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Regulators missing in action in ONEseniors debacle Featured

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Over 10,000 over 55s have had an anxious wait to find out if their phone services will be restored, and whether they will be able to keep their phone numbers. They still don’t know.

The demise of the ONEseniors brand has caused massive confusion and disruption to its customers, with on-again off-again news about when and if their service would be restored, and whether they would be able to keep their phone numbers.

It has been a sorry tale, and a very poor advertisement for the way the Australian mobile phone industry, and the proliferating number of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), work. Aren’t our regulators supposed to prevent this sort of thing?

It has been a comedy of errors, but none of ONEseniors 10,000 plus customers are laughing. The timeline shows the extent of the confusion.

2 May

ONEseniors placed into administration after court action against parent CONEC2, whose other subsidiaries iBOSS and One Telecom were also affected. Services to all customers of all subsidiaries were cut. The Ghost of ispONE, where all this once resided, still haunts the industry.

6 May

Vocus pays $500,000 to buying the CONEC2 assets and customers, including ONEseniors. It said it was working urgently on restoring services.

“Vocus is now undertaking the difficult task of unravelling the complex ownership and supply relationships previously in place, and corporate structure Although Vocus is working hard to expedite the process, there is no guarantee all services can be reactivated.”

8 May

Vocus says the web of cross-ownership and who is responsible for what is too tangled and that it would not be able to restore service due to “the complexity of the web of companies of the previous owners and “he lack of support of the other telecommunications suppliers (other than Telstra).

“To assist affected customers, Vocus has proactively worked with iPrimus to enable new services. iPrimus has set up a dedicated call centre to assist transitioning ONEseniors and One Telecom customers to their new connection.

“Customers can reconnect with their chosen provider. Vocus arranged for iPrimus to offer new services to customers.

14 May

Vocus said customers still with ONESeniors have now lost their landline number forever, and that even with a new provider it cannot be used again. The supply arrangement with Telstra was initially suspended on 2 May and the termination today means the phone numbers of 10,000 pensioners have been lost and cannot be recovered or ported to a new provider.

“We have been advised today that the new receivers have terminated supply arrangements with Telstra. Telstra services were previously only suspended. The impact for ONESeniors customers is that they will no longer be able to keep their existing landline number.”

“Their existing number is lost and cannot be recovered. Any new services with a new supplier will require a new number.”

15 May

Vocus issues yet another a new statement: “Telstra has revised the advice given to Vocus yesterday in relation to number portability. Contrary to yesterday’s news, Telstra today confirmed that customers can ask their new providers to transfer existing numbers.

In the majority of cases, Telstra should be able to extract those numbers from quarantine, ensuring customers can retain existing landline numbers with new providers. This is a win for customers and good news for those still to put new supply arrangements in place.”

It has not been a terribly edifying spectacle. Is this really the best the Australian mobile telephony and telecommunications industry can do?

And where are the ACCC and the ACMA? They may act after the event, but that is cold comfort to ONEseniors customers, many of them elderly and especially dependent on their ability to communicate with family and health services, who have been affected.

In 21st century Australia, it is shameful. And inexcusable.

 

 

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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