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Current as of 02/10/14 10:40AM NZST

Top Gear duo get plenty of mileage out of Telecom's woes

At least someone's laughing about the Telecom XT network, with the co-hosts of the celebrity hired to promote the new technology mercilessly lampooning its failings.

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond was the face of the XT adverts which were filmed while he was in New Zealand for the programme's live show last year.

Hammond is not here for the live Top Gear show this weekend in Auckland. But that didn't stop fellow hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May having a laugh at his - and Telecom's - expense.

During opening night on Thursday, the pair said Hammond was missing from the show because he was too embarrassed to return to New Zealand. Then a supposed live feed back to Hammond in Britain went blank because, they joked, the XT network crashed.

Hammond could have been paid around $200,000 for promoting XT, according to one report.

The mocking came shortly before Telecom suspended four Philippines-based staff for sending abusive messages to customers.

The inquiry was launched after a Wanganui woman received an abusive message seemingly from a customer service representative saying "f*** you".

The messages, sent to five Telecom customers, were tracked back to Manila where Telecom outsources call centre duties to a company called Sitel.

Four Sitel employees have been suspended and will be investigated.

"We have over 1500 team members in New Zealand and 800 in Manila," said Trish Keith, general manager of customer services.

"They will all be massively disappointed by this event."

The company says it has apologised to the customers who received the text messages.

The "f*** you" scandal came soon after the XT network broke down last month leaving thousands of customers without coverage for days.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

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