Complaint letter: BT stole my Christmas shopping money

[Updates at the bottom…]

Today, I’m pissed off. I’m really pissed off. British Telecom, lovingly known as BT, is the largest provider of all things fixed phone line in the UK. Like a bully nicking your lunch money, BT has gone into my bank account, using our Direct Debit authorisation as an excuse to debit £233 instead of £10 this month.

Below is my letter, addressed to the BT Chairman. I expect that copying the Telecoms Ombudsman, Ofcom and BT’s own press room will get them off their butts, but if you know anyone in a position to help (since the BT call centre had no interest in our problem whatsoever), please feel free to do so. I’d really like to sort this out before Christmas.

BT, you’re messing with the wrong girl!

FAO Sir Michael Rake, Chairman
British Telecom Head Office
BT Group plc
BT Centre
81 Newgate Street
London EC1A 7AJ

12 December, 2007

Dear Sir Michael Rake,

REFERENCE: XX012345678 – Unauthorised Direct Debit from Customer

I’m writing to get resolution on an issue that was brought to our attention by our bank yesterday. On 20th November, BT took, without our permission, £233.59 by direct debit from our account instead of the usual £10.49.

The explanation given by BT customer service is that the funds were taken following OpenReach engineer visits to our property. This goes against any previous discussion we had with the Faults department and the engineers themselves.

Before each visit, we spoke to the Faults department and took very careful steps to ensure that it wasn’t our equipment that was at fault, to get confirmation that the problem was on BT’s side and avoid charges, should an engineer come by. Unplugging all equipment and removing the faceplate, we then asked BT to run the line test. Each time we did this, the Faults team ensured that we were not going to be charged because the system was flagging a fault on their network, “near our property”.

This required a total of three engineer visits, and as many days off work on my part or my husband’s which, needless to say, inconvenienced us immensely. The first engineer replaced the connections outside, making the line quality and our Internet connection abruptly get worse, introducing heavy static onto the line. The second engineer attempted to fix the heavy static by replacing the faceplate inside the property, to no avail. He claimed that the capacitor in the faceplate was faulty, but this turned out to be false.

Finally, the third engineer worked out that the crackling on the line was caused by the cable connections outside being corroded and could reproduce the crackling by simply moving the cable. He found water damage on the outside connections and stated that he was amazed the previous two engineers had not found that problem earlier.

He changed the connection outside to heavy duty silicon based connections and said that, as a precaution, he changed the cable from outside to the back of the faceplate. This significantly improved the line quality for both voice and internet connection quality.

Based on conversations with the Faults department, they reassured me every time that there would be no charge and that the line tests had proved as much. However, on November 20th, the direct debit of £233.59 was taken from our account, without warning, taking our account into overdraft. On investigation with your thoroughly uninterested customer service team, we discovered that the charge was for the engineer visits above.

We should not be covering the costs incurred by engineers’ incompetence and repeated attempts, especially when the work to rectify the problem was done outside of our property on the BT network.

I feel that BT has behaved unethically by charging us after guaranteeing over the phone that we would not be charged, and furthermore charging us without even notifying us! The £223 taken above our usual monthly bill should NOT have been added to the Direct Debit, as the agreed Direct Debit is for £10, not for BT to have a free for all at my expense.

According to the Direct Debit Guarantee provided by HSBC, “if the amounts to be paid or the payment dates change, HSBC Bank plc will notify you 10 working days in advance of your account being debited or otherwise agreed”, and BT did not follow this legally binding guarantee.

BT Customer service has our mailing address, home phone number, both mobile numbers, and email addresses and unquestionably should have notified us ahead of time to allow us to flag up that no charge should be taken.

I expect the full amount for engineer visits to be refunded immediately, as you’ve taken my shopping fund for family and friends this Christmas. For my faith in BT to be restored in any way, I need a confirmation that I will be able to limit the amount which can be debited without prior notification.

Please respond promptly, sending a copy of all communications via email, to ensure I hear back from you as soon as possible and receive confirmation that the funds are returned to our account.

