer in service, and redirecting me to another "service".

That number told me I needed a reference number. Without one, I should access a Telstra website. But to do that I'd need an active mobile.

When another operator told me to call the first 1800 number I took a breath then updated him with the recorded message I'd received. He put me on hold to check.

When he returned, he asked to check my bona fides then quizzed me about the driver's licence number on the account.

He wasn't convinced when I told him I didn't know the number. Not because of bad recall but because I have never held a driver's license in my life.

His response? He put me on hold. When he asked me for my birthdate, I joked I should add a few years since I had aged some in the course of these phone calls. Laugh? Nope, he put me on hold.

Even after emailing a PR contact within Telstra, after an initial response, there was still no sign of my mobile service.

However, when I posted my aggravation on Facebook I was inundated.

One mate, David, was trying to prove to Telstra he lived where he said he did because they were refusing to connect a phone to his home. In his words: "Why would I want to connect a phone in a place I don't live?"

Another girlfriend directed me to a support group on Facebook called "Telstra SUX".

And the best bit? It doesn't ask for your name, birthdate, mother's maiden name, driver's licence or first-born child before you get the satisfaction of emptying your spleen.

So, Sol, save yourself a call to Telstra and log on, mate. For once, you'll be in good company.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

The new chairperson of Telstra

The profile below is laudatory but other comments suggest that she is more of a bureaucrat than a business person

HAVING accepted the job of chairman at one of Australia's largest and most important companies, Catherine Livingstone is facing the biggest challenge of her career.

The former accountant has been widely lauded for her role in transforming the bionic ear-maker Cochlear into an internationally renowned business. And she is no stranger to public company boardrooms or to dealing with government, having chaired the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for five years.

But Telstra -- with more than 1.4 million individual shareholders, including the federal Government's Future Fund, and facing a critical time in its history -- is an entirely different beast.

Not that that should faze the self-confessed risk-taker, who lives on Sydney's lower-north shore with her husband, Saatchi & Saatchi finance chief Michael Sattherthwaite, and their three teenage children.

Those who have worked alongside Livingstone point out that she has taken seemingly large career jumps before, with repeated success. Her resume -- Telstra, Macquarie Group, Worley Parsons, and formerly Rural Press and Goodman Fielder -- speaks of an experienced and coveted commodity.

The Macquarie University honours graduate started her career at the accounting firm Pricewaterhouse in the late 1970s, working in Sydney and London, before making the switch to the publicly listed medical device group Nucleus, where she worked in various accounting roles.

Livingstone was soon promoted to chief finance officer and in 1994, following a takeover of the group by Pacific Dunlop, she was appointed chief executive of its subsidiary company, Cochlear.

One of her main tasks was to groom the emerging device maker for a public float.

One executive who worked closely with Livingstone throughout that period remembers her ability to communicate effectively with investors and the broader financial markets.

"She was able to build a phenomenal relationship with the financial community for the listing and then afterwards," said the executive, who declined to be identified.

"She's a very, very organised and systematic person -- very process driven, very detail-minded.

"She was also able to improve the internal processes within the company."

When Cochlear was floated for $125 million in 1995, it was bringing in $70 million a year in revenue.

When Livingstone left the company five years later, the device was being sold into 50 countries worldwide and sales had swelled to $150 million.

Its market capitalisation was almost $2 billion.

Born in Kenya in 1955, Livingstone had migrated with her family to Australia by the time she started school.

Her leadership skills emerged early, and as an 11-year-old she was appointed house leader for the school sports carnival.

Livingstone has said she was greatly influenced by her parents -- her mother was a teacher and her father served in the air force during World War II, later becoming an economist and investment banker.

In John Eales's book Learning From legends: Business, published last year, Livingstone recalls that her mother repeatedly emphasised to her: "If it's worth doing, do it properly."

"My parents have always influenced me strongly in terms of professionalism."

In a magazine interview published in 2007, Livingstone revealed that her parents had also encouraged her to take risks.

"You have to learn how to step out of your comfort zone. Being afraid is not something to be afraid of," she said.

Livingstone joined Telstra as a non-executive director in November 2000.

When the board ousted former chairman Bob Mansfield and later chief executive Ziggy Switkowski in 2004, she was briefly touted as a possible candidate for chairman but apparently declined to put her hand up for the role.

The job went instead to Donald McGauchie, whose surprise resignation yesterday has suggested that Livingstone's appointment didn't follow the orderly succession process to which boards typically aspire.

