Issues with billing errors on phone bills aren’t restricted to North America. In fact, thousands of customers around the world are hit with bogus charges each year. Today we take a look at two major billing controversies unfolding in Ireland and Australia.
Our first story is a bit of a reversal. Instead of charging too much, Ireland-based Eircom did the opposite – failures in its direct debit system meant around 30,000 people haven’t had their monthly payments for phone, Internet and cable take from their accounts since January. Though some had a portion withdrawn, others had nothing at all. The problem? Their bills indicated they had paid in full.
We know people are often too lax when it comes to keeping track of their bank account activity – just as they are too lax when it comes to keeping an eye on their telecom bills – so chances are some people didn’t even notice the mistake. But now they’re facing bills of up to $700 USD to catch up.
The chairman of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland is none too thrilled with the company’s plan to withdraw the entire amount owed by each customer via direct debit during the upcoming billing cycle.
“The customer arranged for the payment to be made, they gave them the facility to do it, and Eircom botched it up,” chairman Michael Kilcoyne was quoted as saying. “There are many people living hand to mouth now, who won’t be able to afford this. It is totally unacceptable that Eircom would demand this money from them.”
Eircom maintains those who cannot pay in full should contact the company to make arrangements to pay in installments.
Optus Slapped by Watchdog
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued a formal warning to Optus for its sluggish resolution to an $8.8 million billing error dating back to April 2009. More than 237,000 customers were charged for a voicemail transcription service to which they never subscribed; Optus blamed the glitch on a software programming error.
ACMA charges that Optus began receiving complaints about the issue in October 2011, possibly even earlier, but failed to act until July 2012. The company then took several months to resolve the issue.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has also issued its own warning to consumers after a joint investigation with CHOICE and the Consumer Action Law Center found one in five people have unexpected charges on their telecom bills, but only half take steps to resolve the errors.