Telecom admits Xtra email fault

By Maggie McNaughton

Telecom technicians have linked a fault blocking Xtra customers from their email accounts to its service upgrade launched during the weekend.

Thousands of angry customers, including businesses, were left without email access.

Telecom public relations spokeswoman Lenska Papich said today the fault with the registration process for the Yahoo!Xtra Bubble service was found until late last night.

"That may be why some customers are experiencing difficulties trying to access their webmail accounts," she told NZPA.

As far as she knew, Telecom Xtra customers getting their email through mail clients, such as Microsoft's Outlook Express, were unaffected.

"By far the majority of our customers download their email to an Outlook-type service," she said.

However, users of the service reported to NZPA their email wasn't working, and when the Telecom helpdesk was contacted, the staff didn't seem to know there was a problem.

Telecom said earlier today that it will not offer compensation to customers who were left stranded without access to their email during a major system upgrade at the weekend.

Xtra webmail customers could not access their inboxes for 24 hours during the upgrade to the new Yahoo!Xtra Bubble service, which is a partnership between Yahoo! and Telecom.

Bubble is being touted as providing at no extra cost "an exciting range of new services that will change the way you use the internet".

Telecom said yesterday about 500,000 customers were involved in the upgrade but fewer than 3 per cent, or 16,600, experienced problems.

The Herald website has been inundated with customers experiencing problems with the upgrade, and many said they hadn't received any warning.

One customer said Xtra had been expensive and troubled since its inception.

"Where was the advice regarding the outage? Checking back through my Outlook Express and webmail there I see no advice from Xtra."

Another disgruntled customer said yesterday she still couldn't send emails through Outlook.

"It couldn't get worse ... I spent an hour on hold [on Sunday night] after eight failed attempts to contact the helpdesk - after trawling through the robot voice test, I was told 'that service is not available. Dial zero to talk to Telecom'. I did. The call cut off, again and again. I finally got an email from them saying I had to reconfigure my Outlook account myself. I did. I re-booted. Three times. Still no change," she said.

"I called again [yesterday] - 45 minutes on hold, same issues, same cut-off. I have a deadline that I can't meet now. The new interface is appalling - I dare you to find your email among the horoscopes, entertainment garbage and other dross. I just want my email."

Telecom head of propositions Adrian Littlewood said yesterday the company was sorry for any inconvenience, but would not offer compensation.

Many customers also complained to the Herald of a sudden increase in spam. One woman said she used to receive about five spam emails a week but over the weekend she received about 60. Telecom said that problem was fixed yesterday morning.

For information on the upgrade go to www.xtra.co.nz/updates.

- NZ HERALD STAFF/NZPA

ONE CUSTOMER'S EXPERIENCE

"I am another irate Xtra customer. I have spent three days trying to get back online. The 'help' centre - in Manila - told me variously that I had been notified by email and post of the change (I hadn't); that no one else was having problems and it must by my computer (they are, and it isn't); and that 'we don't have a complaints department' I can complain to. I resorted to a cup of tea and the paper, where I read there is indeed a problem: Xtra's change to 'Bubble'.

On attempting to register to 'Bubble', and finding the terms and conditions could take days to read, I tried again to phone for help. I got through to a Telecom business adviser who told me not to bother to read the terms and conditions, and offered to put me through to someone who could help - another automated message, and hold music. For 30 minutes. I gave up.

I have now managed to register on to the web - but still cannot send emails. Given I'm told by their man in Manila that there is no complaints department at Xtra, or Telecom, I am complaining via this paper. I hope I'm not the only disgruntled customer now signing up with an alternative supplier."

Yours, fuming,

J Madelin, Karekare.

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