Friday, 11 April 2008

Telephony Misery Update

Back with BT - so full marks to chief executive Ben Verwaayen for personally punching out a reply to my complaint (probably on his blackberry) at 07.45 yesterday. He has re-invented BT's business model in his 5 years in charge, but now his tenure is ending. The executive who called me from the Chairman's office at midday was less impressive - in fact he sounded like he was auditioning for a task in TV's The Apprentice rather than dealing with my complaint. The manager who called me at 17.50 hrs patiently explained the procedure which followed my online request to switch to Free Unlimited and Weekend calls (in exchange for a 12 month contract).

These are:

1. Orders placed before 4pm are active the following day.
2. Orders placed after 4pm are active the day after.
3. Only working days count - these are Monday to Friday.

4. My order was received at 20.50 hrs Friday. It was aknowledged by automated email.
5. My order was active from 23.11 hrs on Monday, so my evening call made at 20.29 hrs Monday was charged not free.
(Friday post 4pm orders are processed Monday - and no, I don't know why my service started Monday night, rather than Tuesday...)

6. Although my online account states I am paying a monthly fee for free weekend and evening calls this will be shown as a credit on the actual bill and won't be charged.

I asked why none of the 3 operators at Customer services could give me this simple information and I had to ask BT's Chief Executive?
But more importantly why isn't all this in BT's lengthy terms and conditions, or the email confirming the order?
And why does the confirmation email say "we'll write to you to confirm your account has been updated" when they don't
(Apparently BT is processing millions of orders and 'couldn't write to all the customers when the service is active'. So why say you will? Doh!).

BT finally let themselves down when the email confirming all this important information fails to arrive.

So I dig out the letter and leaflet BT sent customers back in February explaining their new calling plans:

The main letter is clear - 'Free Weekend calls' is the headline and paragraphs 1 & 2.

Paragraph 3 tells customers line rental is increasing (and some other changes, see enclosed T&C) - but you can avoid this with paper-free billing - paragraph 4.

Paragraph 5 - enjoy your free weekend calls. Oh and there's an excited PS. too: 'Enjoy UK calls this weekend - they're free.'

So what about those other 'important changes'? (para 3). The removal of 5p evening calls - of course that price increase that's in the letter too right?
Er no.
But it's really clear on page 1 of the T&C isn't it?
Er, no.
But surely it will be made really clear that the cost of evening calls is increasing significantly?
Er, no.
Where's this important change to the cost of calls explained then?
Top of page 2 of course.
Page 2?
Do you mean you stopped reading at page 1?

"From 1st April 2008 the Evening rate for UK geographic calls will change from 4.5 pence for calls up to an hour to 1.5 pence per minute and a 6p set up fee will apply."

So those free weekend calls. When do they start - Friday evening?
Er no. They run from Midnight Friday to midnight Sunday.
But those times are all clearly set out in the Terms and Conditions right?
Er no. They are at
What! Not in the letter or the leaflet?
Er no.

Well done BT - for a company in the communications business you have touched a new low.

So how did O2 fare with the problem I reported to customer services?
O2 were a little slow off the mark - when I reported that their broadband service had stopped sending email to my mobile - but quickly recovered when they realised the number of customers affected. My service was restored at 23.00 hrs, during which time I received a reassuring call from customer services and several test emails - leaving me very confident the problem would be sorted out quickly.

O2 - what a contrast to BT.

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