I’ll admit it – days after the fireworks and I’m still fuming about it . . . VOIP. I got one put over on me recently with a guy from Action, a 2Talk reseller.
Go Kiwi Internet is a busy little business with pretty solid phone usage. In the last year or so we’ve been looking at VOIP (that’s using the Internet for our phone service) and with the move to Porana Rd, the time was right for Go Kiwi Internet to splash out on an 8 line ATA and VOIP from supposedly 2talk.
The plus is that with this setup we can have up to 8 phone lines (all DDIs actually) that run off our Orcon naked DSL. No PABX. No Telecom. Less tolls. Easy to move the business in a year or so when we’ve outgrown the existing premises – just unplug the router, relocate and plug in DSL and phones at the new place. Sounds sweet on the surface, but the wheels fell off a bit after the deed was done . . .
I’ve spoken to probably 4 or 5 different VOIP gurus in the last year, but none of them phoned me back when I asked for help and was ready to buy. One of the referrals I had was based in Hamilton and I couldn’t find the business cards of the guys that I’d spoken to previously. So, I contacted a mate of mine in the telecommunications field and asked for a tip on who’s up with the play on VOIP.
Here we go . . .
The cutover on the primary line was screwed up and didn’t go live as planned, so our main line was either dead, or answerphone for a day or so. Telecom probably got their knickers in a twist over losing a couple of dozen numbers and made it hard for the guy, but at the end of the day that wasn’t too much of a killer. Not good but hey that’s life!
The installation was a week or so longer than expected BUT once again the job was good enough at the end of the day. The guy admitted that he wasn’t a networking guru and he did get the thing installed. The broadband worked at dialup speed and had to be rebooted every hour or so but it was working eventually when the new guy sorted it out.
But lo-and-behold we find out a week later that in fact this guy transferred the numbers from Telecom to his own account, effectively rendering himself the legal owner of all our nationwide phone numbers!
Surely this cannot be? I’ve owned the number 09 489-2222 for some 20 years and Go Kiwi Internet has used it since around 1999, so how can a tin-pot little VOIP operator and reseller of 2talk end up owning some twenty or so of our numbers?
It goes like this . . . When you “port” a phone number away from Telecom, you need to supply three things:
- The exact name on your Telecom Account
- Your Telecom Account number, and
- The phone number(s) you want ported away
Armed with this information anybody can port the number(s) to another provider. The new provider works under the instruction of THEIR customer, and the new owner of the number(s) is whoever the instructor says it is. In our case, the legal owner changed from Go Kiwi Internet Ltd to this guy’s company. BINGO – telephone number theft in an instant (well 5 days for the porting delay actually).
Now before anyone gets all defensive over this, I cannot read the mind of another person. I can’t say that this guy deliberately set out to steal the numbers, but that is what effectively happened, regardless of what he might have intended to do. And he did use this power to cut off service until the account was fully paid, so it wasn’t just a minor technical error either.
I know this to be fully real, serious and not just a fantasy, because I contacted everyone involved in the process to try to gain back control of the numbers:
- Telecom – I contacted Telecom and asked that the numbers be ported back to them forthwith. “Sorry, this cannot be done”, they said. “We do not have an interconnection agreement with 2talk. Even if we wanted to re-port them we can’t”, they said. Weird, but who was I to argue that they MUST take the business back!
- Call Plus – 2talk use CallPlus as their upstream provider. “Go and see 2talk”, Call Plus say. Effectively, “We don’t want to know about it”.
- 2talk – Effectively: “Sorry you don’t own those numbers – someone else does. We can only take instructions from the legal owner, and that’s not you!”
Here’s the exact words from 2talk:
I’ve spoken with our management, and it was decided that, from 2talk’s point of view the numbers are owned by the person who has the account that the numbers are on, and changes to the numbers and the account cannot be made without the consent of the account holder (this includes the call forward you requested).
Our recommended approach is to create your own 2talk account and request that the numbers be ported to your account using the standard porting process (http://blog.2talk.co.nz/porting.html). As with all ports you will need to provide the Name on the account, and the account number, these you will need to get off Mike.
So a nasty little Catch 22. Now you can see why I was seeing red over it all.
In the end we paid the guy all money due to him; he authorised 2talk to change the account name to us; and we employed a different contractor to come in and sort out the mess. A young guy called Phil (from c-talk) happened to phone up in the middle of this saga and offer his services. He’s got the account now.
