Your rights if your broadband connection is down
Thousands are without broadband following Cyclone Gabrielle. We explain your rights.
If you are one of the thousands of New Zealanders who have been left without broadband, what are your rights, and what are you entitled to?
Acts of God trump Consumer Guarantees Act
Broadband services are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) but there is an exception when services are affected by a problem outside a company’s control, as in the case of a natural disaster.
While service providers’ terms and conditions generally say they’re not liable for any loss caused by an act of God, like a cyclone, Consumer thinks it’s unfair for people to pay for a service they did not receive.
“Given how much people are struggling in the aftermath of the cyclone, we would like to see providers offering a credit or refund to customers for the days they were without vital services,” Rebecca Styles, Consumer NZ’s research team leader said.
So what approaches are different providers taking?
While providers do not have to remedy consumers, the telecommunications industry has worked to restore services in cyclone-affected areas, and many are going the extra mile to help affected consumers.
We reached out to the country's main broadband providers to ask how they're helping their customers.
Spark has been focused on restoring connections to customers and is looking at credit and refund options for customers who have been without services. The company is still working through the details.
"We are looking at credit and refund options for customers who have been without service for an extended period of time and will communicate to those who have been impacted directly.”
Vodafone is yet to respond to our request for comment but has been making significant strides to reconnect homes. Vodafone Chief Executive Jason Paris tweeted on Friday that 3 Vodafone sites remain down from a peak of 185, leaving around 1000 homes without fibre due to outages with fibre providers Chorus.
Morning all. My last (hopefully) cyclone update. Only 3 mobile sites down now, which will soon be fixed.— Jason Paris (@JasonCParis) February 23, 2023
We’ve also added another weeks worth of free data onto our customers mobile plans (details below)
I’m always here to help at any time: [email protected]
Stay safe. https://t.co/92cpSOAJwe
For Vodafone broadband customers who also have Vodafone mobile, the company has loaded 100GB of free data automatically loaded prepay customers’ accounts. Over the same period, data caps and speed restrictions were removed from contracted customers’ accounts. This data can be used to ‘hot spot’, allowing customers to access the internet on tablets or laptops.
Paris has also tweeted that all late payment fees and disconnections for non-payment have been removed and stopped with the team “proactively considering all other options to support our customers over the coming weeks.”
Broadband customers can get in touch with Vodafone at: 0800 438 448.
2degrees told Consumer:
“We are doing a range of things to ensure we are not charging households who have been without services ... We will be reversing charges or applying credits where we can before customer's bills are sent out, but some may slip through given the different systems and automated processes we run. We are asking customers to reach out to us if they need help or charges reversed.”
2degrees says it has added instructions to its bills in case customers feel that their charges have not been reversed or credited.
If you need to contact 2degrees, you can reach the company at: 0800 022 022.
Slingshot & Orcon
Slingshot and Orcon are subsidiaries of 2degrees, and 2degrees policy will be applied to these providers. Where possible, charges will be reversed or credits applied before customer’s bills are sent out, but people could slip through the cracks. If customers feel that they should be entitled to a credit or a reversal of charges, they should contact the providers at the details below:
For technical support with Slingshot call 0800 89 2000.
For technical support with Orcon call 0800 13 14 15.
Contact Energy Broadband
Contact Energy has launched an energy and broadband credit fund of $250,000 for all customers directly impacted by the cyclone. This fund is available immediately to all customers who need assistance.
Contact Chief Executive Mike Fuge said: “For those facing the aftermath and clean up, we know having significantly higher or unpaid bills can be overwhelming, and our message is that through this fund we are here to help.”
Contact asks that customers get in touch directly to discuss the best way that it can help. Affected residential customers are asked to call: 0800 454 648.
In cases where people have lost their homes, business and possessions, Now is ensuring customers can put their service on hold (or cancel them entirely), refunding them back to the start of the cyclone and waiving any early termination fees or notice periods.
“For customers in the affected regions, but not facing hardship as a result of the cyclone, we’re planning to offer refunds (or account credits) on a reactive basis, for the period they were without power for.”
Now’s systems do not currently enable automatic crediting, so at present, customers need to get in touch at 0800 438 669.
Trustpower say that they are “looking at credit and refund options for customers who have been without service for an extended period of time and will communicate with those who have been impacted directly.” Trustpower encourages broadband customers affected that have not yet been in contact with the provider to get in touch, with a range of support options available.
Trustpower broadband customers can contact Trustpower at: 0800 87 87 87.
Skinny has yet to respond for comment but has posted information on its Facebook page.
Skinny has provided mobile customers with 100GB of data that can be used for hot spotting. For broadband-only customers, get in touch with Skinny using one of the contact options on the company’s website.
Sky has yet to respond for comment. Sky broadband’s customer service can be reached at: 0800 759 759.