Ngarima George, who now lives in Australia but has returned home for a holiday, used a Kia Orana card from his landline to phone his wife at their home in Melbourne two weeks ago. The phone cut out after 20 minutes of conversation.
With the one-hour card no longer valid, George called Telecom to enquire about the extra 40 minutes he had purchased.
“The operator said my credit is finished. She said she can’t do anything and the problem is in Australia.”
Telecom Cook Islands sales and marketing manager Damien Beddoes said Telecom cannot track how much of the call has taken place before the phone cuts out, so cannot refund part of a call to customers who experience this problem, and will not refund the entire call unless Telecom is at fault.
He said Telecom offers an hour of talk time for calls to Australia, and that at this rate the call – which is usually $1.22 per minute at daytime rates – becomes free after less than 10 minutes.
George said after he persisted and told the Telecom operator he would go to the media, the operator eventually said “Papa, your credit of 40 minutes is still on”.
“I said ‘Is that just because I said I’d go to the media?’ and they hung up,” said George.
George is happy with the refunded time – which he said was 30 minutes rather than 40 – but is concerned other people are having the same problem.
“How many other Cook Islanders buy the card and are talking to their families and the phone just cuts off?” said George.
George said he was refunded 30 minutes of calling time, but Beddoes said this is not possible and that Telecom can only refund the entire call through issuing a new card or providing credit to the caller’s account.
Beddoes said he is aware of some similar complaints about the calling cards, but Telecom cannot generally refund calls that are cut off. He said there are many reasons a call can be cut off that are outside of Telecom’s control that mostly affect calls to mobile phones, such as the receiver’s phone battery running out, or of the person accidentally ends the call or moves to an area with low signal coverage.
“Calls from landlines to landlines overseas are more resilient and generally only cut out if there is a network outage.”
Beddoes said Telecom investigates the cause of calls dropping out if a customer reports this, and said the customer will be refunded if Telecom is at fault.
He did not know why George’s particular call was refunded despite there being no network outage in the Cook Islands, but said Telecom will only refund the call if the problem was with the Telecom Cook Islands network.
“We do refund if the Telecom Cook Islands network is at fault. In the case of mobile calls, we are advising customers that due to the many ways that the person they are calling can cut off their call, we will refund only the calls that are due to the Telecom Cook Islands network being at fault.”