In the early days of Domain Names before the SRS, Go Kiwi Internet did the exact same thing with Domain Names. We registered them in our own name and then transferred them to the client once the account was paid or on request. The difference was that we put this all clearly in writing BEFORE the deed was done and we did things differently if the client requested this. This guy did this without our knowledge or approval. If he did put it in writing, there’s no way that we would have agreed to it!
The lessons learned:
Don’t trust referrals just because they come from a mate. If you want to remain a mate,
don’t refer idiots make sure you can rely on your referrals to provide a decent service.
Giving your Telecom account details to a third party is a security issue. Monitor closely the porting of numbers away from Telecom and ensure that your new provider is straight-up during the transfer.
Don’t expect 2talk to take responsibility for their reseller’s business practices. When push comes to shove, they consider their resellers to be their customers. Their resellers’ customers come second – no matter if there have been shenanigans going on.
If you are going to do something like take ownership of a client’s phone numbers, do it with their knowledge and approval, not behind their back.
I think that 2talk have problems. This time round they’ve just lost one client and have got some minor bad press from the dubious actions of one of their resellers. Their GM told me by phone that they would need to get legal advice before they can/could act to reinstate ownership and control of numbers to a “rightful” owner.
If they’ve got other dealers besides this guy who are doing the same thing, then one day it will blow up in their face with someone more influential than me. Then they also have the issue of how to rectify errors, deliberate ones like this person did to us, or with less obvious problems or where there is a dispute.
I think that he dropped the ball big-time with our account. First off, the new guy got a referral from me for a 20+ site VOIP installation that was sitting there waiting for him – as I said to him, after my job is all done and dusted.
Secondly, it’s hard to build a business by word-of-mouth or referral if you don’t or can’t keep a decent relationship with your clients.
As always, this post is open to a right of reply from any of those mentioned.**
20 April 2008
Oh dear, Oh dear. I’ve just been informed that this guy is probably a bankrupt and may even be under investigation for fraud . Ouch!! (UPDATE: Actually trading while insolvent)
According to the Insolvency Office a bankrupt must have their permission to work in a business owned by a close relative. Guess whether this guy has their permission to work for his wife’s company or not – one that he just resigned a Directorship from. You got it – nope!
They say that a leopard never changes it’s spots. While I don’t agree with that saying fully (because one CAN grow up and choose to do the right thing) it does appear that there may be a pattern of naughtiness with this guy.
If he deserves it, I hope that they “bag” him. If he’s innocent then I’ll be the first to tell it like it is, but in the meantime my advice is the same as before – be very careful when doing business with him.
And as for 2Talk . . . do they not even do credit checks on their resellers? In this case they’ve got a bankrupt, running a business under his wife’s name without the knowledge or approval of the authorities, who “acquires” a couple of dozen of his customers’ phone numbers in his own name.
Sorry 2Talk, I think that you’ve really got to do better than that in this day and age!
4 September 2009
** As always, there are two sides to any story. The person involved has since contacted me and requested that this blog post be taken down, that he was sorry for any past business dealings that may have gone wrong, and offered to rectify any outstanding matters. Great – I’ve given him the opportunity to do so. Amazing what a public blog will do.
At my invitation he has furnished me with a reply that included a fair amount of self justification and accusation but in essence claimed that:
- He has been totally misjudged in his motives – Yes, he did transfer of the phone numbers in question to his own account but such a move was known to us and authorised by us. Furthermore that this is standard practice and easy to do
- Yes, he is a bankrupt as a result of some difficulties in the past but he was hard done by the authorities at the time
- Yes, he has recently pleaded guilty to trading while bankrupt but explains this by saying that he wasn’t given clear enough instructions on what constituted an “arms length” relationship in the first place, and he fully intends to seek a Ministerial Inquiry into the handling of his case
- Any claim of improprierty on his part is a clear case of the “pot calling the kettle black” and that a Christian like me should really be extending him forgiveness, not whacking into him [and reading between the lines negatively affecting his current business activities]
As one who has been up and down in business over the years myself, I can readily empathise with a guy in a tough situation but business is all about people – building and keeping relationships. I think that he has a rather strange way of doing things in this department. I can see that we’ll just have to agree to disagree over some things.
Even though he may have no wish to “ever deal with [me] again in [his] life” and that he “would not recommend Dennis or any of his people to anyone”, as I said above, if he’s done the crime, then he should do the time. Once he’s out of his bankruptcy of course he’s perfectly entitled to do business whereever and whenever he wants. When that happens, good luck to him.