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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 8

(Question No. 1124)

Senator Morris asked the Minister for Communications, upon notice, on 29 May 1986:

(1) Have complaints ever arisen throughout Australia from Telecom subscribers who have their home and business services disconnected even after paying their accounts.

(2) Will the Minister for Communications instigate an investigation process into the present system of handling alleged overdue payments in an effort to eliminate severe problems that are emerging in the community at large.

(3) Will steps be taken to eliminate a serious present difficulty where if an overdue account is paid at a Telecom Business Office in an area away from the service of the subscriber, the staff of that office disdain contact with the local office to prevent disconnection.

(4) Will steps be taken to ensure the public relations effort of Telecom is not damaged, or destroyed, by the practices outlined above.

Senator Walsh —The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question, based in part on advice from the Australian Telecommunications Commission:

(1) Yes.

(2) Telecom is continually reviewing its payments processing systems and procedures with a view to improving customer service. The incidence of erroneous disconnection of service is minimal and does not warrant any special investigation instigated by the Minister.

(3) Telecom's procedures provide that if an overdue account is paid at a Telecom Business Office, the relevant District Accounting Group is to be contacted by telephone. However, there have been occasions where customers have been disconnected where this advice has not been provided. In those cases, Telecom has taken appropriate remedial action. The scheduled automation of receipting procedures at Telecom Business Offices in the latter part of 1987 will accelerate the actual crediting of customers' accounts in Telecom's billing system.

(4) In the interests of Telecom's public relations, receipting areas are regularly reminded of the procedures to be followed when overdue payments are accepted.