Best regards,

Vero Pepperrell

CC: BT Newsroom
Otelo, Telecoms Ombudsman

[Update 13 Dec @ 10:50am: The Ofcom Watch blog has already picked up on my complaint letter. I’m sure that BT’s press room will be thrilled to see that the letter is reaching beyond my 26,000 monthly readers and onto other blogs within half an hour of being posted.

13 Dec @ 10:58am: The BT Newsroom has promptly responded to my email and said that the complaints department would be in touch soon. Must admit, impressed by speed of reply.

14 Dec: Less than surprised… I’ve not heard a peep from BT today. Is that going to stop me? Oh no it won’t! “Oh yes it will!” Oh no it won’t… Oh wait, I’m getting into panto mode here.

20 Dec: We hopefully have resolution. I’ve been promised yesterday that the funds would be in my account today and the full amount would be refunded. I’ll believe it when I see it but here is my follow-up post.]

30 thoughts on “Complaint letter: BT stole my Christmas shopping money

  1. Pingback: ‘That canadian girl’ appeals to Ofcom against BT Grinch

  2. Liz

    You go girl!!! BT are beyond evil, it took my Mum 3 months to get a phone line installed as engineers didn’t show up not once or twice but *six* times!!! When one did show, Mum had left a friend at the house to see the guy in and he installed the phone line main point into the airing cupboard, as it was the most ‘direct’ entry point!! She now has her wireless router on top of the towels!

    When she phoned their complaints line no one answered….so you go get ’em!

  3. Oana

    They’re so evil! We gave notice and canceled our account before we moved back to Canada in August and just got an electronic bill from them, charging us for calls made in September and October! Any time I try to resolve it, they send me instructions on how to cancel my account and pay my outstanding bill!

  4. Vero

    @Liz: That’s such bollocks! Can’t believe they can get away with stuff like that. That’s why I make sure I know EVERYTHING there is to know before anyone comes over, so that they can’t pass a quick one just because I’m supposedly a girl who won’t know. We shouldn’t have to, but they clearly will rip off anyone they can.

    @Oana: Definitely go straight to the top and write to the Chairman and Press office. No idea whether it’ll pay off, but it’s more likely than dealing with the brain dead customer service people who a. aren’t interested in your problem, b. probably don’t have the power required to deal w your issue anyways.

  5. Terence Eden

    Pop into your bank and explain the situation. They should be able to issue a refund if you can prove the problem.

    I had a similar issue with Three when they originally started. I asked to see my bank manager, told them that I wanted a refund under the direct debit guarantee, refuses to leave until it was issued.

    Good luck!

  6. Vegancat

    BT also charged us for an engineer’s visit to fix a fault on their end. Fortunately, I don’t trust them enough to allow direct debit so simply refused to pay the bill until they saw sense and took the charges off – nearly £150. Rediculous. A lot of people won’t bother disputing it which is why BT get away with this – go get ’em! They’re no better than Bell Canada, really 😉

  7. Pingback: that canadian girl » Blog Archive » Complaint Letter follow-up: British Telecom (sort of) sees sense

  8. Pingback: that canadian girl » Blog Archive » BT Complaint Letter: A few words of advice

  9. Joel

    I’m a fellow victim of the bottomless pit that is known as “customer service” from BT. I moved, told BT, they took THREE MONTHS to install a line at my new address. I’m now waiting to see then provide a MAC code so I can enjoy Broadband.

    These guys have to idea how to run a business. Their call centre staff are very poorly trained, and are resorting to hanging up when I call them. This has happened a total of 8 times ( and counting ) They actually took it upon themselves to cancel my original order for a line, then tried to deny I ever placed an order. Then when I HAD to place a new order they didn’t turn up at the address to complete the work. Eventually three van loads of “engineers” arrived to install a line. A line that their fault reporting dept informed me was “ totally fine, we’ve buzzed it through from the main exchange to the capacitors in the house” . Really? I thought, so why is a man connecting a line from the main telephone pole in the street to the house now? Or maybe because there is NO LINE connected to my house.

    Then of course they try to charge me for their “ home moving service.” Yeah right.
    £168 for them to mess me about for three months. I’m not paying have no intention of paying and am seeking compensation for time off work, waiting for them to show at my house, phone calls made from my mobile to them and of course I want them to love me up and pay me compensation for the total cock up they call “service “ .

