Retreat by Telecom in 0867 battle


Telecom New Zealand has dropped a Kiwi Share test case against an internet user who had objected to connection charges.

It also appears the communications giant will not pursue action against two other users who claimed that Telecom's 0867 connection scheme broke the agreement guaranteeing free local calls.

Christchurch-based Clearnet user Mike van Lokven was due to contest a Telecom bill for $562.53 of extra "internet connection" charges in a Disputes Tribunal hearing.

But Mr van Lokven has now been told that Telecom has withdrawn the charges and will credit his account for the amount.

The case has been adjourned indefinitely by the Christchurch District Court.

"It means it's been put on hold," said Mr van Lokven.

"If [Telecom] decides to resume charging then we can bring the case back into court without too much effort on our part."

The 2c-a-minute charges, which applied after 10 hours' monthly internet use, ended last May when Telecom reached an interim interconnection agreement with Clear.

However, Mr van Lokven and two other anti-0867 campaigners decided to continue their legal challenge.

They maintained that the internet charges broke the 1990 Kiwi Share agreement, which guarantees a local free-calling option for all residential customers.

It seems unlikely that two similar cases, involving PC World columnist Geoff Palmer and Brian Fairchild, an internet user from Torbay, will proceed.

Mr Palmer's hearing has been adjourned until July 26 in Wellington, and Mr Fairchild has a hearing date set for August 1 in the North Shore District Court.

"The bottom line is that we don't have a dispute with these people," said Telecom finance and media communications manager Martin Freeth.

He denied that the hearings would have represented a legal test of whether the Kiwi Share applied to internet access.

"That was an agreement between Telecom and the Government that these customers were not party too.

"You don't have tests of this kind before the Disputes Tribunal - it doesn't go to the substantive issues."

Mr Freeth said Telecom was likely to be well disposed towards the two other cases that were pending.

Last month, the draft report of the Government's telecommunications inquiry recommended that the Kiwi Share obligation should be clarified to include local low-speed internet connections.

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