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Telecom customers dispute high bills

Friday March 21, 2014 Written by Published in Technology
A satellite dish being assembled in Aitutaki earlier this year, in anticipation of high-speed internet in the Cooks. 13101022 A satellite dish being assembled in Aitutaki earlier this year, in anticipation of high-speed internet in the Cooks. 13101022

Telecom Cook Islands is facing heat from a number of customers in Aitutaki who believe they are being billed for broadband data they haven’t used.

The customers are also upset that Telecom charges $75 for a detailed report of their internet activity.
Potini Potini, from Blondie’s Photography, said he started noticing his data usage going “gaga” in January when Telecom converted Aitutaki to a new satellite.
He was on the 7000 MB plan at the time but ended up using three times that amount of data, incurring an extra charge of $461.
“I noticed my data was getting out of hand, but I assumed that it must be my way of using the net, but now it is just ridiculous.”
Potini increased his plan in February but still ended up using an extra $519 worth of data, and is facing another massive bill this month.
“I’ve maxed out my plan only 14 days into this month,” he said.
Potini claims he has not changed the way he uses the internet and cannot understand why his data usage should suddenly be sky-rocketing.
“I haven’t changed anything and my niece hasn’t used the internet. I really don’t understand how I’ve maxed out my internet in two weeks.”
A number of other local business owners and residential customers are reporting the same problem and want detailed reports of their internet activity.
“I want an explanation of why my excess has gone up. There’s something going on,” Potini said.  
He and the other customers are refusing to pay $75 for a report, believing it is up to Telecom to show why their bills are so high.
Telecom Sales and Marketing Manager Damien Beddoes said Telecom introduced the $75 charge because of the time it takes staff to investigate and compile the reports.
“In all previous investigations we proved that the customer had used the data, or had given their password to another family member to use, or kids used up data.”
Telecom would also find the customer had given their modem and password to a friend, connected new devices that carried out auto-updates, viewed sites that introduced viruses to their computers, or left downloads running, Beddoes said.  
“So all this work was costing time and resources to show what, in all cases, customers had done themselves and were testing our ability to justify their excess usage. Therefore we have commenced charging $75 for a report to recover the costs of completing the work.”
If there was ever an error on Telecom’s behalf it would refund the $75 - but that hasn’t happened yet, Beddoes said.
He said Aitutaki was converted to a new satellite to improve capacity and speeds for customers.
There could be “hundreds” of reasons why the customers are exceeding their data allowance but, in general, people tend to stay online longer when capacity and speeds improve.
“It’s a case by case variable, but from our experience in Rarotonga the faster the speed the more people do; hence the reason we have reduced prices and increased caps for customers.”
He said having faster internet means people end up watching full movies online, instead of a few YouTube clips.
“Instead of looking at one or two photos they view 30 to 40,” he said.
The issue is sure to continue being debated over the coming weeks and CINews will seek to provide updates.

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