Asia Online customers trapped by rescue deal

Asia Online customers trapped by rescue deal

Former customers of sunken ISP Asia Online claim they are being forced into accepting a recent rescue package offered by OzEmail.

When Asia Online announced it was going into administration, OzEmail offered a rescue package that waived subscription fees and offered mail-forwarding services for Asia Online customers who migrated to OzEmail.

Effectively, OzEmail purchased Asia Online's customer base and offered to forward mail sent to Asia Online accounts to whatever accounts these customers opened with OzEmail.

David Rayson was one customer that decided against the OzEmail package, choosing an alternative ISP. Despite recommendations from Asia Online staff to move to OzEmail, he accepted the fact he would not have mail from the Asia Online account forwarded to his new address.

But Rayson has since been riled by the realisation that OzEmail was not even sending bounce messages to people sending e-mail to his old account. He believes the ISP is engaging in a business practice that is akin to blackmail. Without bounce messages being sent, his contacts may assume he is not replying to their mail. He would prefer that these contacts be informed the address is no longer valid.

"If they can't forward e-mail for a period of time, then that is unfortunate," he said. "But they have a moral if not a legal obligation to bounce messages."

David Bathur, an OzEmail spokesman, said that OzEmail has no control over servers and is under no obligation to provide any service to customers who do not choose the ISP's rescue package.

Matthew Tutaki, managing director of Dattatech, believes Asia Online staff should not have been given the power to advise customers to use one ISP over another. Instead, OzEmail should have had to market its rescue package itself. "It is another example of the mistrust customers have with their service providers," he said. "Quite frankly, it's a bad business practice."

Tutaki is calling for his service provider peers to establish standard codes of conduct or customer service agreements to ensure the best interests of users are always served. "Australians have a culture where they expect to ring up and talk to someone and get an answer," he said. "But so many service providers have forgotten this. People are walking away from them in droves."

Rayson, the chief executive officer of local software developer BRS Concepts, agrees. "If the IT industry doesn't provide self-monitoring, the government will have to," he said.

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