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Imagine where I could have been today had the arbitrator allowed his technical consultants to view my comprenensive log of fault complaints

It is important to note before AUSTEL did their investigation into my complaints I provided them with a comprehensive log of my phone complaints which my claim advisosrs Plummer and Pullinger later also supplied an updated copy to Dr Gordon Hughes (the arbitrator) on 15 June 1994 in my interim arbitration submission (see File - 7 to 9-A - AS-CAV Exhibit 1 to 47 and File 108 - AS-CAV Exhibit 92 to 127).

However, the arbitrator concealed this 'comprehensive chronology of my complaints' from his technical arbitration resource unit. The statements in that 30 April 1995 report Chapter 1 - The collusion continues, "A comprehensive log of Mr Smith's complaints does not appear to exist." In 1995, it cost me over $52,000 in arbitration fees to Plummer & Pullinger (Loss Assessors). One of the two partners later became a Senator in the John Howard government on behalf of the Queensland National Party. Both partners were ex-Queensland Senior Police officers involved in Investigating National Crime. $52,000 was a lot of money for me to pay Plummer & Piullinger in 1995; I could hardly see either of them forgetting to post/courier the most crucial document of my entire arbitration process, namely, my comprehensive log of phone complaints to the arbitrator.     

At the request of the government communications regulator AUSTEL (now ACMA) towards the end of 1993, I provided them with a condensed version of my comprehensive log of complaints, which did not include ongoing phone problems experienced after 1993. AUSTEL used some of those events to officially request from Telstra all data they had on file of how they responded to that chronology of events.  

AUSTEL’s Adverse Findings, dated March 1994 confirm that between points 2 to 212, the government found my claims against Telstra validated. Some of those points  23, 42, 44,  46, 109, 115, 130, 153, 158, 209 and 212 are highlighted below. One does not have to be a genius to understand that had the arbitrator and his technical consultants carried out the same type of investigation AUSTEL carried out on my comprehensive chronology of events, my life and that of my partner Cathy would have been better rewarded.

Government records (see Absentjustice-Introduction File 495 to 551) show AUSTEL’s adverse findings were provided to Telstra (the defendants) one month before Telstra and I signed our arbitration agreement. I did not get a copy of these same findings until 23 November 2007, 12 years after the conclusion of my arbitration.

Page 2 – "Mr Smith has had an ongoing complaint about the level of service for some time .....customer was originally connected to an old RAX exchange, which had limited junctions brtween Portland and Cape Bridgewater, Thus congestion was a problem for all customers on the Cape Bridgewater exchnage. The exchange was up graded to an RCM parented back to the Portland AXE 104".  

Page 10 – “Whilst Network Investigation and Support advised that all faults were rectified, the above faults and record of degraded service minutes indicate a significant network problem from August 1991 to March 1993.”

Point 23 – “It is difficult to discern exactly who had responsibility for Mr Smith’s problems at the time, and how information on his problems was disseminated within Telecom. Information imparted by the Portland officer on 10 February 1993 of suspected problems in the RCM [Cape Bridgewater unmanned switching exchange]“caused by a lighting (sic) strike to a bearer in late November” led to a specialist examination of the RCM on March 1993. Serious problems were identified by this examination.”

Adequacy of Response 

Point 25 – "It should also be noted that during the period of time covered by this chronology of significance events it is clear 

  • Telecom had conducted extensive testing 
  • Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp frequestly reported problems with the quality of telephone service
  • both the camp and Telecom were receiving confirmation of reported from other network users
  • major faults were identified more through persitense reporting of probles by customer than through testing of the network 
  • customers in the Cape Bridgewater area also complaining of similar problems

Point 26 – "The chronology of significant events demonstrates that Telecom conducted estensive testing and Telecom rectified faults without delay when faults were identified. It is clear however, that

  • Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp was exposed to significant network problems over an extended period of time 
  • Telecom testing did not not detect all of the network problems affecting Mr Smith".

Telecom's Approach to reaching Settlement 

Point 27 – "As is discussed under allegation in more detail throughout this document, Telecom's failure to adequately identify Mr Smith's network problems challenges the bases of Senior Telecom Management's approach to the resolution of Mr Smith's complaints and his claims for compensation etc, etc 

Point 29 – "A fundamental issue underlying Telecom's settlement with Mr Smith was the question of whether Telecom had taken reasonable steps to comprehensively diagnose the standard of Mr Smith's telephone service. This is an important point as settlement took place on the bases that both parties agreed Mr Smith was receiving an acceptable standard of service at the time of settlement. Mr Smith maintains he was under considerable financial pressure to reach settlement, leading him to accept Telecom's assurances of his services at the time of settlement."