Some observers have highlighted her lack of direct telecommunications industry experience (outside of her Telstra board role), and some have questioned whether her fierce attention to detail could work against her in a role in which the big picture is important.

One of her key roles will be to rebuild the telco's fractured relationship with the Government, which hit an all-time low following its exclusion earlier this year from the tender process to build the multi-billion-dollar national broadband network. However, previous comments attributed to Livingstone suggest that she might be willing to take a more conciliatory approach to dealing with politicians than that of McGauchie and the company's outgoing chief executive, Sol Trujillo.

"You have to put yourself in other people's shoes and see how they're looking at something and then try and make the persuasive argument for the outcome you're seeking," she says in Eales's book.

"You can tell people what's happening but telling is not very constructive ... if you can persuade, that's better."

At her first press conference as Telstra chairman yesterday, Livingstone said the company was focused on "a very constructive engagement" with the federal Government.

Businessman Peter Yates, who chairs the board of scientific lobby group the Royal Institution of Australia, of which Livingstone is a director, praised her ability to deal with people.

"She's an extremely thoughtful person who inherently likes people and inherently gives people the opportunity to achieve their full potential," Yates said.

"I can imagine ... (that she) and the new chief executive, David Thodey, who I also know quite well, will make a very good team."

Chris Roberts, Cochlear's current chief executive, who worked alongside Livingstone in the 1980s, described her as highly intelligent, hard working and capable.

"As a shareholder of Telstra and someone who has known her for many years, I think she'll do a very good job.",28124,25450523-643,00.html

Friday, May 8, 2009

New bosses for Telstra

TELSTRA has replaced its two leaders, appointing current senior executive David Thodey as chief executive officer and current board member Catherine Livingstone as chair.

Ms Livingstone replaces Don McGauchie effective immediately. Mr Thodey's appointment takes effect when incumbent CEO Sol Trujillo leaves Telstra to return to the United States.

Mr Thodey said he was delighted to be appointed chief executive of Telstra and looked forward to building on the strong foundation left by Mr Trujillo's four years at the helm.

"Our strategy remains unchanged: to continue to provide customers with world-class products and services," he said. [World class bullsh*t, he means]

The key to Telstra continuing to win and to serve customers will be finishing our transformation that started nearly four years ago. [It sure needs a lot of finishing]

"Completing the transformation will enable us to deliver a superior customer experience [How about putting enough people on the helpline so customers aren't told to ring back later? That should be easy even for a Telstra CEO] and the financial outcomes that our shareholders expect."

Mr Thodey, 54, has been a senior executive at Telstra for eight years. He joined Telstra from IBM where he was chief executive of IBM's Australian and New Zealand operations. In his current position, he has been responsible for Telstra's corporate, government and large business customers in Australia, TelstraClear in New Zealand and Telstra's international sales division.

McGauchie quits, 'speculation a distraction'

With the chief executive selection process complete, Mr McGauchie resigned as Telstra Chairman and said he would leave the board immediately. "Telstra's strength and ongoing performance are the paramount priority," Mr McGauchie said. "It is my view that speculation on my tenure was a distraction to the business. "Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of David and the management team getting on with the important job ahead of them." [He means that he knows he was a deadhead who was no check on the slimy Trujillo]

The Telstra board also has appointed Telstra's chief financial officer John Stanhope, a contender for the CEO's position, as an executive director of the Telstra board.

The controversy surrounding building materials supplier James Hardie Industries' handling of its responsibilities to the asbestos diseases fund claimed another casualty when Telstra said another director, Peter Wilcox, also was leaving the board, "due to his concern that the James Hardie judgment may cause embarrassment to the company".

The Telstra board had asked Mr Willcox to stay on until the telco's annual general meeting in November, which he had agreed to do. Mr McGauchie also is a director of James Hardie.

Telstra's new chair, Ms Livingstone, has been a director of the company since 2000. [Is that all they can say about her? Sounds like she is a nothing too]


Friday, May 1, 2009

CHEEESH!! For once Telstra is doing the right thing and some !@#$%^& judge blocks them

These "Premium" SMS services seem to be almost entirely a con. Check your bills for them. I was billed for such services myself when I was with Vodafone, although I had never asked for or received such services. Voda promptly reversed the charges when I complained but refused to co-operate with any investigation of how the charges arose. And the TIO seemed to think that no investigation was needed because Voda had reversed the charges. Prevention of fraud is obviously not one of their priorities. I think I know how I got targeted but nobody wants to hear it apparently. I even wrote to ACMA but they too refused to take any interest. The crooks who targeted me were called "Mobile Messenger"

TELSTRA has been blocked in its bid to throw an SMS service off its network after it received a high number of complaints from annoyed customers. Telstra wants to disconnect premium SMS supplier Oxygen 8 because it has received a "disproportionately large" level of complaints about its service.

