Telstra's response to Wodonga widower prompts him to protest outside communication giant's store

TELSTRA’S been accused of being a bully by an 83-year-old grandfather whose protest resulted in the police being called to Wodonga Plaza.

Peter Leigh-Lancaster had a walking stick in one hand and an old rake handle bearing a handwritten placard in the other.

It read: “I’m 83 and Telstra intends to cut off my house phone on 28/12/16. Ask me about its high-handed lack of efficiency.”

Soon after setting himself up about 1pm on Wednesday, Mr Leigh-Lancaster was approached by the shopping centre’s security team.

The former British air force fighter pilot was told to take his protest outside.

“I refuse, I’m entitled to free speech in this country,” Mr Leigh-Lancaster replied.

The widower told The Border Mail he was upset at how his concerns were handled after being told he would have to switch phones due to the introduction of the national broadband network.

Mr Leigh-Lancaster said a Telstra employee told him he would have his phone service cut off by next week unless he switched over.

“I’m very old, I’ve been with Telstra and their forebears since 1964 when I first came here from England," Mr Leigh-Lancaster said.

“I’ve paid all my bills on time and then they say ‘sorry pee off I can’t help you’, it’s really quite rude.”

Mr Leigh-Lancaster raised his concerns with the telecommunications ombudsman and member for Indi Cathy McGowan before opting to demonstrate.

Left hanging: Upset with Telstra, Wodonga grandfather Peter Leigh-Lancaster decided to protest against the telecommunications giant at its Wodonga store.

Left hanging: Upset with Telstra, Wodonga grandfather Peter Leigh-Lancaster decided to protest against the telecommunications giant at its Wodonga store.

“I just think a few people should know that places like Telstra are just bullies and push old folk around like they’re inconsequential,” he said.

Some shoppers glanced at Mr Leigh-Lancaster’s sign, while a woman in an Optus T-shirt took photos of it. 

After The Border Mail left police came and spoke to Mr Leigh-Lancaster after a security guard edged him to the side of the shop front.

By 2pm the former air traffic controller decided to quit.

“My legs were getting a bit tired and I didn’t want to involve anyone with a chair to help me in case the shopping centre said something,” Mr Leigh-Lancaster said.

Telstra area general manager Steve Tinker was apologetic and said Mr Leigh-Lancaster would not be forced into switching next week. 

“We are sorry for the poor experience that Peter feels that he has experienced,” Mr Tinker said.

“Customers have 18 months to decide when and which provider they want to transition to the NBN with.

“Our interaction with him was to inform him of the process and to try make that transition as simple as we could.

“We will continue talking with Peter about his options and what is suitable for him to transition to the NBN.”

  • This article first appeared on egional
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