ISPs rally to take Telstra on

Telstra is facing the possibility of a class action suit being brought against it by a number of internet service providers (ISPs) claiming inadequate levels of service.

The action will depend on a case between a small Tasmanian ISP, VPMicrotech, and Telstra, due to take place in the Federal Court on November 3.

VPMicrotech is suing Telstra and claiming damages of $3.2 million for breach of contract and alleged misleading and deceptive conduct, according to Rob Lees, a partner at Slater & Gordon, which is acting for VPMicrotech. In addition, VPMicrotech is claiming Telstra has breached the trade practices law that requires the carrier to provide equivalent service to competitors and its own ISP (Big Pond).

Lees said VPMicrotech's claim covers service issues dating back to 1997 including payment for phone lines that were never enabled, the inability for customers to dial in and constant line dropouts.

According to Lees, Slater & Gordon has received calls from about 30 ISPs complaining about the level of service from Telstra.

"[VPMicrotech] is our first, but there are a number of other ISPs that have contacted us," Lees said, adding that an ISP consultant has also approached Slater & Gordon with up to 40 (ISP) clients that have suffered to varying degrees.

The claims are still being assessed on an individual basis, but "we are not ruling out the possibility of some form of class action", Lees said.

Lees said it is not yet possible to quantify the charges Telstra may face if the claims go ahead.

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