The NSW Federal Court was told traffic to Oxygen 8's services tripled between October 2007 and January 2009, The Australian has reported. The court also heard evidence from a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman that nearly two-thirds of complaints about premium SMS services were from customers who said they had never signed up to receive them.

In February, Telstra gave Oxygen 8 60 days' notice that it would be dropped from its network, citing a clause in the contract between the two companies which would allow it to do so. Oxygen 8 was granted an injunction against being dropped while it challenged the action in the courts. It says Telstra's system for handling complaints is in breach of their contract and federal rules. Telstra had been trying to have that injunction dropped and Oxygen 8's claim dismissed, but in court yesterday Judge Geoffrey Flick ordered the injunction remain in place.

Judge Flick ordered the two companies to begin preparations for a trial starting on July 27. He gave Telstra leave to apply to vary the orders, including lifting the injunction. Telstra refused to enter into mediation with Oxygen 8 to settle the matter out of court.

A Telstra spokesman said: "Telstra is confident about the validity of its termination notice and its prospects on the final hearing. Telstra is committed to the responsible provision of premium SMS services."

Oxygen 8 has alleged that Telstra's SMS complaints handling systems and procedures are inadequate and in breach of the ACMA Telecommunications Service Provider (Mobile Premium Services) Determination 2005 (No1).


Saturday, April 11, 2009

$62k claim for loss of Telstra internet service

A NORTHERN beaches tourism operator says he lost $62,000 worth of potential business because his Telstra internet service dropped out for almost three days. Michael Heaver, of Kewarra Beach Resort, said internet access dropped out on Monday and was not fixed until Thursday.

During that time he was unable to meet deadlines and tenders for accommodation quotes, missing out on more than $60,000 of business. "And that is a conservative quote," he said. "We had three serious quotes awaiting confirmation, from the US, UK and Germany and the clients have actually gone elsewhere simply because we did not have that information for them."

Mr Heaver, who is on a Telstra business plan, said times were already tough for tourism operators without having to worry about losing internet access. "We have also had people inquiring whether we are still open," he said. "Obviously, with the current climate there is a lot of nerves and the damage to our reputation has been significant."

Mr Heaver is now talking to Telstra about compensation after making several calls to the telco during the three-day blackout. "This is an essential service but it is not given the priority it deserves," he said. "Livelihoods are being lost simply because the priority given to these issues is pathetic. "It is heartbreaking to see the loss of potential business we have suffered."

A Telstra spokeswoman said she was unable to comment on Mr Heaver’s case, but said Telstra had compensation avenues available. She said any claim would depend on the internet plan Mr Heaver was on and said the specifics of his compensation claim would be worked through over time.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Telstra complaints are up by 240 per cent under CEO Sol Trujillo

Why am I not surprised? Trujillo fired a lot of Telstra staff and helpline staff seem to have been among them. And that would explain the comment highlighted below -- a complaint that coincides with my experience

CUSTOMER complaints about Telstra's phone service rocketed by a massive 52 per cent in just 90 days, company statistics have revealed. And over the three-year reign of Telstra boss Sol Trujillo, complaint levels have risen by 241 per cent, figures from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman show.

Mr Trujillo has been paid about $30 million over the same period, and is to receive a $3 million golden handshake when he steps down in June. "It's frustrating because you can't get through and when you do no one can tell you anything," Telstra Bigpond customer Michael Murray told The Courier-Mail.

Between October last year and the end of 2008 Telstra received about 236 complaints a day, or nearly 10 an hour, about landline and mobile phone services over the three months, for a total of 21,283. In the previous three months the phone giant received 14,014 complaints.

Over the same period, complaints about Telstra's Bigpond internet service climbed 65 per cent, from 3382 to 5607. Mr Murray complained after his internet connection was down for four days last week, calling Telstra "10 to 12 times" asking when the problem would be fixed.

Telstra executive director of corporate complaints Chloe Monroe said the company "acknowledged these are not good results". She said the company had put more resources into taking customer calls. Ms Munroe said it would be "drawing a long bow" to see a connection between Mr Trujillo's time at the top and the number of complaints. [What or who else, then??]