    It pains me to think companies can think they can get away with this stuff. They have picked on the wrong guy here I assure you.
    Fight the good fight and I’m doing that too!

  10. Colin

    BT didn’t bill me for 6 months for my bb after i moved, dispite endless phone’s advising the fact of this. They even changed my dd payment so that it no longer included the bb even though they were providing the service at the new property. Every call i made over this 6 month period i was assured it would be started on the next quarter. Thanks to there stupidity im now paying off an old debt on top of the normal costs which are bloody excessive at best.

    I refused point blank to pay the whole 6 months in a lump sum to them now they have corrected there billing issue. I had to call a further two times to set up a reasonable amount on the dd as they were being so unreasonible and wanting the amount repayed at that point or a stupid dd payment every month.

    British Telecom = Bunch of Tossers

  11. Susanne

    I too am very upset by British Telecom.Apart from the fact that their are numbers on my bill that I have definatly not phoned.When my father recently died on 14th March 08 they put his final closing of account bill of £5.57p to debt collectors? My fathers bills were all paid via direct.My daughter telephoned imediatly after my father had died and instructed for the amount to be debited from her account.Today 14th May we received notice from a debt collectors that my fathers bill of £5.57p was still unpaid.?We feel very upset.Have allways paid our bills on time.Never owed anyone a penny in our lives yet my father 2 months after his death is registered as a bad debtor.Would like to know if anyone else has experienced the dreadful customer service and disrespect that my family have been subjected to.?

  12. Michael

    On Thursday 24th April I requested a new line connection to my house and explained it does not have a line due to refurbishment work. I was told this was not a problem and I
    would just have to pay £124.99 to get a new line and it was booked for the 16th. I pay
    with my direct debit which I setup there and then and in total it takes 30 minutes to
    complete everything. (done, or so you’d think?)

    Then I get called roughly a few days later explaining to me that I no longer need a new line connection as I already have an active line. I disagree as I live at the property and can see with my own eyes that I don’t have a line. He says that he will cancel the order!. After countless times of explaining to him that I DO need a new line he says ok it won’t be cancelled.

    I ring up a few days later just to check everything still fine and and i find out the person has indeed cancelled my order! Therefore i have to create a new order for the 20th and explains to be that he can transfer the direct debit details over to this new order so nothing needs to be done.

    I then get a call from the 0800 number again explaining that my money can’t be transferred to my new account, I don’t understand what they mean by this as I only know of one account, he then hangs up on me without any further explanation.

    I ring the next day and explain how rude the person was and i am told that he needed not have rung me to tell me this and should have begun to refund the £124.99 connection fee money back to my bank account.

    I ring a few days later as i’m not happy about the whole thing and I am informed by this person that they will try to sort it all out for me and arrange a credit to my account for the trouble. The problem is that I received my bill for another connection fee which I have already paid but have not been refunded yet on this so called other account as promised. ( Can I also add that the other account was caused by someone at BT cancelling my order, so I thought swift action by BT to refund this from the old account would have been mandatory. )

    Just to top it all off I have sustained a payment processing fee which makes no sense as I was told my direct debit had been transferred to me new account, after all I can prove I set it up as I paid my connection fee of £124.99 with it and ironically would have managed to cancel this payment if I had paid by any other means even if it was not my responsibility to do so as this is clearly BT’s fault.

    I rung last on 30th May and had little joy with the person at the other end, as I again
    had to explain everything and he told me there is 2 accounts, the 1st account has the
    £124.99 credit which I paid last month which is yet to be refunded and the 2nd account is in debit by roughly the same amount due to the connection fee being charged again on this account. I told him the situation and wanted the payment processing fee taken off
    Immediately of £4.50 which he would not do without my direct debit details. However I
    will not pay the connection fee on the 2nd account until I have been refunded my first
    payment. I rung again on the 2nd june and was told my account is £25 in debit which makes no sense at all so i asked if he could tell me what this cost relates too but of course he couldn’t as he only works for BT? eh????
    I rung again today (3rd june 2008) and after 10 minutes was cut off. Looks like they have just blacklisted my number. The saga continues….