Point 32 – "Telecom's communications with Mr Smith in the months prior to settlement uniformaly argued that the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp was at an acceptable level and that Telecom was capable of rapidly rectifying faults as they occured."

Point 42 – “Some important questions are raised by the possible existence of a cable problem affecting the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp service. Foremost of these questions is why was the test call program conducted during July and August 1992 did not lead to the discovery of the cable problem. Another important question is exactly how the cable problem would have manifested in terms of service difficulties to the subscriber.”

Point 44 – “Given the range of faults being experienced by Mr Smith and other subscribers in Cape Bridgewater, it is clear that Telecom should have initiated more comprehensive action than the test call program. It appears that there was expensive reliance on the results of the test program and insufficient analysis of other data identifying problems. Again, this deficiency demonstrated Telecom’s lack of a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to resolution of Mr Smith’s problems.” 

Absent Justice - Negligent Action

Point 46 –“File evidence clearly indicates that Telecom at the time of settlement with Mr Smith had not taken appropriate action to identify possible problems with the RCM . It was not until a resurgence of complaints from Mr Smith in early 1993 that appropriate investigative action was undertaken on this potential cause In March 1993 a major fault was discovered in the digital remote customer multiplexer (RCM) providing telephone service to Cape Bridgewater holiday camp. This fault may have been existence for approximately 18 months. The Fault would have affected approximately one third of subscribers receiving a service of this RCM.  Given the nature of Mr Smith’s business in comparison with the essentially domestic services surrounding subscribers, Mr Smith would have been more affected by this problem due to the greater volume of incoming traffic than his neighbours.”

Point 47 –“Telecom's ignorance of the existence of the RCM fault raises a number of questions in regard to Telecom's settlement with Smith. For example, on what bases was settlement made by Telecom if this fault was not known to them at this time? Did Telecom settle with Mr Smith on the bases that his complaints , of faults were justified without a full investigation of the validity of these complaints, or did Telecom settle on the basis of faults substantiated to the time of settlement? Wither criteria for settlement would have been inadequate, with the later critera disadvantaging Mr Smith, as knowledge of the existence of more faults on his service may have led to an increase in the amount offered for settlement of his claims".

Point 48  “AUSTEL has been hampered in assessing Telecom’s dealings with Mr Smith by Telecom’s failure to provide files relating to Mr Smith’s complaints.”

Point 49 –: "As a result of Telecom's failure to provide file documentation relating to Mr Smith some of the following conclusions are consequently based on insufficient information. The information which is avaialble however, demonstates that on a number of issues Telecom failed to keep Mr Smith informed on matters fundamental to the assessment of his complaints". 

Point 71 –: “AUSTEL has not been provided with the documents on which the conclusion in this briefing summary were reached, such as fault reports from other Cape Bridgewater subscribers over this period or the details of the final selector fault.  It would have been expected that these documents would have been retained on file as background to the summary.  It can only be assumed that they are contained within the documentation not provided to AUSTEL.”

Point 76 – “One disturbing matter in relation to Mr Smith’s complaints of NRR [not receiving ring] is that information on other people in the Cape Bridgewater area experiencing the problem has been misrepresented from local Telecom regional manager to more senior manager.” 

Point 86 – “From examination of Telecom’s documention concerning RVA [a recorded voice announcement – not in service] messages on the Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp there are a wide range of possible causes of this message.” 

Point 109 – The view of the local Telecom technicians in relation to the RVA problem is conveyed in a 2 July 1992 Minute from Customer Service Manager – Hamilton to Managers in the Network Operations and Vic/Tas Fault Bureau:

“Our local technicians believe that Mr Smith is correct in raising complaints about incoming callers to his number receiving a Recorded Voice Announcement saying that the number is disconnecte. They believe that it is a problem that is occurring in increasing numbers as more and more customers are connected to AXE. [AXE – Portland telephone exchange]”

Point 115 –“Some problems with incorrectly coded data seem to have existed for a considerable period of time. In July 1993 Mr Smith reported a problem with payphones dropping out on answer to calls made utilising his 008 number. Telecom diagnosed the problem as being to “Due to incorrect data in AXE 1004, CC-1. Fault repaired by Ballarat OSC 8/7/93, The original deadline for the data to be changed was June 14th 1991. Mr Smith’s complaint led to the identification of a problem which had existed for two years.”

Absent Justice - Constant Complaints

Point 130 – “On April 1993 Mr Smith wrote to AUSTEL and referred to the absent resolution of the Answer NO Voice problem on his service. Mr Smith maintained that it was only his constant complaints that had led Telecom to uncover this condition affecting his service, which he maintained he had been informed was caused by “increased customer traffic through the exchange.”  On the evidence available to AUSTEL it appears that it was Mr Smith’s persistence which led to the uncovering and resolving of his problem – to the benefit of all subscribers in his area”.

