BT Nightmare 49

In the past month, the following Direct debit payments have been taken from my bank account:

23 March 2011 BT Group plc 83.71
04 April 2011 BT Group plc 222.64
18 April 2011 BT Group plc 192.19
21 April 2011 BT Group plc 93.05
22 April 2011 BT Group plc 86.05

Total £677.64

I genuinely have no idea why. I only have one address and one broadband phone line, which includes one of those BT internet hub phones to make international calls cheaper. We do make some international calls, and before I moved here last summer our BT bill was around £60 per month.

One of the reasons why I have no idea what these multiple charges relate to, is that I have not received a single bill since I moved here last July. I have three times contacted BT about this. The last time we discovered that, when I moved here, BT had started sending the bills to an old address at which I lived many years ago – for no possible reason. Not to my last address, to which BT sent my phone bills while I lived there, and on which I have redirected mail. The BT operative who told me this said that they would send me copies of all the missing bills, and he nobly added they would waive the charge for duplicate bills. In fact I have received nothing since – not the missing nor current bills.

In December the BT line was cut off for three weeks. BT told me it was for unpaid bills. I told them that the bill was paid by direct debit and no payment had been missed. But that I could not understand at all the huge bills I was getting. They said they would write. They have not.

There is no worse organisation than BT for multiple recorded menus leading to eventual transfer to an under-trained operative six thousand miles away who has no relevant response permissible to somebody who claims they have been wrongly billed.

Today a buzz through seven automated menus eventually tells me that the BT billing department is closed for the Bank Holdiay, which is peculiar as I am pretty sure Good Friday is not a holiday in the country where it is situated.

Altogether BT have taken £2,950 out of my account in five months without giving me a single bill. I still have absolutely no idea why. Apparently they are open tomorrow. I will tell you what they say then.

49 thoughts on “BT Nightmare

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  • AlexT

    I would guess that with any automatic debit system there would be a way for your to dispute the payment (at least it is the case where I live and it’s for the debtor to provide relevant documentation to the bank).

  • Ed Davies

    They, like other companies, are absolutely desperate to bill on line rather than on paper. Have you checked on their web site for a) your bills and b) some option to say you want electronic bills only? It’s sometimes easy to be trapped into setting this option accidentally by not clearing a check box or something on a form which is, by all appearances, about something else.

    I’d be really happy with electronic bills if they’d just e-mail them to me rather than make me go on line to download them. I want a copy I can keep for my records and don’t want to waste time faffing around with some stupid online login process. An e-mailed bill would, of course, have to be encrypted which means lots more people would start using cryptography – something certain elements would, I suspect, prefer to discourage.

  • mary

    Agree Craig. BT is one of the worst of the privatized utilities. I remember the good old Post Office Telephones. Try getting a broken inspection cover replaced or a repair to your house connection. I pay for up to 8mbps Total Broadband from them yet often get 2 or 3. I am a mile from the exchange. Then they try and charge me for excess usage. Bastards. Watch out they don’t bankrupt you.

    Download Speed 2.34Mbps Upload Speed 0.78Mbps 27.11.2009
    Download Speed 3.72Mbps Upload Speed 0.86Mbps 27.2.2010
    Download Speed 2.26Mbps Upload Speed 0.86Mbps 6.4.2010
    Download Speed 2.23Mbps Upload Speed 0.72Mbps 6.5.2010
    Download Speed 2.3Mbps Upload Speed 0.59Mbps 12.5.2010
    Download Speed 2.26Mbps Upload Speed 0.53Mbps 27.5.2010

  • CanSpeccy

    In my experience, it’s best to follow Winston Churchill’s advice and go to the top, i.e., write or call the President of the Company.

    Calling used to work well:
    “He’s not at this office.”
    “Then give me the number of the office where he is.”
    “What do you want to speak with him about?” ”
    I’ll tell him when I speak with him,” etc.
    Eventually, one would get to the corporate vice-president for something or other, who had authority to take some action.

    But effective blocking mechanisms are probably in place now. The hope is that, through exhaustion, you’ll be forced to give up and accept the overcharge, the clicking on you line, or whatever tiresome and, for them, costly problem you have.

    A letter to the President can also be effective. One to the CEO of Canadian Pacific, following a series of unanswered letters to the accounts department which began “What is the use of a communications company that cannot answer letter” produced an apologetic phone call from a VP for customer relations, followed by a cash refund of eight dollars and 37 cents or some such amount.

