From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Malcolm ‘likes’ Facebook COO. Malcolm Turnbull is on tour. The Communications Minister has visited Facebook HQ in California, where he’s met with Mark Zuckerberg’s right-hand woman, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer with a “very keen intellect and even keener sense of justice” …

Turnbull is a Facebook whiz — he’s about to crack 40,000 “likes” on his page. While at the sprawling Menlo Park campus, Turnbull took a host of questions on Facebook on the economy, the National Broadband Network, alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross and his choice of a Facebook-blue jumper (“its cool here being winter and I like the sweater but I am glad it matched”). Or at least he took as many as he could — when the natives got restless he insisted “i am typing as far as i can”.

ASIC chairman’s world tour. Speaking of international tours, Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman Greg Medcraft took plenty of them in 2013: Wellington, Hong Kong, Beijing, Delhi, Washington, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Panama, Brussels, London (x4), Dublin, Paris (x2), Basel (x2), Madrid (x2), Luxembourg, Moscow and Petersburg. It’s all been detailed a list of travel expenditure released by ASIC in the wake of criticism that its chairman might be too busy gallivanting and not at home dealing with the pretty serious questions over the effectiveness of the regulator. Our spy reckons Medcraft has got on the front foot with the information: full transparency, and not all at the taxpayers’ expense, it turns out.

Tax Office clears up health mix-up. We suggested yesterday the Australian Tax Office had its work cut out for it contacting thousands of taxpayers over mismatched health insurance premium information. The ATO confirmed it’s contacting individuals about insurance information in 2013 tax returns, but not as a result of a data-matching error. It seems taxpayers have not been entering the right data, including the share of premiums paid in the financial year and the share of the government rebate received. A spokesperson said:

“Entering incorrect information at these labels may result in an incorrect calculation of private health insurance rebate liability. In such cases the ATO has been contacting the taxpayer or their tax agent by email or SMS to obtain the correct information. Since July 2013, the ATO has contacted taxpayers or tax agents and corrected 11,132 tax returns. This issue is not isolated to any particular health fund.”

So that clears that up then. And a lesson for your next tax return.

Hung up about Telstra discounts. We love a customer cock-up in corporate land. Our irregular contributor Ava Hubble was surprised to cop a letter from Telstra headed: “SORRY, YOU’VE BEEN RECEIVING REWARDS YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR”. Was she being accused of cheating? Not quite: due to a “technical issue” a $10 monthly discount had mistakenly been applied. The verbose missive ran on:

Rest assured we are not looking to recover the reward discounts applied to your account incorrectly. We’ve now removed the Combo Rewards from your account and to give you time to adjust to this change we’ve applied a (one-off) credit of $10.00 to your account. If you have any questions please call 13 2200.

Best regards,

Andy Ellis, Head of Customer Service and Contact Centres

Ava continues the story:

“We do have a few questions. Why were we not asked if we are prepared to meet the unexpected, increased cost of our latest and only quite recently acquired Telstra ‘bundle’? Why were we not advised about any alternative ‘combos’ or packages? Are we alone in being the victim of this Telstra ‘technical issue’ or have other customers, perhaps hundreds of thousands of them, been similarly affected?

“We have tried several times to call Andy Ellis. ‘But he is the general manager!’ gasped a Telstra supervisor. Well, perhaps Andy’s been promoted. In any event, the supervisor’s tone  indicated to us Telstra executives are not normally available to talk to customers, even those of very long-standing. The staffer dutifully added, though, that he would file a request that Mr Ellis call us. ‘But it could take a long time,’ he warned.”

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