If you’ve got an unresolved problem with a landline, mobile or internet connection to your farm, or communicating with your service provider is proving difficult, it might be time to try Telecommunications Dispute Resolution.
“When it’s unclear what the problem is, or your provider is dragging its heels on dealing with your concerns, the formal complaints process can spark action,” Federated Farmers national board member and telecommunications spokesperson Richard McIntyre says.
“As well as helping make sure the provider takes your issues seriously, the number and kind of complaints is a useful signal to the Commerce Commission that particular issues are widespread.”
Federated Farmers has prepared a fact sheet on what Telecommunications Disputes Resolution can and can’t look into, and describes what steps you – and your provider – need to take. (Feds members can find it on www.fedfarm.org.nz – search “Telecommunications Dispute”).
The resolution service can look into a variety of complaints, including billing and charges, customer service, faults and network issues, as well as issues related to proper process around the decommissioning of copper landline services.
Outside its remit is the price of services charged by providers. They can, however, check that a provider is appropriately and transparently applying its tariffs. The same applies to the terms and conditions in contracts between the customer and the provider for telecommunications services.
The maximum value of a complaint that Telecommunications Disputes Resolution can consider is $15,000. This relates to the costs to a scheme member to resolve whatever problems gave rise to the complaint.
Cases rising of retailers shunning copper network
Some farming families are being left with shoddy, or no, telecommunications connection because a retailer isn’t interested in offering a service to their location via Chorus’s copper network.
“These moves by the big retailers – Spark, Vodafone and others – while perfectly legal, are putting many of our people in the awkward position of having once had connectivity – voice, landline, internet connection – to having none of it,” Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Jacob Haronga says.
In the last few years there has been plenty of publicity about the fact Chorus is allowed to cut off its copper line network in those areas where fibre is available – that is, mostly urban areas. It’s regulated by the Commerce Commission and there are codes in place to protect consumers.
Because many rural areas don’t have fibre, Feds has been advising members they don’t have to worry about the decommissioning of copper lines.
In recent months, in areas where Chorus can withdraw copper services because fibre is available, they’ve taken that a little further, and put in a “stop sell”, Jacob says.
“It’s basically saying, ‘hey, we’re not looking to do any more business over these types of lines in these particular areas.
“That has an upside for rural New Zealand. Chorus can redirect the people, the investment, the parts they were dedicating to those fibre-serviced areas to their other copper networks. That means more resource, more people for rural copper networks.”
However, Chorus don’t sell services direct to the customer; they’re not allowed to by law. And Federated Farmers is getting feedback that the retailers who do sell to customers are bypassing selling services via Chorus’s copper and instead signing people up to their own offers.
“It means the rural businesses and families that rely on copper line services because they’re not within range of a mobile tower, or it’s unreliable/oversubscribed, or there’s trees or hills blocking wireless services, are left high and dry,” Jacob says.
“They might have landlines with loud echoing or otherwise unusable for extended periods, or they just cut out. Getting some sort of solution can take so long, out of frustration and need they pay up for a satellite service such as Starlink.”
Jacob says Federated Farmers is still discussing what might be a medium or long-term fix, but in the short term is encouraging rural users who find themselves with a substandard – or no – service, to use the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution option described in the other article on this page.
“That way the extent of these issues are registered, recorded and logged in the system and we can get a better picture through to the regulators of just how bad the problems are, and where it’s bad.”