Telstra to issue warning over broadband bills

Suffering from broadband bill blowout? If you are, you can expect a call from a Telstra representative warning you to brace your budget.

Suffering from broadband bill blowout? If you are, you can expect a call from a Telstra representative warning you to brace your budget.

Under pressure from telecommunications regulators, politicians and customers over unexpectedly high broadband bills, sometimes running into thousands of dollars, Telstra said it would expand its existing courtesy call service for customers with unexpectedly high mobile and home telephone bills to its broadband base.

The telecommunications heavyweight claims it is calling around 250 customers per day to inform them of excess charges on broadband, home phone and mobile accounts. The move expands on the call service first introduced in December last year for home and mobile telephone customers.

Customer services representatives would "attempt to make contact with [broadband] customers whose unbilled charges exceed AU$900," Telstra said in a statement.

The carrier brought the threshold for customers who would receive a courtesy call warning them of excess use down to AU$900 for home phone accounts and AU$700 for mobile users.

However, only customers whose bills are usually less than half of the threshold limit will be contacted.

A Telstra spokeswoman said it's not up to the telco to tell customers how to manage their accounts. However, she says "we can notify customers whose bills are up to twice what they usually spend".

The move comes after the Communications and Information Technology Minister, Daryl Williams, called on the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) last month to protect consumers from unexpected high bills.

The Minister instructed the ACA to create an industry policy for telecommunications companies to educate their consumers on excess charges, however, Telstra says the move was not influenced by the Minister or the ACA.

"It's a Telstra initiative that we have taken from our own resourcefulness", said a Telstra spokeswoman. "It's about Telstra becoming more involved with the customers, its good customer relations."

National general manager of Telstra's credit management division, Nixon Roberts, said feedback from customers contacted in the courtesy call pilot has been positive.

"Customers are very surprised and pleased to receive a Courtesy Call from Telstra - in fact 88 per cent of customers we speak to are more than happy for us to call them in the future if their usage increases substantially again," said Roberts.

According to the Telstra spokeswoman the majority of courtesy calls thus far have been in regards to excessive fixed line bills, followed by mobile and then broadband customers.

Telstra says the next phase of the pilot will be to increase the amount of people contacted by courtesy call operators by using an automated checking process to identify customers with unusually high accounts.

Roberts says the service may be particularly useful to young people and families with older children whose bills are likely to increase around the school holiday period.

"While conducting the pilot we've noticed a spike in calling during the school holidays and our customers are pleased to receive a call from us because it gives them a chance to consider what measures can be put in place to prevent this happening again," Roberts said.


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