Oops ... $43,000 Telstra bill

WE ALL know the feeling of being mistakenly charged for something we didn't buy, whether it be a coffee you didn't order at a restaurant, or a discount on a supermarket item that failed to show up at the register.

But imagine how you would react if Telstra tried to tell you you owed the company $43,000.

It happened to Point Vernon resident Ben Lawrence, who says he went ballistic.

“I was on a pay phone yelling and screaming and carrying on like a pork chop,” the 26-year-old said.

“I was on the phone for three hours trying to sort it out.”

Mr Lawrence, a pensioner, says he was the victim of an unfortunate computer glitch that kept trying to reconnect his phone and, as a result, repeatedly charged $35 to his account over three days.

Because the amount was so exorbitant, Mr Lawrence knew there was no way he would ever have to pay it.

“Any company that could make a mistake that big is going to have trouble following through with it,” he said.

The charge was eventually cancelled after lengthy discussions with Telstra's Specialist Recovery Services.

It was just one in a series of errors by the telecommunications company, which has been overcharging Mr Lawrence and sending his bills to the wrong address, he says.

He has spent countless hours on the phone to the customer service department since he connected his home phone and internet service in February and says the calls rarely end on a positive note.

The Chronicle has seen bills sent to Mr Lawrence's house which have slight discrepancies in his home address.

“And those are the ones that actually made it here,” Mr Lawrence said, adding that the company seems to have a different record of his address every time he calls.

Mr Lawrence and his wife originally signed up to get two-cent international calls as the couple has relatives overseas.

But he claims monthly bills are never calculated at that rate.

“They are trying to charge us $600 and $700 each month and we have to keep checking it. It's a nightmare.

“You have to pay the devil sometimes but I'd like to pay for the sins I'm actually making.

“They've even asked us to just pay the higher amount and then we can get a credit on our next bill.”

After being contacted by the Chronicle, Telstra staff called Mr Lawrence to apologise.

They told him they changed their computer system in June - when he got the $43,000 charge - and said they had now rectified the issues with his address.

“Telstra has spoken to the customer,” a spokesman said.

“We have apologised for any inconvenience caused.

“The customer has already received a credit for his international calls.

“Telstra will continue to work with the customer should he raise any further questions over his account.”

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