    But keep us informed. Knowledge of the mundane tricks of swindling by which corporations improve their bottom line every quarter is important to us all.

  • Anon

    `BT is one of the worst of the privatized utilities`…The nightmare of Thatcher!!!.

  • Clark

    Craig, BT are bloody awful, I’ve heard no end of horror stories. TalkTalk are dreadful, too. I’m with Plusnet, who have been very good so far, despite being a subsidiary of BT. Their call centre is in Sheffield.

    Beware the possibility of someone else using your line to make calls. Despite what the ‘phone companies will tell you, it is easy to make calls on someone else’s line; all that is needed is physical access to the line at any point between the subscribers house and the exchange. A friend of mine was stung like this. She lived in flats and the lines could be accessed by forcing open panels in the walls. Someone knew how to bridge other people’s lines into their own flat. They made lots of international calls, and other people had to pick up the bill. So when you finally get your bill, check the numbers called, and challenge any that you don’t recognise.

  • Art

    The direct debit agreement BT have with the banks is that they have to give a period of notice before they collect the money. They are in breach of that, so contacting your bank might shake things up. I find that writing a letter to BT is the only way to get anything sorted out.

    BT are useless, but less useless than some of the others (Talk-Talk are the pits) and technically more reliable than most.

  • Clark

    Art, surely, none of these companies abilities should make any difference to the quality of service? Isn’t it meant to be like gas and electricity, with the companies that deal with the public just deciding on pricing, and selling calls and Internet access, and an infrastructure company (in this case the supposedly independent BT OpenReach (which always makes me think of induced vomiting)) doing all the technical stuff?

  • evgueni

    I ditched BT years ago after a query about a bill led me to experience their “customer service”. BT assured me that they took great pains to make the layout of their bills clear. I assured them that both I and my wife were numerate, educated to degree level and one of us was an accountant accustomed to looking at bills. We found the bills confusing! BT then defaulted to telling us that they took great pains … blah blah. I also had experience of Take Take – avoid them like the plague. PlusNet have been good to me. Why not switch from BT and start using Skype for international calls?

  • Will Rowan


    I had a similar failure of service from BT; the resolution after 75+ calls to BT was to write to my MP (Desmond Swayne: exemplary constituency MP, though I don’t like his politics) who whote to BT Chairman’s office.

    I’m very happy to pass you the contact details of the helpful lady I spoke to there. The BT Chairman’s office team have IT clearance to fix billing issues in real time.
    Ping me if you’d like the number.
    Or write to your MP

    &, strewth, how many companies are *so* broken that they need an MP to fix a billing query?

    A year on from my initial issue, I’m now with PlusNet.
    Ironicall, this long-term best BT reseller is now owned by BT – and really gets customer service.
    They’re excellent.
    and really rather good.

    Which isn’t what I normally expect of Yorkshire!


  • deep green puddock

    I am in the US with the option or necessity (don’t know yet) of returning to UK.
    Talking of Talk Talk and BT has sent shivers down my spine, and brought back nasty memories.I, too, eventually went to Plusnet with reasonable results.

    I recently got Google call phone service. Not sure if it is available in UK but it works well for day to day routine calls, and Skype is getting better and better. While I would understand the reluctance to get rid of the land line telephone service altogether, I am not sure how essential it is any more, as long as you have a decent internet connection, a mobile, and don’t live too remotely.

  • John L

    Craig – as I suspect you know more than anyone – you can take a business out of public ownership, but it takes MUCH longer to eradicate public service attitudes.

    Like many public (or ex-public) services, BT actually resent a customer’s monumental nerve in complaining. Under their perfect system, mistakes don’t happen, cannot possibly happen, and if they do must surely be the customer’s fault. So there!

    I’ve been fighting with them for years, as they find one way after another to offer ‘special deals’ which as often as not only screw over the customer even more. No point moving to another provider – when the lines go down (regularly in this rural area) I still have to deal with BT whoever my provider is. Staying with BT at least keeps all the correspondence under one heading.

    I had a wonderful phone call from them recently offering BT Broadband. We can do much better than your current provider sir – honest! But my current provider is YOU! No sir – you’re not listed with BT Broadband. Well – actually I’m with Plusnet – which is owned by BT and currently MUCH cheaper – how do you explain that?! Er…. I’ll get back to you sir – good evening!