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Telstra negligence again

Only the few people there with personal integrity care about doing a good job. Why should the rest bother? They get paid the same regardless and are effectively unaccountable

TELSTRA has been forced to apologise after full-frontal photographs of scandal-prone league player Todd Carney ended up on a rental phone in Canberra.

Louise Hallam, 23, was stunned to find the photos left on a second-hand Samsung handset lent to her by a Telstra shop while her own handset was being repaired.

After picking up the handset on Saturday, Ms Hallam said she looked through the phone's memory and was stunned to find the clearly recognisable photos of Carney, posing in lewd photographs.

"I was shocked at the fact that Telstra gave me a phone that had, well, basically pornography on it," Ms Hallam said yesterday.

"I thought they would have at least filtered the phone or cleared the memory. I was upset when I saw it, and then I realised who it was."

Carney confirmed he had used a Nokia handset to take the explicit images of himself in front of the bathroom mirror while home alone late one night at his Goulburn home "about six months ago".

The beleaguered player - sacked from the Canberra Raiders after a string of high-profile drunken misdemeanours said he had forwarded the photos to a girl he met on social network site Facebook some months later after she exchanged a lewd photograph of herself.

"She'd asked me to take them before ... I don't want to go back to that night though," he said.

Carney said he was at a loss as to how the photos ended up on the handset, but speculated they may have been forwarded by an unknown person who picked up the Nokia handset he lost in January.

"They're the only ones like that that I ever took, so it must be them," he said yesterday.

He said he succumbed to the girl's multiple requests for a photo, eventually sending those he had stored on his phone.

"She sent me a photo then I sent her some back. Obviously it's the photos in the wrong hands now."

Carney's manager David Riolo yesterday claimed an anonymous woman had attempted to blackmail him over the pictures yesterday.

Ms Hallam said she never contacted Mr Riolo asking for money and has never met Carney.

A Telstra spokesman yesterday confirmed a handset had been lent to Ms Hallam and said the telco would investigate why personal data was not deleted.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Telstra fails the public respect test

TELSTRA'S efforts to cast itself as a good corporate citizen appear to have failed. The telecommunications and media company has come near the bottom of the class for corporate behaviour on such hot topics as executive salaries and fair wages for staff.

Woolworths, on the other hand, came top of a Herald survey that explored consumer expectations of large Australian and Australian-domiciled international companies.

Taken during the fall-out over Pacific Brands and the huge payouts to executives at the failed insurance group AIG, the survey by a researcher, The Leading Edge, records what people believe companies should be doing to gain their respect and trust.

Most large corporates are failing to rein in excessive salaries of their executives but are recognised to be doing more about paying their staff fair wages, the survey of 1500 people shows.

Overall, companies are performing badly in three areas consumers regard as important - what companies are doing to limit their impact on the environment, whether they conduct their business in an open and transparent manner, and whether they impose limits on executive pay and bonuses.

However, all of the large companies included in the report (see below) were, to varying degrees, seen to be providing equal opportunities to staff, paying fair wages and treating their customers with respect.

Areas that are often the focus of corporate marketing campaigns, such as supporting charities, community projects and activity in developing nations, are not regarded as important by Australian consumers.

The study also highlights how much responsibility individuals assign to governments and business to get the country out of the current doldrums; a third of that falls to the Federal Government, a third to big business, and the remainder shared by state governments, local communities and, lastly, the individual.

The survey will make uncomfortable reading for Telstra. Of the 10 companies in the survey only international packaged goods giants Unilever and Procter & Gamble recorded lower scores. People said they were least likely to speak favourably about Telstra than any other company and, more worrying, almost a quarter said they were more likely to bad-mouth Telstra - nearly four times the number for Woolworths, Coles and Nestle.

Conversely, three quarters of the people surveyed said they were most likely to talk favourably about Woolworths than any other company. Woolworths, which registered the highest score in the key criteria, was also regarded as the most ethical company, twice that of its nearest competitor, St George.

Karen Phillips managing director of TLE Sydney, said the research shows Woolworths is more successful in bridging the gap between the corporate face it projects and the day-to-day experience of customers.

"From a corporate perspective Woolworths has done very well, largely because it's put a lot behind a very effective [marketing] campaign that gives a warm human face to the company.

"But I think as much as Telstra may have worked at it [corporate social responsibility], they have not really generated a level of connectivity at a human level with their recent campaign."

