Sat, 12 Feb 2000

Telkom admits getting it wrong in billing

JAKARTA (JP): State-owned telecommunications company PT Telkom admitted on Friday through their Jakarta office that there was a problem with the billing system in which customers were charged inappropriately for their January telephone bills.

The company's external relations coordinator Asep Tatang said that the office had wrongly included a Rp 10,000 (US$1.40) penalty against customers paying their telephone bills after Jan. 20.

"Actually, there should not be a problem with the penalty, because the money will be returned to customers in the following bills," he told The Jakarta Post.

"We apologize for the wrong billing, but we will automatically deduct the amount of the penalty from next month's bills," Asep said.

He said the problem occurred because the office's computer system had failed to reset the new telephone bill payment deadline from Jan. 20 to Jan. 31. The extended deadline was set in anticipation of millennium bug (Y2K) problems.

"Normally, the telephone bill payment deadline is on the 20th day of every month.

"But our computer system was not set for the change and it continued billing the penalty to customers who paid their bills after Jan. 20," Asep said.

He said that office management had anticipated the problem and instructed all front-office employees to inform the customers.

"We had considered issuing a release of the billing problem, but it was not carried out because the customers' money will be returned after all," he said.

He said it was also possible for customers to retrieve their money immediately, "But they can only take the cash from our payment point offices around the city."

Asep said the extended billing period deadline would only happen in January, as the normal deadline of the 20th day of the month will resume in February.

Complaints had been aired by city residents due to the lack of information.

The owner of a guest house complex in South Jakarta, Wiwi de Koning, was surprised to pay a penalty of Rp 300,000 for 25 phone numbers when she paid her December bills on Jan. 21.

"(As the guest house owner), I always paid the bills with my own money before collecting a reimbursement from my tenants later. The obligation to pay a penalty is not an easy thing for me because I must explain the matter to all of my tenants," she said.

She said she decided to pay the bill on Jan. 21 because she had heard that the payment period was extended to Jan. 31.

Wiwi said she tried to claim her refund, but the mechanism was too complicated as she would have had to go to a nearby payment point office, "and wait for one day to have my money returned."

Another customer, Lizbet from Pasar Minggu, experienced a similar problem, "I just paid the bill because it (the penalty) is not a big amount of money." (ind)