Finger pointing begins as businesses call for compo

By PATRICK O'SULLIVAN - Business Editor

Havelock North businesses affected by the telecommunications outage on Tuesday and Wednesday last week should seek compensation from their telecommunications provider, says Chorus, which recently took over Telecom's copper wire network.

A cable with 1200 connections was damaged when Unison Contracting was drilling underground on Monday night in order to lay cable for Unison Fibre.

The banks and New World supermarket were unaffected but at least a dozen businesses contacted by Hawke's Bay Today lost services.

Turks Bar and TAB manager Dion Cooper said he was expecting an approach from Unison after losing a "at least a couple of thousand of dollars".

His business' EFTPOS, TAB and phone lines were disconnected.

"Unison went through the telephone lines so they are the ones responsible for the damage - they should be in touch with us," he said.

"If we haven't heard from them soon we will be contacting them asking what they are going to offer - if you don't ask you don't get.

"We don't get a huge margin anymore so we really feel the loss."

Jeff Whittaker, who owns the Havelock North Post Office agency and adjoining pharmacy, said his businesses had initially lost about $3000 over the two days and had its security compromised.

His businesses would suffer from the outage for some time as customers changed their pattern of behaviour after being unable to conduct business, he said.

Many Havelock North businesses were partially affected, losing just one or two phone or EFTPOS lines. Others reported crackly phone lines.

Unison customer relations manager Danny Gough said Unison would not be paying compensation.

"We only offer compensation if there is negligence on our part," he said.

"The information provided to us from Chorus was wrong - the cable was 1.8m away from where it should have been.

"We are denying liability on our part and pushing it over to Chorus."

Chorus spokesperson Melanie Marshall said the "finer details" over the Havelock North outage were still being investigated but that companies working off plans provided by Chorus were well aware they were only a guide.

"All those who do this work know there will be some times when things move and are inaccurate - all these companies are familiar with this scenario," she said.

"The advice I would give affected parties is to speak to their service provider, who can then talk to us."

Mr Whittaker said Chorus should have communicated directly with affected parties over the scope and time scale of the problem, rather than through the many providers who were only made aware of the problem when informed by end users.

"The frustrating thing was the uncertainty - is Chorus an island on their own responsible to nobody?" he said.

"There's got to be some accountability."

Both Chorus and Unison have apologised for the disruption.

Mr Whittaker said it was a frustrating experience but one he learned from - he would not be joining the cloud computing trend, where businesses rely on the internet for computing services and access to their records.

"If they can cut this cable they can cut fibre," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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