Unifone Telephone Services

All broadband and landline telephone services, including the services sold by Unifone, share the need for continuous power to operate.

Most broadband customers use mains power to operate their internet and telephone equipment. This means if the mains power fails for any reason, the broadband and telephone services will not operate.

For most people, this is an inconvenience but for some people it is a significant risk to their personal wellbeing.

If you subscribe to the landline telephone service sold by Unifone there are some things we can do to help you stay connected if there is a risk to you not being able to reach 111 during a mains outage.

Depending on your circumstances we may be able to provide an emergency service free of charge to you.

We’ve put together these Frequently Asked Questions to help you understand how your broadband and telephone service work. They explain how your phone service works, some things you need to know when things go wrong and how we can help if you need extra assistance because of health, safety, or disability issues you or a member of your household may have.

Why does my broadband and phone service need mains power?

Unlike traditional phone services, broadband service in your home or business relies on power supplied at your address as well as power to your supplier’s network. In the event of a power failure at your address, your broadband service and any other service connected to it will usually stop working. This includes the landline telephone service sold by Unifone or landline telephone service sold by other providers that you may subscribe to and have connected to your Unifone broadband connection.  

How does the Unifone telephone service work?

Unifone uses a technology called VOIP (or Voice Over Internet Protocol) which uses your internet connection to transmit and receive phone calls from your premises. In most cases we’ll provide you with an electronic device that plugs into your internet connection and which your phone plugs into. This is called an ATA (or Analogue Telephone Adapter). As well as connecting to your internet and phone the ATA also needs to connect to a power source, in most cases a mains socket. 

What happens to my phone if the mains power fails or my internet connection is not working?

One downside of VOIP is that it is dependent on the internet service it connects to remaining online. Unifone’s Telephone Service shares this requirement. The most common reason that causes internet connections and VOIP to go offline is failure of the mains power at a customer’s house. Other causes include equipment failure, network problems or physical damage to the equipment. 

 

In the event of a mains failure, the following devices and services will not operate unless alternative means of powering them is provided.

• Your Unifone Telephone Service including any cordless phones connected to it. 

• Your Unifone Internet service including your home WiFi and devices that rely on either of those services. 

• Security or medical alarms that use the internet or phone line to signal your provider that you need assistance. 

If you are in any doubt about whether you have a mains power backup system you should assume you do not until you confirm this with us.

How do I call 111 if my phone has failed?

You can call 111 from any mobile phone with a SIM card that is in range of an operating mobile service. Your mobile service is supplied from mobile phone networks that are separate from Unifone’s phone and internet network. The mobile networks may still have mains power to run them even if your home does not. Your mobile must have a charged battery to be able to use your mobile service.

 

Unifone can also supply a backup power system that will run your internet and phone connections if the mains power fails. This is an additional service we normally charge for. We can also advise you or a third party how to set this service up for yourself. Contact us for details.

What if I really need to be able to call 111 at any time because of health/safety/disability issues?

Failure of the VOIP service for any reason including failure of mains power also means the loss of the ability to call 111 from that line. 

Providers of phone services are now required to work with existing and new customers to identify who is particularly vulnerable or at risk of needing to call 111 and if necessary, provide emergency means of calling 111 in the event of a mains failure. The group of people specifically addressed by the new 111 requirements are known as “Vulnerable Consumers”.

The information is contained in a Commerce Commission industry code called the “111 Contact Code” and a link to the Code is in the reference section of these FAQs or Unifone can send you an electronic or paper copy. 

Keep on ready these FAQs to find out how Unifone might be able to help you find out whether you qualify as a Vulnerable Consumer. 

The introduction of the 111 Contact Code.

Your Unifone telephone service is provided to you over an internet connection, usually but not always supplied to you by Unifone. As mentioned in other FAQs, the connections rely on an operating mains power supply unless special arrangements have been made to power the connection if mains power is removed.

 

The Commerce Commission has instructed phone service providers to consult and formulate options for people who, through their personal circumstances are at particular risk of requiring the 111 service and do not have the means to do so in the event of a mains failure of up to eight hours. These options are available to this group of people free of charge once the correct signup process has been completed.

 

The code can be downloaded from the Commerce Commission here : https://comcom.govt.nz/regulated-industries/telecommunications/projects/commission-111-contact-code?target=documents&root=111201

 

You can contact Unifone and ask us to explain the code to you. 

 

Who is affected by the code?

All consumers of telephone service in New Zealand need to be made aware of the code and the situation that can arise with calling 111 over a VOIP telephone service in the event of equipment or mains failure.

The Code also defines group of consumers known as “Vulnerable Consumers”. 

