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Yarwood settles mysterious $20k Telstra bill

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Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood has settled a huge mobile internet bill out of his own pocket after an Adelaide City Council investigation concluded that only a small amount of the charged data was from work email and  “work related apps”.

Last month InDaily revealed Yarwood had received a $20,000 bill from Telstra after taking his iPad to Taiwan and not switching off mobile data.

Yarwood told InDaily he didn’t deliberately use the iPad’s mobile data during the trip, and the bill came about because the device had automatically downloaded work emails without his knowledge.

However, a council investigation, requested by him, revealed the data used was from unidentifiable sources other than work email – leading to the Lord Mayor paying the bill himself. The bill was reduced by Telstra – but the council won’t say by how much.

“The CEO conducted an internal analysis of the emails that were downloaded and also checked data downloads from work related apps for the period in question,” Adelaide City Council said in a statement.

“This analysis indicated that only a small proportion of the total data downloaded related to email and other work related apps.”

However, the council was not able to confirm what the larger proportion of the data was used for.

“Telstra advised the CEO that they were unable to ascertain what other data was downloaded because the data came through a third party provider in Taiwan.

“Telstra was therefore unable to identify the exact use or cause of the remaining data usage. This meant that the Corporation was unable to confirm whether the exact nature of the download was work or private.”

Yarwood initially said he would fight the bill with Telstra, because the telco hadn’t given him any warning. However, after the investigation was completed, Yarwood chose to pay the bill himself.

But it would appear he got a discount – although Town Hall wouldn’t say how much.

“The CEO also requested Telstra to consider applying a rebate to the Bill with the stipulation that ‘no special benefit should be applied and any rebate should be calculated against Telstra’s normal policies’.

“In response, Telstra advised the CEO that as the data pack for the Lord Mayor’s iPad expired just prior to the Lord Mayor’s trip and as the trip was made not long after the expiry of the data pack, they would retrospectively apply the data pack rates to the bill, which has resulted in Council being required to repay only a proportion of the original bill.

“Telstra have asked that the details of the rebate applied remain as a ‘commercial in confidence’ agreement between Council and Telstra.

“When informed of the difficulty in identifying the exact usage, the Lord Mayor elected to pay the rebated bill in full, resulting in no cost to ratepayers.”

InDaily has contacted the Lord Mayor, who is on leave, for comment.

The council’s full statement

The Lord Mayor initially advised the Corporation that he was of the opinion that the data download related to work related emails being automatically downloaded. To verify this belief, he requested the CEO to conduct an investigation into the exact nature of the data that was downloaded.

As a result of this request, the CEO conducted an internal analysis of the emails that were downloaded and also checked data downloads from work related apps for the period in question. This analysis indicated that only a small proportion of the total data downloaded related to email and other work related apps.

The CEO also requested Telstra to provide any information they were able to on the nature of the downloaded data.

Telstra advised the CEO that they were unable to ascertain what other data was downloaded because the data came through a third party provider in Taiwan. Telstra was therefore unable to identify the exact use or cause of the remaining data usage.

This meant that the Corporation was unable to confirm whether the exact nature of the download was work or private.

The CEO also requested Telstra to consider applying a rebate to the Bill with the stipulation that “no special benefit should be applied and any rebate should be calculated against Telstra’s normal policies”.

In response, Telstra advised the CEO that as the data pack for the Lord Mayor’s iPad expired just prior to the Lord Mayor’s trip and as the trip was made not long after the expiry of the data pack, they would retrospectively apply the data pack rates to the bill, which has resulted in Council being required to repay only a proportion of the original bill. Telstra have asked that the details of the rebate applied remain as a “commercial in confidence” agreement between Council and Telstra.

When informed of the difficulty in identifying the exact usage, the Lord Mayor elected to pay the rebated bill in full, resulting in no cost to ratepayers.

As the bill has been paid in full by the Lord Mayor, it will be recorded as 100 per cent private usage.

Peter Smith, ACC CEO said “As there has been no cost to rate payers and the bill has been paid in full by the Lord Mayor, I now consider the matter closed”.

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