Telco kickback investigation

A Telstra call centre based in the Philippines is under investigation over claims a worker offered to kill big bills for a small kickback fee.

March 21, 2012, 6:18 pm James Thomas Today Tonight

The scam was discovered when one customer rang to complain about his $557 bill and was told that for just $60 it could be wiped away – gone without a trace.

Sam McNeill’s smile is a wry one. He still can’t believe his Telstra bill enquiry turned into a case of international bribery.

“After I had a chuckle about it, I thought ‘wow, this is quite serious. This woman has access to my credit card account, and all my personal details, so I started realising this was quite serious,” McNeill said.

The Telstra operator’s name was Daniella. After speaking to McNeill from a call centre about his $557 dollar bill, she contacted him privately via email with an extraordinary proposition.

”Sam you really sound pleasant to me… LOLs
Do you want me to rectify this bill straight away?
Can do some reverse of charge and just put your account on $99 dollars so you won’t have problem when you go inter-state work

If i can received a special presents…cheers!”

“I thought she was flirting with me to be honest,” McNeill said.

The flirtation was financial though. Daniella wanted cash.

You can wire me $60. I’ll take care of your account no dramas at all. It’s up to you … This conversation never happened.

But the conversation did happen, and the fear is it could be repeated by any of Telstra’s call centre operators.

Call centres stealing personal data


The communication Union’s Shane Murphy has long fought against Australian jobs going offshore. He believes McNeill’s bribery case is an inherent risk in outsourcing sensitive information to foreign companies.

“Access to information on customers’ credit cards, customers’ home addresses, cable details, phone records. These are now stored offshore, and this is exactly the reasons why we called on Telstra not to offshore its jobs. Again we call on Telstra to reverse its decision and put jobs back in the country,” Murphy said.

Telstra’s executive director of customer service, Peter Jamieson says this incident is a one off.

“This is an isolated case of a particular individual who has made a bad choice. That particular individual is paying for that bad choice. They have been removed from phones, and we’ll take appropriate action to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Jamieson said.

“Clearly it’s not an acceptable situation. We don’t condone it in any way, we’re very disappointed, and we’ve taken immediate action to address it.”

“I don’t think she is the problem. It is more the values of the company, and the way they are going about business,” McNeill said.

He feels sorry for Daniella, who sent him photos in her emails. He believes culture, conditions, and a lack of governance overseas all contribute to the risks of using overseas call centres.

“It is one thing to want to make more money as a company, and I can understand and appreciate that. But when that is meaning you are sacrificing customer service and employing people who are willing to extort customers, then they have a big issue and it is something they really need to reevaluate I guess.”

By going offshore, companies can save up to 50 per cent on call centre costs. That’s why the industry has grown to become a US$24 billion industry.

Telstra are intent on staying the course in sending Australian call centre jobs overseas.

New South Wales Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has long campaigned against the likes of Telstra going offshore with their operations. He says the attempted bribe of McNeill proves his point.

“These sorts of incidents do immeasurable damage to a company’s brand and good will with customers,” Stoner said.


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