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Chorus backs down from charges

A Te Anau family is still without a home phone and internet connection after a mistaken quote from Chorus almost cost them thousands of dollars.

Paul and Abby Fountain moved into their property in the Delta subdivision in April, and something didn’t seem right about the price to be connected by Chorus.

“They quoted us $2630.95 to put our phone and our broadband in,” Mrs Fountain said.

A letter from their service provider Spark in April claimed that Chorus needed to do one of two things for the Fountains to be connected: install underground copper wiring up to the property boundary, or upgrade its own cabinet to increase network capacity.

The family thought it was odd that the quote could be so precise when it had not been determined what the work to be done was, Mrs Fountain said.

“They wouldn’t break down the quote for us,” she said. “We just think that’s really unfair.” The couple began recording their phone calls with every Chorus representative, some of whom insisted on “telling us there was no copper wiring running past our house”, she said.

“We hit brick wall after brick wall,” she said. “It was all there, but they were trying to tell us that it wasn’t.” A combined effort by the Fountains, the property developer and his lawyers proved that the house was fully wired and ready for connection and saw Chorus change its tune, claiming that it had misplaced relevant documents from the developer that showed everything was already in place, she said.

The upgrade of cabinet infrastructure was the only thing required to get them online, which was an expense that should and would now be entirely footed by Chorus, she said.

After originally being told they would be connected in July, the upgrade was now apparently happening this week, she said.

And while they had avoided the unnecessary payment, their ongoing concern was for other residents who could well be faced with the same charges, and not question them.

“It’s not cheap building a house, and no one should be faced with an extra two-and-a -half grand bill,” Mrs Fountain said.

Delta developer Adam Fairmaid said the subdivision had the capacity for 240 households to be connected, and all infrastructure was there already.

“You can’t get resource consent ticked off without it,” he said. “The subdivision is fully compliant with all regulations under the district council, and we definitely had a telecommunications connection put in.” “Under scrutiny, it’s caused them to back off,” he said. “The Fountains are now not having to pay for their connection.” Chorus public relations manager Nathan Beaumont confirmed that all Delta properties were already reticulated.

“The equipment within the cabinet that serves their house has reached capacity and we currently have a job under action to have more equipment installed by Friday 5th June. All going well, Paul and Abby will have their services installed on the same day,” he said.

The Advocate has asked Chorus about the potential for other mistaken charges based on this case, and was awaiting a response at the time of publication.

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