ACCC acts to protect ACW telephony customers

5 December 1996

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has moved swiftly to resolve a deluge of complaints by consumers against Corporate Holdings Pty Ltd, trading as ACW Services.

"ACW is a telephony service provider and has approximately 28,000 customers Australia-wide," ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today. "The ACCC received so many complaints that it was impossible to individually respond to them all.

"The complaints received can be separated into five different categories:

  • Customer accounts not being credited with payments;
  • Delay in receiving bills from ACW (up to 6 months' in some cases);
  • Customers not receiving the promised phone account discounts and/or being charged a joining fee of which they were not aware;
  • Customers experiencing delays in switching back to Telstra from ACW;
  • ACW not returning phone calls (ACW state they did not have the capacity to return all phone calls). "ACW has been unable to rectify these account problems. Customers have complained that their account is incorrect and ACW is threatening to disconnect if they do not pay.

"The ACCC was highly concerned that customers may be disconnected even though they had legitimate grievances or queries with respect to ACW bills."

After ACCC investigation, ACW has given a series of undertakings that: ACW will take no action to disconnect telephone services to any customers with a grievance or query regarding an account issued by ACW, including but not limited to the following circumstances: - where a customer has not paid the disputed joining fee; - where the customer claims that they have already made payments which have not been credited to their account and the customer is able to provide proof of payment; - where the customer disputes the discount given. 2. ACW has ceased to promote its services to new customers.

"As of 14 December 1996, Corporate Holdings Pty Ltd, trading as ACW Services will cease to be a telecommunications service provider. ACW customers will then be free to transfer to Telstra, Optus or another reseller/service provider.

"The ACCC was highly concerned to learn that ACW customers, many of whom are small business operators relying heavily on telephone services, may have had their telephone lines disconnected even though they had paid their bills or had legitimate grievances with their bills from ACW," Professor Fels, said.

"The ACCC has also been in touch with Telstra to explain our concerns and Telstra has assured the Commission that it will not disconnect any ACW customer until proper enquiries have been undertaken to ascertain whether or not the debt allegedly owed by the customer to ACW is correct."

Release number: 
MR 164/96
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