A Vulnerable Consumer is someone who:

  1. Is a consumer of a retail landline service and;
  2. Is at particular risk of requiring the 111 emergency service because of one or more of the following:
  • Health (for example, the specific circumstance is a known medical condition); or
  • Safety (for example, the specific circumstance is family violence); or
  • Disability (for example, the specific circumstance is sensory impairment,
  • intellectual impairment, physical impairment) and;

does not have a means for contacting the 111 emergency service that can be operated for the minimum eight hour period, in the event of a power failure. This is because you:

  • do not have a copper landline service. This is the traditional phone service delivered over the Chorus network from a pole or cable in the street or road. Or;
  • do not have unrestricted access to a mobile phone, or your premises does not have adequate mobile coverage. Unrestricted access in this context means you either do not own a mobile phone, or you are unable to use a mobile because of a health issue or a disability.

 

I think I might be a Vulnerable Consumer, what do I do next?

Unifone can guide you through the process to see if you qualify as a Vulnerable Consumer. There is a form you need to fill out and we can help you with that or you can nominate a support person to do it for you.

Your application must be verified by a health professional, a social worker, a police officer, a lawyer, or a family court judge. This person needs to be currently registered or certified to work in New Zealand and needs to be familiar with your case.

As long as we collect the information required to process the request, we can accept over the phone applications from you, a health professional, a social worker, a police officer, a lawyer, or a family court judge. We’ll fill out the form on your behalf and send you a copy to verify and for your records. Verbal requests must still be verified by a professional referrer or “nominated person”

You need to give us permission to talk with your nominated person and your information will be held at Unifone in a secure location and not shared with anyone else. You have the right to view and discuss the information we hold with us. If you want to do this, please call, or email us to arrange this.

What are my rights as a Vulnerable Consumer under the 111 Contact Code?

This is a summary of your rights under the Code. We can discuss your rights with you and your support people at any time and a web link to the Code is at the end of this document in the references table.

  1. We can’t refuse to process your application on the basis we suspect you are, or could become, a Vulnerable Consumer.
  2. We can’t deny you service on the basis we suspect you are, or could become, a Vulnerable Consumer.
  3. You must be provided with an emergency calling option appropriate to your unique situation. We will design an option for you after consultation with you or your support people and your professional referrer.
  4. The emergency service option must be free of charge to you. You must continue to pay Unifone for the phone service and any calls you make apart from the free of charge calls in any bundle you are subscribed to.
  5. We must contact you no later than the annual anniversary of providing the emergency option to check the option’s operation and whether it is still fit for purpose.
  6. You may ask to view and discuss the information we hold about your status as a Vulnerable Consumer or as a Unifone customer.
  7. If you are Unifone’s customer, you may make a complaint about any matter arising that relates to the code by contacting us in the first instance. If we can’t arrive at a resolution either you or Unifone can take the matter to the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution process (TDR). Contact details for the TDR are in the reference section of this document.
  8. If you are Unifone’s customer at a premises where a Vulnerable Consumer normally resides you can make a complaint on behalf of yourself or the Vulnerable Consumer directly to the TDR.
  9. If you are Unifone’s customer at a premises where a Vulnerable Consumer normally resides you can make a complaint on behalf of yourself or the Vulnerable Consumer directly to the Commerce Commission.
What are my obligations in this process?
  1. It is important that you take the time to read and make ensure you understand the information we provide you about the process. We are obliged to work with you to ensure you understand the process and to assist you through the assessment process.
  2. We ask that you make yourself reasonably available to our staff and that you co-operate fully so the correct solution can be designed and provided.
  3. We ask that customers identified being Vulnerable Consumers co-operate with us when we check that the status still applies.
  4. We may be supplying you with extra internet or phone equipment. Because you may need the equipment to enable you to call 111 you need to treat it with care. You need to contact us if you notice any problems with the service as soon as you notice it. We will be checking in on the equipment on an annual basis and we ask that you co-operate with this process.
  5. All internet and phone invoices must be paid in full, on time as usual.
  6. You should contact us if anything with your Vulnerable Consumer situation changes. This includes moving to a new house, the person with the vulnerable status no longing residing with you or if mobile service becomes available to your premises and you have a mobile phone you can use to contact 111.
I’m not a Vulnerable Consumer but someone in my household is. What can you do for me?

The code makes provision for this. The Vulnerable Consumer in your household must normally reside at your premises and the service we provide for them is specific to them. There is no obligation on us to provide services within a premises for anyone who is not identified as a Vulnerable Consumer.

The process for someone other than the account holder to be registered as a Vulnerable Consumer is virtually identical to everything described in these FAQs.

Get in touch with us to find out more. 

