Sydney ISP slams Ombudsman as law unto itself

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Sydney ISP slams Ombudsman as law unto itself

The legal battle between a Sydney communications provider and the industry ombudsman has erupted into a war of words outside the courtroom.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, after receiving complaints from consumers, levies a per-complaint fee to service providers to recover costs for its dispute resolution role.

SoleNet, an internet and telephony reseller, is currently involved in a legal case against the TIO over unpaid complaints handling charges. CRN reported last week that the Ombudsman was forced to go through the courts after the company refused "several opportunities for payment".

The comms provider hit back at the TIO in response.

"The TIO have provided opportunities for payment of certain charges but the fact of the matter is that those charges are in dispute," said SoleNet through a statement.

SoleNet claimed that all undisputed payments have been paid and suggested the TIO office "reconcile their bank account properly before making such claims against SoleNet".

"Check the unallocated funds column on that spreadsheet, guys. SoleNet will continue to pay relevant and legitimate member fees."

A TIO spokesperson told CRN that the organisation has "no further comment, as this matter is before the courts".

Repeating its critique of the TIO last week, SoleNet again said that the Ombudsman has not been open to negotiations on the disputed charges. "We have stated our claims in details as to the reason of these disputes… [The TIO] has refused to engage with SoleNet to discuss and resolve the matter."

The company again accused the TIO of wasting money through expensive legal action and acting outside its remit.

"We question the Ombudsman's motives behind his rash decision to launch an expensive court case and refusal to look at the detail of our payments and disputes before doing so at the TIO members' detriment," stated SoleNet.

The communications provider stated that it looks forward to putting its case before "a higher power" in court.

"It seems the TIO is self-governed and has no authority overseeing their operations and conduct and they have free reign (sic) to pursue illegitimate matters in bad faith."

The company has a history of troubles with the TIO and industry watchdog Australian Communications and Media Authority. The latest run-in saw the ACMA hand down a direction to comply for SoleNet transferring customers from another provider without consent.

"The TIO continues to receive complaints about a number of issues regarding SoleNet, including unauthorised transfers of accounts, and deals with these consistent with [the Ombudsman's] published complaint handling procedures," an Ombudsman spokesperson told CRN last week.

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