TEL­STRA BACK­FLIP AF­TER $36K CFA BILL BUN­GLE:

LEOPOLD CFA FIRES UP OVER IN­TER­NET CHARGE

Geelong Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - JAIMEE WILKENS

TEL­STRA has apol­o­gised for an “er­ror in the sys­tem” that saw the vol­un­teer-run Leopold Fire Brigade hit with a $36,000 bill.

Leopold CFA trea­surer Lynton Bot­ten said he was left shocked af­ter open­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s March in­ter­net in­voice to find a cou­ple more ze­ros than usual on the to­tal.

“I couldn’t be­lieve my eyes when I opened that let­ter, I thought ‘What the hell are they do­ing?’” he said. “Fair dinkum, if Tel­stra was a small com­pany they’d go broke.”

The small vol­un­teer-run CFA out­post said the trouble started once Tel­stra had con­nected the brigade from ADSL to a NBN plan.

Be­fore that, the CFA’s in­ter­net bill sat at about $9.95 — jump­ing to $70 under the new plan.

“We said ‘No, thanks’ to that and asked to be dis­con­nected; the only time we use the in­ter­net is to print out a map for when we get a fire call,” Mr Bot­ten said. “We’d been dis­con­nected from the in­ter­net for about a month be­fore we got that bill.”

Mr Bot­ten — a CFA vol­un­teer of 40 years and trea­surer for 28 — spent hours on the phone to mul­ti­ple peo­ple from dif­fer­ent depart­ments in Tel­stra, with no one able to ex­plain what the “con­sult­ing ser­vices” fee meant or where it had come from.

“For hours I was on the phone speak­ing to five dif­fer­ent peo­ple, go­ing around in cir­cles and not get­ting a straight an­swer,” Mr Bot­ten said.

“I knew it had to be a mis­take but the bloody prob­lem was try­ing to get some­one to talk to you.”

Tel­stra area gen­eral man­ager Loretta Wil­lato yes­ter­day apol­o­gised for the billing de­ba­cle, ad­mit­ting that the CFA brigade should never have re­ceived the bill.

“We are sorry for the er­ror that has oc­curred in our sys­tem, the amount that ap­peared on the CFA bill should have been sent to the sup­plier of tech­nol­ogy to the brigade,” she said.

“We are fol­low­ing up the lack of ac­tion that has oc­curred when the is­sue was brought to the at­ten­tion of our front of house team.”

She con­firmed that the full bill — in­clud­ing the $9.95 in­ter­net charge for the pre­vi­ous month — had been with­drawn.

The Leopold CFA have con­firmed they were con­sid­er­ing shop­ping around for a new in­ter­net provider now the de­ba­cle was over.

Mr Bot­ten said he had been per­son­ally con­tacted by Tel­stra rep­re­sen­ta­tives to apol­o­gise yes­ter­day.

“For hours I was on the phone speak­ing to five dif­fer­ent peo­ple, go­ing around in cir­cles and not get­ting a straight an­swer.” LEOPOLD CFA TREA­SURER LYNTON BOT­TEN

Pic­ture: PETER RIS­TEVSKI

NET FRUSTRATION: Leopold CFA trea­surer Lynton Bot­ten and Cap­tain Ash­ley Browne with the huge Tel­stra bill for more than $36,000.

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