WARRNAMBOOL residents have been warned to be diligent in compensation claims against Telstra after an exchange fire two weeks ago.The forum of more than 400 people was told businesses had up to three years to make claims and payment would be within 15 days.
But Telstra group general manager Will Irving said businesses submitting compensation claims would be required to sign release forms precluding further claims.
The company distributed two claim forms at the forum; for one-off compensation of $1000 and another for larger claims.
However, Warrnambool business owner Trevor Hawker said Telstra was in for "one hell of a fight" for suggesting compenation would be handled as "one claim that's it you're over".
Mr Hawker said Mr Irving had an opportunity to close its "credibility gap" with the community by suggesting the Telstra board leave the compensation process open for later claims.
Mr Irving later said Telstra would agree to finalising claims larger than $1000 in two stages, where agreed interim compensation items could be finalised while others were finalised later.
"We're quite open to say that piece is then closed and that bit is still open.
"The $1000 claim is not going to be a two-stage process," Mr Irving said.
Commercial litigation principal for Maddens Lawyers in Warrnambool Brendan Pendergast said Telstra would not be allowing businesses to take "two bites at the cherry".
Businesses who submit their claims first, then discover later they may have been entitled to more may have no grounds to recover those extra costs, he said.
Mr Pendergast urged businesses to seek professional advice to ensure their interests and needs were adequately assessed, rather than adjusted.
Telstra regional manager Bill Mundy apologised for the November 22 exchange fire and resulting communications crisis at the forum, but said its cause was still unknown.
He said there were just over 2000 ADSL services and less than 2000 landlines to be connected.
"We expect that we will have the majority of those done by close of business tomorrow (Friday) afternoon, but there is the expectation that some of those will tail-off into the weekend.
"We are absolutely committed to making sure that we have got 100 per cent of services back in operation by the end of the weekend," he said.
"However we do realise that in the haste for us to put things back online for everybody we could have kind of got things a little mixed up in terms of connection etcetera and there may be some issues for you as a business customer in terms of your premises equipment working again."
Member for South West Coast Dr Denis Napthine said Prime Minister Julia Gillard was "missing in action" during the crisis, but said Victorian premier Ted Baillieu at the Council of Australia Governments meeting in Canberra today would emphasise to Ms Gillard that the Telstra fire and communication outage was a significant disaster and had hurt the economy, people and businesses.
Mr Baillieu also had not visited Warrnambool since the disaster though he met with local government leaders at Mortlake yesterday.