NBN retailer service provider Buzz Telco shuts down after feud with AAPT

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NBN retailer service provider Buzz Telco shuts down after feud with AAPT

Brisbane-based Buzz Telco shut its doors following a legal battle with one wholesale provider, AAPT, and after a second wholesale provider, Vocus Communications, "terminated" its contract.

The budget-focused retailer service provider (RSP) ceased operating on 24 April, according to Buzz Telco general manager Jeremy Chequer, who said he was "devastated" at the outcome.

The company real troubles began when it was served with a winding-up order by its previous wholesale provider, TPG-owned AAPT, over a billing dispute, which had followed an outage in 2017.

Chequer wrote on Whirlpool that the dispute was over a $20,000 debt "and that discussions regarding the disputed amounts fell through".

In response to CRN's enquiries today, Chequer said Buzz Telco had moved from AAPT to Vocus in 2017, but that Vocus had terminated Buzz Telco's wholesale arrangement due to the winding-up order by AAPT, "which constitutes a breach of contract by us".

Chequer first told customers about the closure by email and via a post on Whirlpool's forums last month.

"As a result of this termination, I am forced to announce that, effective immediately, Buzz Telco will cease trading. I have worked with a number of other providers to get arrangements in place to ensure that customers are not left without service during these unfortunate times," he wrote.

Customers were given just two days to churn to another provider following the closure.

"Please be aware that, as a result of this process, our phones will be taken offline shortly, and all active services will be disconnected on Thursday [26 April]. Please ensure that you have placed an order with your new provider by close of business tomorrow to ensure any downtime can be avoided."

Chequer directed customers toward deals with three alternative suppliers, Mungi Internet, Dodo and Aussie Broadband.

Mungi Internet was offering $5 off for the first five months, with the deal set to expire at the end of May; Vocus-owned Dodo had a promotional offer to give current Buzz Telco customers one month free of charges on 24-month NBN plans; and Aussie Broadband was also offering Buzz Telco customers their first month free.

"We have had our ups and downs, and I am devastated to see the journey coming to an end. I wish all of our former customers and staff all the best in their journeys, and I am sincerely sorry that we will not be a part of it," Chequer said.

The conflict with AAPT can be dated back to an outage in September 2017 that infuriated Buzz Telco customers and led it to move customers to Vocus.

Buzz Telco customer relations manager Mitch Baker admitted at the time: "This was NOT a planned outage, we were NOT given any heads up to this in anyway. It is pretty much like AAPT has just pulled the plug and we only found out after the first wave of calls came in that there was an outage."

Buzz Telco, which had six staff at the time of the shutdown, was a retail service provider of NBN focused on low-cost plans.

Its plans, which were all month-to-month arrangements with no minimum contract terms, ranged from its basic 12Mbps bundle, which started at $29 per month before rising to $49 per month after six months, up to its premier tier 100Mbps plan, which started at $49 per month for six months then rose to $69 per month.

Chequer had previously said Buzz kept prices low by keeping "our internal costs down. We also work hard with our suppliers to get the best possible pricing for everything we buy through them.

"One of the biggest costs for a lot of providers is their staff, we ensure that we keep our staff costs down by cross-training our staff and ensuring that all of our managers are also answering phones, live chats and tickets and not just sitting around doing nothing.

"The other way we keep our prices down is by not being greedy, we don't throw massive margins on our plans, yes we make a profit, but we also have fixed margins and pass on all savings we receive from our providers to our customers, either with further upgrades or by lowering our pricing."

The company's phone line has now been disconnected and Facebook page has been taken down. Emails to Buzz Telco addresses did not get immediate responses.

Updated 15 May 11.04am with comments from Jeremy Chequer.

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