A Telstra spokesman acknowledged it had work to do. He said: "Telstra treats with great seriousness any feedback about the company's reputation."

Telstra cannot take criticism

Not terribly surprising, given how much there is to criticize

LESLIE Nassar, aka Fake Stephen Conroy on Twitter, says he has been fired from his job as Telstra's iPhone expert for speaking out about the telco.

Mr Nassar, who only yesterday revealed his fears about his job to The Daily Telegraph, this morning said he had been sacked by Dr Hugh Bradlow, who is Telstra's Chief Technology Officer, and Greg Callaghan, a director in that Office.

Telstra says it has begun a "disciplinary process" against Mr Nassar, but not fired him.

Still, when Mr Nassar got off a flight from Melbourne to Sydney this morning he posted this following on Twitter under Fake Stephen Conroy.

"Just landed in Sydney. If I have been fired, nobody has told me about it."

That was at about 8.20am.

Then at 8.50am: "Okay, I've been fired for contravening Telstra's AWA that mandates that you don't criticise Telstra - ever - even in jest."

A minute later: "Let me make it absolutely clear; the folks working in the CTO do extraordinary work. I'm sorry to lose my workmates."

Then two minutes after: "Hugh Bradlow (Telstra CTO) and Greg Callaghan are both good, smart guys. They're enforcers in this, not puppet-masters."

When The Daily Teleraph then asked if Mr Nassar if he had been sacked, he said: "Yep. Just now, by Hugh Bradlow and Greg Callaghan for, they say, contravening the Satirical Smack-Talk policy."

A Telstra spokesman said: "Leslie Nassar has not been fired. However, we have started a disciplinary process against him - not because of his Fake Stephen Conroy blogs but because of his ongoing unauthorised public statements about Telstra, including abusive comments towards a Telstra employee."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arrogance and incompetence from Telstra yet again

Footscray family's Telstra battle lasts 18 months -- and again it was only media attention that got any action

TELSTRA has admitted to double dipping a battling Footscray family's internet account - and 18 months later it has still not paid back the money.

Musician Wade English discovered by accident that the company had been charging him for broadband and dial-up internet services at the same time.

He lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman and was then told by Telstra the matter would be fixed within 24 hours.

Mr English's was one of a staggering 52,304 billing issues lodged against telecommunication, internet and phone service providers in Australia last year.

It took 40 complaints before Telstra offered to reimburse him $646.80 and cancel his dial-up service last December.

At the time of the error, the Aussie telco admitted in writing that Mr English was entitled to a refund. It said it would terminate his dial-up service and hand over the refund within 30 days. What followed was a nightmare.

"They didn't follow up with any money, but what they did do was totally disconnect my internet service, both dial-up and broadband. I went six or seven weeks without it," Mr English said. "I finally gave up and switched to Optus. "But in that time I reckon I lost about $10,000 in work that would've been booked through my internet site."

When Mr English called Telstra to see where his refund was, he was told he did not have an account and so could not be traced on the Telstra computer system.

Mr English said he wanted to encourage other people to challenge Telstra and other large corporations.

In documents seen by the Herald Sun, Telstra acknowledged it overcharged Mr English for two years and offered to pay back $646.80. Only after the Herald Sun contacted Telstra did the company offer to send a cheque.

"We have spoken to the customer and apologised for the inconvenience caused," Telstra spokesman Martin Barr said, adding the matter was being investigated.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Telstra refuses to hang up on Melbourne customer's 8c bill

How pathetic that you have to resort to newspaper publicity in order to get a crazy bill looked at!

PHONE giant Telstra has spent five months bombarding a customer with demands that he pay a measly eight cents. The telco, which streamlined bills for millions of customers last year to save on paper, repeatedly spat out reminders to Melbourne man Craig Mackley.

Mr Mackley dismissed the request for an 8c credit card payment-processing fee as a joke.

He was swamped with double-page monthly forms after settling a $10.08 mobile phone account in August last year.

"You'd think they'd wake up and get their house in order and stop wasting money," he said.

"I hadn't rung them about it because I thought it was a bit silly and ridiculous. But they keep sending the bill and I keep laughing at them."

The telco, which returned a $3.69 billion profit last financial year, overhauled its bill format several months ago and pledged to cut down on paper.

It is changing to a new system that will stop repetitive requests for tiny amounts of money.

The carrier apologised and cancelled Mr Mackley's overdue account when contacted by the Herald Sun.

"We have removed the charge to the customer and apologise for any inconvenience caused," spokesman Martin Barr said.