What sort of information do I need to provide to be considered?
  1. We need to know your full name, your address and other contact details. If you are currently a  Unifone customer, we will verify with you that the information we hold about you is correct.
  2. If someone else is applying on your behalf, we need to get them added to your account as someone you have preauthorized to speak to us on your behalf. 
  3. You can email, post, or verbally advise the information required. The information we need is contained within the Vulnerable Consumer application form and you or your support person can use this as a guide.
  4. We need to know if you are applying for temporary or permanent Vulnerable Consumer status. If it is for temporary status, we need to know the period of time you want the status for.
  5. We need contact details of the provider that is attesting that you meet the Vulnerable Consumer status. You must give us permission to contact this provider and the provider must be contactable with reasonable efforts by us.
  6. The provider must provide us with sufficient evidence that you are or will become a Vulnerable Consumer. Evidence considered sufficient is:
  • a completed ‘Notice of Potential Medically Dependent Consumer (MDC)
  • Status’ form, which includes a certification from a District Health Board (DHB), private hospital or GP;
  • a protection order;
  • a letter from a health practitioner; and
  •  documentation of impairmen

7. The provider or professional referrer must, by virtue of their occupation, be competent to give an opinion on your status.

  • For the health and disability categories, a health practitioner must give the opinion.
  • For the safety category, a police office, a currently registered social worker, a lawyer with a current practicing certificate or a family court judge must give the opinion.
What solution are you going to provide?

The code requires us to provide a solution suitable for use by the Vulnerable Consumer. We will need to discuss with you, your support people and your provider who is attesting to your status which solution will work for you.

Is there a process to review my Vulnerable Consumer status?

When you sign up for the Vulnerable Consumer status you need to identify if you are applying for permanent or temporary status. We will contact you annually to enquire whether this status has changed. We can revoke your status if:

  1. You or someone on your behalf advise us that you are no longer a Vulnerable Consumer.
  2. You move from the premises where the Unifone Telephone Service was supplied when you applied to be a Vulnerable Consumer.
  3. You obtain the means to call 111 (other than using the Unifone Telephone Service) that will stay operational for 8 hours in the event of a mains power failure.
  4. You have temporary status, and you don’t resubmit your application for continued Vulnerable Consumer status if we request you to do so, when the temporary status period lapses.
  5. Vulnerable Consumers with permanent status will be contacted at least one a year for Unifone to:
    • check on the usability of the provided solution.
    • arrange a service visit if required.
    • Enquire whether the consumer’s situation has changed (as per 1-3 above)
What are my rights if I disagree with something Unifone proposes or has done?

In the first instance you can contact a member of the Unifone management team to register a complaint. We will try and work through the issue with you and arrive at a solution. If we can’t agree you have the right to refer the dispute to the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution service or the Commerce Commission. Their contact details are in the reference section of this document.

What happens if I transfer to another phone and/or internet provider?

Under the code. the obligation to provide a solution to Vulnerable Consumers rests with the retailer providing the phone service. If you disconnect either your phone or internet from Unifone and engage another provider Unifone will recover the equipment provided to you and you will need to go through the signup process with your new provider.

Unifone is not obliged to provide an emergency calling solution if you do not use our phone service.

Please note that Unifone’s telephone services are only bundled with Unifone broadband. They are not sold separately. 

Is my information kept private?
  1. All information held by Unifone on any customer is held securely within our database system.
  2. We must share statistics with the Commerce Commission on a regular basis but not the identity, the address, or any other identifying information (including Vulnerable Consumer status) of any of our customers.
  3. Various acts of Parliament govern Unifone’s operations including your data’s security. Disclosure of any customer’s information to third parties including government agencies is subject to these laws. 
  4. You are welcome to request a copy of the information we hold on you at any time. We are required to hold a copy of the information about your Vulnerable Consumer status for five years if you disconnect from our service.  The information supplied by your nominated person in support of your application will be returned to you or deleted once your application is accepted or declined but a record will be kept that we have sighted the information and used it to process your application.
  5. Your information will not be disclosed by us to any internet or phone provider you may engage in the future.
  6. Unifone collect only enough information on our customers to ensure the correct operation of the services we provide to our customers and to ensure correct identification of customers for billing and account maintenance purposes.
References

Commerce Commission New Zealand Te Komihana Tauhokohoko:  https://comcom.govt.nz/

Privacy Commissioner Te Mana Matapono Matatapu: https://www.privacy.org.nz/

Telecommunications Dispute Resolution: https://www.tdr.org.nz/

Unifone New Zealand Ltd: https://unifone.net.nz/

Commission 111 Contact Code:

https://comcom.govt.nz/regulated-industries/telecommunications/projects/commission-111-contact-code#projecttab

 

 

Give Unifone a call today to talk about what we can do for you, whether it’s rural internet, home internet and phone plans or business internet solutions.

0800 894 114
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