  • Anon

    Royal mail privatisation is about to happen, what nightmare`s await us there ?. Then the NHS, get your credit cards at the ready folks!!!.

  • John L

    I can just see it, Anon….

    “Sorry sir – the ambulance is unable to attend – your credit card number was not recognised!”

    Though not a hell of a lot different, NHS-wise, to what we have already. After waiting a year for attention to my back, I’ve just been offered the help I need – 200 miles away!! I’m retired and disabled – how I get there and where I stay between non-residential consultations is – apparently – my own problem. I suspect my answer is going to be a 4-letter one….

  • AJ

    Why use a landline at all other than for broadband.

    I removed my landline phone around 5 years ago and have been paying an all inclusive £30 per month ever since.

    So much cheaper than before and way more convenient.

    BT were awful, I do agree.

  • craig Post author

    Mark –

    Weird things are happening with comments – see the two earlier posts today for explanation

  • tony_opmoc


    Is Craig Still Doing His 4:00 ‘O’ Clock afternoon show?

    “This is what I have been doing today”

    Have I been forgiven yet?

    Don’t worry, I still consider myself “self banned”

    Its just that I thought I would try the latest version of ubuntu – and it seems quite sexy – except – whilst it is really fast on most websites – it took ages for me to get through to Murray’s

    No I will not register.

    That defeats the entire point.

    Happy Easter – especially to dreolin


  • Walk Tall Hang Loose


    Based on my own experiences, the best suggestions are:

    1. Tell your bank these direct debits are unauthorized.

    2. Write to the Chairman of BT.

    4. Use Skype for overseas calls.

  • tony_opmoc

    Blimey, My post appeared.

    And no I will not slag off the worst company I have ever dealt with. It was about 16 years ago, when I phoned them up – unless you let me get away from you – I will report you to The Telecoms Regulator – OFTEL – or whatever they were called then….

    So I did…

    However, when my current supplier (for the past 10 years) who have been absolutely brilliant – fucked up –

    I phoned them up – and eventually got through to the technical bloke…

    I also sent emails and a hand written letter…

    The Threat Was Quite Clear…

    Within hours we were getting what we paid for…

    Is that fast enough for you sir?

    If you don’t complain (eloquently) – they treat you like shit


  • Clark

    Evgueni, there are lots of ways to use VOIP without using Skype. Ekiga respects the user’s freedom. Skype uses a secret protocol which keeps you locked to their software. This may seem an unimportant matter, but it is the non-free nature of software that enables it to be used for surveillence and censorship:

  • tony_opmoc

    I will be gone soon, so don’t worry. I am not going to get boring and drop my guts – though I would recommend PJ Harvey’s New Album…

    I would just like to say, that during the winter my son has been working really hard and has got loads of new business…

    He has completely amazed me – and his prospective and now real customers…

    He said I will do that and I will deliver on time and it will work…

    I thought the timescales were much too short and he was promising the impossible…

    So he hand built 6 servers – using the very latest technology…

    Sure there were lots of problems – but only one had to work…

    He showed me what he had done a few days later…

    And I said no you are taking the piss…

    He said well look at this…

    I said you are hosting that?

    He smiled and looked at me

    I thought WOW

    My Lad did that

    800th in the World Last Time I looked.

    No you don’t understand

    That is Just ONE


  • David Halpin

    What you report is so outrageous it cannot be laid entirely at the door of BT, even though it is an atrocious corporation. My guess Craig is that some element of government is intent on harassing you. There is a close relationship between the two.

  • Anon

    “Weird things are happening with comments – see the two earlier posts today for explanation”…

    Has your web site been privatised ?….David Halpin, that thought crossed my mind as well!.

  • mary

    ‘This affair was brought to light through the discovery, back in 1999, of the Capenhurst Phone Tap Tower (now since demolished), which was built and operated in secret by GCHQ on part of the secure Capenhurst factory run by British Nuclear Fuels. This is conveniently located directly between two of the main microwave relays operated by British Telecom, which used to be the main telecommunications link between the Republic of Ireland and the UK and the rest of Europe (still in use, but there are fibre optic cables now as well).’

  • JimmyGiro

    Around 10 years ago, BT terminated my internet account; accusing me of using an auto-dialler, for getting past their silly 2 hour on-line limit.

    I never had the decency to thank them.

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