Fix Your Faulty Billing System

21/11/2016 10:26

Sky Pacific should upgrade and streamline its billing system by introducing “buffer period”.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is making this call after receiving concerns and complaints from consumers who get their Sky Pacific service disconnected despite paying their bills on the due date or well before due date through Sky Pacific’s third party billing agents.

Sky Pacific should implement a ‘buffer period’ of minimum 7 days to cater for the late updating of payments from third parties to Sky Pacific. This buffer period will allow Sky Pacific to sort out its internal arrangements with third party billing companies without treating their paid customers unfairly.

Third party payments for Sky Pacific are allowed at MH, Post Fiji and through BSP, Westpac and ANZ Banks.

They can take the queue from other service providers billing systems that uses third party. The Council surveyed 6 other service providers who also have third party billing system and they confirmed that they have buffer periods in place to cater for payments received from third parties, amongst other factors.

Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) confirmed a 30-day buffer period while Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA), Telecom Fiji Limited and Connect all confirmed a 14-day buffer period whilst Vodafone Fiji confirmed a 10-14 days buffer period.

Digicel’s very own Unwired confirms on their website a ‘5 day grace period’ from the date the bill is due.

Some discontented Sky Pacific subscribers are crying foul over the present billing system used by the only pay TV channel in Fiji. In one of the cases at hand, Sky Pacific had sent a payment notification via email to the complainant on 4 September 2016 (Sunday) stating that the due date for payment was on the 5 September 2016 (Monday). On Monday morning, the complainant received a call from Sky Pacific asking him whether he would be making the payment or otherwise. The complainant made the payment later the same morning via Digicel retail outlet in MHCC. However, on 9 September 2016, the complainant received another email stating that his Sky Pacific account was disconnected because his bill was not paid whereas the subscriber had paid on the due date.

The complainant then called the Sky Pacific Customer Care to check on his payment. He was advised that his payment made at MHCC retail store was not updated with the main system at Digicel HQ, Kadavu House. This consumer was given an unnecessary run around when he wanted to raise the matter with the head of Sky Pacific.Another frustrated Sky Pacific customer also made known to the Council the frustration she had to go through despite paying her bill on time for the month of August.

She had paid her bill on 11 August 2016 but Sky Pacific disconnected her service on 16 August. Then her husband made another payment on the same day. This second payment made was not updated and it did not reflect in their September bill. This was confirmed by Digicel representative at Damodar City as the complainant went to make her payment for the September Bill.

When the Council contacted Digicel on 29 September, they confirmed on 5 October 2016 (after 6 days) that “the payment done on September was updated on the same day, however the payment for August, we could not locate thus the credit in the system was reversed. This led to the disconnection notice being sent. This has now been sorted as all payment has been identified and has all been updated in the system.”

The Council is baffled with such a response - whose fault is it that payments cannot be located? Consumers have made their payment on time and should not be made to suffer by having their services disconnected because of laxity on the part of Sky Pacific.

The Council is also calling for better internal synchronisation of the billing system so when payments are made at third party outlets (including Digicel Retail Outlets), it is updated to the main system immediately or on regular intervals throughout the day or next. And because this does not happen on real time, the introduction of the minimum 7-day buffer period will allow flexibility for Sky Pacific to get its act together instead of staff playing the blame game. It will also for reconciling payments properly and efficiently so that correct notifications are then made to customers rather than resorting to immediate disconnection of service despite the payments being made on time.

If other service providers (including Digicels very own Unwired) can provide a buffer period in consideration of updating of payments from third parties – why can’t Sky Pacific do the same?