A word of advice about how to dispute a huge internet bill.
11 July 2011
“You’ve racked up a $2000 bill on your internet account.” On emails and a little bit of surfing? I don’t think so.
A consumer recently reported to us her trouble with this hefty internet bill. After questioning the consumer about her internet use, the internet service provider said it was probably from a virus and agreed to wipe the bill as long as she got her computer fixed. The next time, the internet provider said she had used $9000 worth of data (which is roughly 1G an hour non-stop) and they couldn’t wipe the bill again.
You can easily feel helpless in this situation. How on earth can you prove that you didn’t use that much data if the internet service provider says you did?
To start with, you are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act.
Under the Fair Trading Act your bills cannot be false or misleading. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act the internet provider must use reasonable skill and care in providing the service, including calculating your usage, and in the way they respond to complaints.
The Consumer Guarantees Act gives you the right to cancel a service if there is a serious problem. You can also get compensation for consequential loss.
These laws mean you may:
- Dispute that you using so much data and the size of the bill.
- Negotiate out of your long-term contract with the internet service provider.
- Claim back the cost of getting your computer or other equipment checked out.
- Claim for the cost of not being able to use your internet for some time.
- Make a complaint to the Commerce Commission (0800 943 600, www.comcom.govt.nz).
If you have tried resolving the problem with your internet service provider but you haven’t got a satisfactory outcome, you can go to Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (0508 98 98 98, www.tdr.org.nz). This is a free and independent service. They can deal with most complaints about most internet service providers (as well as problems with home phones, mobiles, etc). A few providers are not covered so you may need to take your claim to the Disputes Tribunal instead.