[LINK] Telstra data bill shock

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Wed Jun 24 15:06:18 EST 2009

Bill shock: BigPond users charged thousands for 'data they didn't use'


Julia Talevski

June 24, 2009 - 1:42PM

A Telstra BigPond customer has been slugged thousands of dollars for 
excess data usage and others have been hit with unexpected bills for 
downloads they claim they didn't use.

Nigel Hopkinson said he was disputing a charge of $8562.31 for 73GB 
of excess data use. The apparent usage was recorded by BigPond 
between midnight and 5.07am on May 10. He received an automatic email 
at 8.53am from BigPond, advising his account reached 175 per cent of 
his monthly 60GB usage allowance. He had left his computer and modem 
on, he said. Other customers that have been affected by excess data 
usage claimed to have turned their computers and modems off.

"I had no software running that would cause this and I do not believe 
with my connection speed, that it is even technically possible," Mr 
Hopkinson said.

Another BigPond customer, Eian Mathieson, who is on a 25GB-per-month 
plan, said he began to worry about his account usage after having 
gone over the limit two months in a row.

Mathieson downloaded a metering tool, Netmeter, to measure his usage 
patterns. On one day, BigPond metering recorded more than five times 
the usage Netmeter reported, he said. On May 27, the BigPond meter 
showed he had used 1768MB, whereas Netmeter showed 342.6MB for that 
same day. The next day, the BigPond meter displayed 1650MB of usage 
and Netmeter recorded 358.62MB, Mr Mathieson said.

He said he contacted an IT company, R2 Technology, to inspect his PCs 
for any possible intrusions, such as trojans or malware, that could 
be causing these problems, but after running multiple scans on all 
his computers and checking the installation of Netmeter, he said the 
issue appeared to reside with BigPond's metering tool.

"After R2 had finished, they said that absolutely no way there is 
anything hidden on any computer that is causing this problem. It 
really genuinely seems to be a metering issue on Telstra's end," Mr 
Mathieson said.

When Graeme Fletcher switched from a dial-up to an ADSL broadband 
account on May 7, he said he started to notice his usage increasing. 
Between May 7 and 11, it recorded that he downloaded about 900MB in 
about four days, he said.

"I don't use the internet that much at all, I just use it for emails, 
and don't download anything special," Mr Fletcher said.

Between May 14 to 17, Mr Fletcher said he turned his modem off, 
unplugged it from the wall and put it back into the box. During those 
days, he said BigPond metering recorded between 30MB to 88MB data use each day.
***************************** [I guess the cat is out of the bag now]

When Mr Fletchercontacted BigPond about this issue, he said he was 
informed that someone else was using his account. His first bill 
showed he was being charged $72 for excess usage, which he said 
Telstra told him they would remove from his account.

"I called up before May 18, to try and sought things out, but I was 
just getting the run around," Mr Fletcher said. "I had a phone call 
from Telstra saying they're going to cut my phone off because I 
haven't paid my bill. I have to get back on to BigPond and work it 
out again. It's just unbelievable."

In a discussion on a telecommunications forum, Whirlpool.net.au, one 
post referred to a apparent screenshot of a BigPond customer's usage 
for one month totalling 52 million megabytes (52 terabytes).

Another customer, Robert MacMillan, also claimed BigPond's usage 
meter was recording approximately 20MB to 120MB per night worth of 
usage when he had turned his modem off at certain times over a 
consecutive number of days from May 11 to May 15.

Choice spokesperson, Elise Davidson, said capped plans were notorious 
for confusing consumers and it was often very difficult to monitor usage.

"Even worse is situations like these where the customer says they 
have been charged incorrectly," she said.

"Consumers in this instance seem to be very clear that they were not 
using the internet at all during these periods. But proving that your 
computer was not in use may be difficult in the face of a giant like 
Telstra," Ms Davidson said.

"The number of cases would indicate there is a problem and it needs 
to be resolved quickly, without hours wasted on hold to a call centre."

Paul Budde, an independent telco analyst from BuddeComm, said he had 
heard of similar cases. But he said it was very difficult to pinpoint 
where the problem was.

Telstra was repeatedly asked to comment on the issue, but declined.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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