XiS to put ADSL service on hold, responds to criticism

In response to the debacle over its ADSL service, XiS has announced it will temporarily withdraw the product from the market.

XiS managing director Shane Craig said the decision to take the product off the market is a result of service and payment issues between the company and its ADSL supplier DataFast.

"I understand this is going to cause confusion and anger within the marketplace, however, I believe it is in everyone's best interests for us to address all existing issues, rather than create more," he said.

XiS will re-release an ADSL product when investigations into the DataFast relationship have been completed, Craig said.

In an official statement released today, Craig hit back at claims that the Brisbane-based Internet reseller had forfeited on its payments to DataFast, saying he was "shocked and appalled" when informed of DataFast's announcement to terminate its relationship with XiS.

Craig said he had not received any correspondence from DataFast about its decision to sever ties with XiS, despite the fact that XiS staff were in DataFast's offices 24 hours prior to the announcement.

Last week, XiS's ADSL supplier DataFast announced it was pulling the plug on its dealings with the Internet reseller, citing unpaid bills as the primary cause for its decision to end the relationship.

The wholesaler's managing director Frank Romanin said XiS had "repeatedly failed to honour its financial obligations to DataFast, despite the indulgences granted".

Craig, however, says XiS had met all of its obligations to the deal, and had paid DataFast for all 40 ADSL customers signed up for the service.

Craig said he would not treat the supplier's claims "lightly".

"What I will not tolerate is false and misleading statements regarding our apparent failure to meet financial requirements, and DataFast not accepting responsibility for the delays to the ADSL product," he said. "They have proven to be false, misleading and detrimental to our corporate image, which as a result may cast doubt into the minds of our creditors."

The decision is the latest in a series of challenges XiS has faced with its ADSL service and follows months of feuding between the company and DataFast. Earlier in May, XiS announced via its Web site that ADSL installations booked for customers in Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT would be delayed until mid-June. This followed the company's announcement in March that its ADSL roll-out would be delayed because of "contractual" problems with the wholesaler.

DataFast's Romanin said his company has fulfilled all its contractual obligations to XiS and has provided XiS (for the benefit of XiS's clients) "significant indulgences and deferments". Romanin said DataFast was currently preparing to launch its own ADSL product in Australia shortly.

Craig says he met with the Queensland Department of Fair Trading on 13 May to discuss the DataFast/ADSL matter. He took a swipe at DataFast in the process, saying it was "convenient that DataFast would close its business arrangement with XiS whilst releasing their own ADSL packages".

XiS's Western Australian supplier, Fleet Broadband, have offered to extend the ADSL service into New South Wales and Victoria, he said.

Customer complaints

The problems surrounding the embattled reseller's ADSL services have also resulted in a barrage of complaints against the company.

Several XiS customers who contacted PC World about their experiences with the reseller say they are still waiting to receive connections to ADSL services, despite making installation payments, while others say they have not been given refunds from the company for cancelled ADSL "services". This is of particular concern to these customers given they did not even receive a service in the first place.

Don Gould, founder of Bowenvale Communications, a Perth-based company which runs its own Community Broadband Project forum, says he has received around 30 complaints from customers who have cancelled their application payments for ADSL services from XiS but have not been refunded their initial payments. The costs of these total $8600, he said.

One such customer, who did not wish to be identified, says he was not only charged $268 for the ADSL service when he signed up on 29 January, but was also debited another $268 on 30 April - even though he had not yet received the service.

Another two customers said they had cancelled their initial ADSL subscriptions only to find they had been charged an installation fee for them over a week later.

In the company's defence, Craig told PC World that XiS was in the process of dealing with ADSL refunds and asked customers to "be patient". Craig blamed the company's Internet banking account for the delay with refunds.

"Just like most Internet banking customers, we have a $5000 daily transfer limit on our account, and as this is the account we also pay our running expenses out from, it leaves many days where we cannot process refunds for customers," he said.

Craig said XiS has recently invested in a new user management and billing system to refund directly to credit cards, which will be available "shortly".

Dial-up reports

Several XiS customers say they have also been unable to get any feedback about the status of their dial-up accounts with XiS.

"The so-called temporary [support] number is engaged all the time, the local POP numbers give me the standard error that my name and password aren't part of the network, or they just ring out or are engaged," one customer said.

Other customers have also reported receiving incorrect bills for their dial-up usage.

Craig said the rapid growth of XiS from 150 to nearly 2000 dial-up customers in the last three months has "taken its toll on the company image, management and staff". This is why it is important for the company to get "back to basics" and concentrate on its retail and dial-up operations, he said.

Craig said customers may have been incorrectly billed due to the new billing system, which was implemented last week.

"Like all of our new systems, we expected teething problems and all customers were informed to simply phone our 1300 number to have any billing issues sorted out," he added.

Where to report a complaint

To complicate matters, a spokesperson for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsmen (TIO) said XiS is currently not a member of its scheme, meaning its customers have no official way to lay complaints against the company.

The spokesperson said the ISP has been contacted recently and advised of its obligations to join the TIO scheme. If XiS fail to join the TIO scheme, the TIO will then refer the company to the ACA, which can then take legal action against the company.

A spokesperson for the Department of Fair Trading in Queensland said the Department is aware of the trader, but would not comment further on whether they would be taking action against XiS.

The spokesperson urged any customers with concerns about the XiS to contact either the Queensland Department of Fair Trading or their state branch and register a complaint by post or e-mail.

Have you experienced problems with XiS, or have any feedback on the XiS service? Please contact nadia_cameron@idg.com.au and ben_gerholt@idg.com.au.

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Nadia Cameron

Nadia Cameron

PC World
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