Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Telecom - seeing the eye of the beast

This afternoon I saw the Telecom New Zealand everyone complains about. I confess I've been a defender of Telecom over the years and thought they were pretty unfairly treated by the media and the previous Government. After all, they are our largest company and anyone who has seen my previous blog on large companies in NZ (here) will know that I think the main reason for New Zealand's relatively poor economic performance is the difficult environment it provides for large companies. So I'm not normally a whinger about corporate greed. However...

Today I discovered that Telecom has been overcharging me (and no doubt countless other customers) on domain name hosting. Telecom charges me $15.75 per month or about $190/year for my domain name when most other providers charge $30 - $40 per year. Now maybe I deserve to be ripped off because I'm too lazy or too stupid to check Telecom's pricing on a regular basis. In my defence, I'm a pretty busy person and I'm not the one in our household who pays the bills. In any event, that doesn't excuse Telecom ripping its customers off.

When I rang Telecom and spoke to the Filipino (or Malaysian or resident of whichever other South East Asian country currently hosts their help desk) in their Complex Technical Support Department (don't even ask!) about the overcharging, he informed me that Telecom has no obligation to match their competitors' pricing or to keep their customers informed about their highly uncompetitive rates. I responded that I would expect a good corporate citizen to do just that. I'm afraid I failed to convince him. I suggested he might like to refund the overcharging for the last two years. He couldn't see the logic in doing that, even when I pointed out that when I take the matter to the telecommunications commissioner it was likely Telecom will be ordered to refund every customer they have overcharged. He couldn't see the logic in that either.

This is the sort of unethical corporate behaviour I have heard people accusing Telecom of for years. As I say, I've defended the company against such accusations. Well, I can now understand why people detest the company so much. The amount involved is small so that's not my concern. The thing that amazes me is that our largest company can have such a serious ethics and integrity problem. Perhaps the previous Government was right to attack the company with every legislative, policy and public opinion weapon it could. Perhaps they saw on a grand scale what I have just experienced on a very small scale. I recall Paul Reynolds, the CEO, stating publicly that things had changed under his management. Clearly the beast hasn't changed its spots that much.

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