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Thursday, 22 August 1996
Page: 3649

(Question No. 244)

Mr Eoin Cameron asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, upon notice, on 21 May 1996:

Does Telstra charge clients for attempted STD facsimile transmissions when the receiving machine is engaged; if so, (a) why and (b) what action will the Government take to reverse the charge.

Mr Warwick Smith —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

Telstra has advised me that it does not charge for unsuccessful STD, local or international calls to facsimile machines when the called machine is engaged. Telstra has also advised that it receives very few complaints from customers about charges for unsuccessful calls.

Of the complaints received, I understand that nearly all are due to the misconception that a customer is being charged for an unsuccessful call when in fact the call has been accepted by customer premises equipment (CPE) at the receiving end.

For example, when a facsimile is attached to a PABX which accepts the call in a central location and then passes it on to the called extension, then the call is perceived as being successful from the point of view of the Telstra network.

A charge may also be incurred if the call is made overseas, where the called country's technology may accept the call before passing it on to its destination.

Other common sources of this misunderstanding are when a customer has call diversion and the called party does not realise the call has been accepted, the end service is busy or not in service or when a called party quickly hangs up believing it is a call to a wrong number.

I understand that there have been some press reports which have stated that AUSTEL and the TIO have described the problem as having reached epidemic proportions and that Telstra is conducting an internal inquiry into consumer billing complaints in general.

The TIO and AUSTEL have strongly denied any `epidemic', noting that the complaints do not even amount to enough for them to have their own sub-category under the TIO's billing complaints system.

Telstra has denied any knowledge of an internal inquiry into consumer complaints about billing complaints.