Point 140 – “It should be noted that AUSTEL’s investigation of matters relating to the RCM problem has been hampered by Telecom’s failure to make available to AUSTEL a file specifically relating to the Pairs Gains Support investigation of the RCM.  The file was requested by AUSTEL on 9 February 1994.”

Point 153 –“A feature of the RCM system is that when a system goes “down” the system is also capable of automatically returning back to service. As quoted above, normally when the system goes “down” an alarm would have been generated at the Portland exchange, alerting local staff to a problem in the network. This would not have occurred in the case of the Cape Bridgewater RCM however, as the alarms had not been programmed. It was some 18 months after the RCM was put into operation that the fact the alarms were not programmed was discovered. In normal circumstances the failure to program the alarms would have been deficient, but in the case of the ongoing complaints from Mr Smith and other subscribers in the area the failure to program these alarms or determine whether they were programmed is almost inconceivable.”

Point 158 – “The crucial issue in regard to the Cape Bridgewater RCM is that assuming the lightning strike did cause problems to the RCM om late November 1992 these problems were not resolved till the beginning of March 1993, over 3 months later. This was despite a number of indications of problems in the Cape Bridgewater area. Fault reports from September 1992 also indicate that the commencement of problems with the RCM may have occurred earlier than November 1992. A related issue is that Mr Smith’s persistent complaints were almost certainly responsible for an earlier identification of problems with the RCM than would otherwise have been the case.”

Point 160 – “It should be noted that it is hoped that a number of issues in regard to the Cape Bridgewater RCM will be clarified when Telecom provides the documentation requested by AUSTEL.”

Point 169 –" Documentation reviewed indicates that other network users attached to the Cape Bridgewater exchange did report problems similar to those experienced by Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp. It is also clear that problems identified in the area would have impacted on other network users as well as Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp."

Point 209 – “Cape Bridgewater Holiday Camp has a history of service difficulties dating back to 1988. Although most of the documentation dates from 1991 it is apparent that the camp has had ongoing service difficulties for the past six years which has impacted on its business operations causing losses and erosion of customer base.”

Point 210 – “Service faults of a recurrent nature were continually reported by Smith and Telecom was provided with supporting evidence in the form of testimonials from other network users who were unable to make telephone contact with the camp.”

Point 211 – “Telecom testing isolated and rectified faults as they were found however significant faults were identified not by routine testing but rather by the persistence-fault reporting of Smith”.

Point 212 – “In view of the continuing nature of the fault reports and the level of testing undertaken by Telecom doubts are raised on the capability of the testing regime to locate the causes of faults being reported.”

Absent Justice Ebook

Read Alan’s book

My name is Alan Smith. This is the story of my battle with a telecommunications giant and the Australian Government, a battle that has twisted and turned, since 1992, through elected governments, government departments, regulatory bodies, the judiciary, and the Australian telecommunications giant, Telstra, or Telecom, as it was known when this story started. The quest for justice continues to this day.

Other independent business people similarly affected by poor telecommunications have joined me on my journey. We are known as the Casualties of Telstra, or the COT cases. All we wanted was for the government owned telecommunications carrier Telstra to admit there was problems, and fix them.

Worse, we had been tricked into signing a confidentiality clause that has hampered all of our efforts since to have our claims transparently investigated.

What do you think? Are we imagining it or has there really been massive corruption and collusion on the part of public servants, politicians, regulatory bodies and Telstra themselves, to protect Telstra to the detriment of it's customers?

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“A number of people seem to be experiencing some or all of the problems which you have outlined to me. …

“I trust that your meeting tomorrow with Senators Alston and Boswell is a profitable one.”

Hon David Hawker MP

“Only I know from personal experience that your story is true, otherwise I would find it difficult to believe. I was amazed and impressed with the thorough, detailed work you have done in your efforts to find justice”

Sister Burke

“…your persistence to bring about improvements to Telecom’s country services. I regret that it was at such a high personal cost.”

Hon David Hawker

“…your persistence to bring about improvements to Telecom’s country services. I regret that it was at such a high personal cost.”

The Hon David Hawker MP

“Only I know from personal experience that your story is true, otherwise I would find it difficult to believe. I was amazed and impressed with the thorough, detailed work you have done in your efforts to find justice”

Sister Burke

“…the very large number of persons that had been forced into an arbitration process and have been obliged to settle as a result of the sheer weight that Telstra has brought to bear on them as a consequence where they have faced financial ruin if they did not settle…”

Senator Carr

“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

– Edmund Burke