    I find it amazing how i’ll ask a simple question on the phone to a BT employee in India (0800 number) and they will give me an answer to something completely different?!!??!?!?!??

  13. kk

    Hi,In 1984 I had the option of purchasing a no from the BT gold selection, a really good number, over the next 10 years this number stayed with us until it was time to move on in 1994 at this point the number was so easily remembered that although we where going away we decide to take up the offer from BT to archive indefinitely the number, which most of the people who knew us would always be able to use as a an indefinite point of contact if not an e-mail connect catchup as and when i decided to settle here again, so we paid the archive fee and put the number to sleep and informed most of the customers where we would be, same with the friends but always assured that once reconnected no matter when the longer projects would have a contact eventually.So the number stays asleep for 14 years myself checking for the disconnect not in service announcement whenever i froze up on the prospect of losing it but no it was still asleep…. until last friday. Part:2 tomorrow. warden alarm has just gone off.

  14. kk

    Hey. Part:2.. BT, Customer could’nt care less….So would you believe it someone answered the phone after i let it ring for a while and instantly i knew the voice but she clearly did not know who i was at first she let out a few bits before clicking it must be me but not before snarling down the phone “who keeps an unused no for 17 years”(14)actually.Well you better call BT they gave me the no cos ive had it for two years and 8 months. Well thats strange becaise i have been calling the number and it has been disengaged until today.I called BT and spoke to Steve (option 4 existing orders)his comments followed the usual denial, bluff and double bluff ex public institution gone all corporate we are so big we do what we want stuff and you are not even an existing customer whats your account no and address. I told him what he asked, silence ensued then it was a classic we do not archive no’s! well you did in 1994 i have the account for archiving here!.. wll i don’t know about that long ago i have only been here 2 years 8 months?!!! i could have fallen over i was speaking to N—–a’s man. I no longer believe in coincidence’s 2 years 8 months in the space of 10 minutes from 2 entirely unconnected sources.
    Now i really need to know who would even know that this nomber existed and what business it used to represent along with my identity business cards etc people i have not called for years would recognize this no and think it was me i suppose. Sorry got to go again or its a £150 pound ticket, How do the know when your ticket time is up?

  15. subrata saha

    How can I join your website ? extremely disappointed with BT.Hence bumped into your site.Trying to find a way to cope with extra charges wit BT

  16. LV

    I absolutely know what you are going through. I am still trying to resolve an issue relating to my late Grandmothers account which has been going on for 6 months.
    I too am taking this to the top as I am so over dealing with an inept customer service that doesn’t seem to know their ass from their elbow. I applaud all of you who are continuing to fight BT as thousands wouldn’t. Go the power of the people against companies such as this who make a pretty penny at peoples expense.

  17. nick harper

    has anybody had problems with BT conerning tha maintainance of thhe telephone cable from a pole to their dwelling?Please E-mail me with details as I’m in a dispute with BT and need supporting evidence. Thanks,Nick.

  18. Stevie

    I am not shocked at all to hear your story. BT were supposed to take £45 phone and £25 Broadband. That was our agreement with BT. I receive a letter from my bank telling me that bt have taken £69 for the pone and £25 for the Braodband. I have not given permission for BT to take £69. Not only had I not given them permission to do this but they tell me that they sent me a letter telling me of the change. Turns out they sent the letter to our old address. Apparently we gave them that address as a billing address. (Yeah right) They also send the confirmation letter for our house phone and broadband to our old address. So we have rang up BT and have been on the phone every day for the past two weeks. We have been passed from pillar to post. We have been hung up on numerous times. Now we have just found out that the broadband hasnt been paid because BT took all of the money in the bank. I had to open a seperate bank accound just for BT as they like to mess up. My partner is still on the phone tring to get some sense out of someone. We have had to repeat our problem to numerous people as they pass us on. I am far from racist but I would judt love to speak to someone English. I phoned BT on another occasion and was told by an Indian man that I could pay my bill at a POST BOX and they are on every corner!!!!! When you get worked up they just hang up on you! I am looking for a number to a head office or anyone who is higher than the so called managers they put you on to.

