Spark says only a fraction of 135,000 owed a refund have claimed it

Spark executive Grant McBeath: Amounts range from a few cents to over $100

UPDATE / June 29: More than a month into its effort to refund 135,000 customers, Spark says only 20,000 (or 15%) have taken the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has introduced a new $5 monthly charge on an un-used account that slowly depletes its credit (keep reading).

One of the 135,000 affected was NBR journalist Victoria Young.

In an exclusive interview, Ms Young said she initially did not claim $49.16 owing to her because she thought Spark's email, headlined "We owe you some money," was spam.

Others may have leapt to the same conclusion.

In other cases, the amount might be too trivial to claim.

Spark says the amount owning ranges from "a few cents to more than $100."

Another NBR staffer, who did not want to be named, was able to claim $129.10. He did not think it was spam, though in the context he had just been writing about the campaign.

After the Commerce Commission put heat on the telco over funds remaining in accounts after a customer left, Spark decided to proactively issue refunds.

Customers who have been with Spark within the past seven years have been alerted by email, plus snail mail to their last known address.

They can have the money credited to a nominated bank account, a Spark account or donated to charity.

The telco refuses to say how much the refunds will total, if everybody claims.

Vodafone's new charge on un-used accounts
Vodafone's new charge was first spotted on Geekzone, then confirmed to NBR by a Vodafone spokesperson.

"There is a $5 account administration fee which was first notified to customers in January 2018 and implemented in March 2018," the spokeswoman says.

"For customers who have stopped using our services for six months or more and have a credit balance, we charge an account administration fee as there is a cost to administering inactive accounts with credit balances.

"We give these customers at least 30 days’ notice before the fee is charged and inform them of the steps they need to take to get their credit back. During this notice period, customers can contact us to get a refund, transfer the credit to another Vodafone account or donate it to charity."

NBR has asked the Commerce Commission for comment.

EARLIER / May 30: Spark refunds 135,000 ex-customers as ComCom investigates
Spark says it will refund 135,000 ex-customers who had credit left in their accounts after leaving the telco.

The customers will be contacted directly.

The telco says the amounts involved range from "a few cents to over $100."

One report says the total amount involved is around $1m. Spark refused comment on that point. It has not made a formal disclosure to the NZX, indicating the sum involved is relatively modest.

The repayment campaign follows a Commerce Commission investigation.

Spark is in discussions with the Commerce Commission about a billing system issue and two operational issues that relate to a small proportion of the outstanding credits, acting Spark home, mobile and business chief executive Grant McBeath says.

"While this investigation is ongoing, it prompted Spark take a look at the broader issue of account credits. As a result, we decided to take a more public, proactive approach and run a public campaign to encourage former customers to claim their credits."


12 · Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.

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12 Comments & Questions

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What about other Telco's? I've had a credit with Vodafone for years that they refuse to refund as I was no longer a customer. So every month I get a statement with my credit.

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Hi there - I'm in the comms team at Vodafone and this shouldn't be the case. I can look into it for you if you want to contact me direct on vodafone.media@vodafone.com

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Wow there's service for you. Good on you Elissa. It's a pity more weren't like you.

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Why didn't they just use it before they left. Many reasons no-doubt, hardly the telcos fault.

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Telco's usually bill a month in advance. If you cancel services shortly after your bill date (for the coming month) a part month for unused days will be credited back.

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Yes it is the billing companies fault, if you overcharge someone you pay it back.

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Spark are commercially savvy; they would be betting that their email alerts headed by, "We owe you some money", would be regarded as spam and, hence, ignored.
All earnest 'n' honest to do right by their customers? Sure.

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You're entitled to your cynical viewpoint but it ain't so. Trying to overcome customers' understandable reluctance to respond to emails is a constant challenge. We're working hard to strike the right balance in our customer comms. Andrew Pirie, Spark.

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Spark sends out a business email headlined in a way which immediately imparts cadence where the accompanying message is crassly promotional and faux. The writer of this article immediately deleted it, as I'm betting the 85% who didn't respond, along with the "FFS" utterance. It sounded cloying; not unlike: "Congratulations! You've just won...."
If you reckon your comms team is 'on to it' when it comes to business letter-writing, they need a tad more mentoring.

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Spark must whom they owe money just refund it to their account

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Not sure if you read the story correctly. These are customers who have left Spark and have a credit in their Spark account. Unless the customer provides us with their banking details it's very hard for us to refund them. Andrew Pirie, Spark

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By cheque (yes, I know cheques are outmoded now) to their last address, maybe? If Spark have their postal address of course.

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