  19. Carol

    Have just spent three days trying to gat my 91 year old neighbour’s phone fixed – she is housebound and has an alarm which won’t work if there’s a problem with the line. BT swore blind the line was fine, we tested it with our phone and it wouldn’t work. We were told to get that the neighbour had to test it properly by unscrewing the fitting from the wall and plugging her phone in there, if she didn’t and an engineer had to come out it would cost over £200. Fortunately we were on hand to do this for her. Turned out it was a BT fault – I was told it would be sorted out after the weekend. I pointed out this was a vulnerable person and the fact that she couldn’t make or receive calls was upsetting but that the real problem was that she couldn’t use her alarm system so BT were effectively leaving her at risk of falling and being trapped for three days without being able to summons help. I made 5 phone calls to BT and each time was told someone from the repair team would call me back – within half an hour, an hour, etc. Needless to say they didn’t. I eventually got through to a very rude person on the repairs team who showed no interest in dealing with the problem until I asked for the contact details of the head of BT so I could copy him in to a letter to the local press about BT’s response. He shouted for a while, then said he would try to get something sorted out and call me at 9am the next morning. Of course he didn’t bother – eventually after me calling twice I had a call back from ‘the idiot’ at 12.15 to ask if my elderly housebound neighbour would be in all day so they could send an engineer. Perhaps I was sarcastic when I said ‘no, she’s going ski-diving’, possibly I was silly to assume that the calls centre staff would understand the implications of being ‘housebound’ but in no way did it merit the member of staff shouting at me and hanging up when I asked if the phone call was recorded… I phoned again and asked to speak to the supervisor, I was eventually put through to someone who said he was the supervisor and that he was sure this wonderful member of the team, someone he knew personally, would never hang up unless I’d given him good reason. He also said that it was fine to call back 3 hours after an arranged time – okay it was a bit late but he’d fulfilled his promise and he didn’t have to give a reason. Something didn’t sound right and I asked for his name and for him to confirm his job – turned out he was a just a member of the same team pretending to be in charge.
    Imagine how wonderful it was to turn on my computer this morning and find details of how to contact the chairman’s office. Thankyou.

  20. Mark T

    Fortunately in my case I have been able to cancel my direct debit arrangement with BT before they took over £200 from me. The connection box outside my home was corroded after several years of use and needed replacing to make the line good. A fault was registered and an Engineer replaced the box without any reference to a charge. The next I knew was a bill for the work. Disputing the bill with “Lucy” in Customer Service didn’t help. She was adamant that the fault was on my side of the line even though I had previously tried plugging a new phone into the connection box without success. Lucy also explained that there is no appeals process which I find incredible. My next step is Sir Rake who I hope will not only intervene but sort out his Customer Service team and focus them on providing Customer Service and not a dictatorship regime. From a guy who takes no crap from businesses no matter how big they are. Good luck to all of you who have suffered poor service from this organisation. One day it will rise to bite them up the ass.

  21. cameron jordan

    Go get them if they dont give it threaten to start a court case i have to use bt as it’s the only connection i can get in my area

  22. Jan S

    Anyone had trouble getting a BT Synergy phone receiving texts. Sends texts OK, getting fed up with being passed around the world (well India) with BTs so called customer service, what a joke.

  23. Pingback: that canadian girl » British Telecom: The Enemy of a Successful Business

  24. timbo

    well surprise surprise, i signed up for BT and they screwed up the 1st order, the 2nd order meant i lost my number, the engineer didnt turn up to install a NEW line as ordered, but switched on and old line in the wrong part of the house. BT’s so-called complaints team couldn’t sort diddly as usual, am despite being told that my deposit would be back IN my account by the 25th of feb, apparently my account as just been closed, so i will be getting a CHEQUE at some point in the forseable future.

    i think sir Rake will be getting a very nicely worded letter!

    BTW, PlusNET who advertise loads on the radio are BT and have been since 2007!!

    avoid like the plague!!!!

  25. sally x

    Like everyone else I’m having similar problems. Is it possible to have a phone and broadband connection without BT?

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