BT send incorrect bills, ignore customer complaints, fail to return calls, send engineers that don’t turn up and leave us on hold on the phone for hours.
Hundreds of BT Customers have contacted us here at BT complaints at your wits’ end because BT make it so difficult to resolve even the smallest niggles. You complain of ludicrously complex electronic switchboards, countless hours stuck on hold, phone calls not being returned and call centre staff who cannot even speak our language.
Thisismoney.co.uk produced a charter for the basic level of service they believe every company should provide. It starts by focusing on the telecoms companies which, despite being in the communications business, generate more complaints than any other industry…
Britain’s internet and phone companies show a shameful disregard for their customers – leaving 4.1m people unhappy with their service every year. Official figures show that an incredible 3.3m customers have been left waiting three months or more for their phone or broadband provider to resolve a problem.
A Money Mail investigation has revealed these staggering facts:
• One in four adults in the UK made a complaint about a mobile phone, broadband or landline last year;
• One in five of all complaints to phone companies are about bills being wrong, or overcharging;
• Just 30 % of people who complained were satisfied with the result – while a whopping 42% were left unhappy. By comparison, 46% who complain to banks and 49% to retailers are left happy.
Customers have been shunted from one company to another, when they have been taken over by a rival. Those with Tiscali, AOL, NTL and Bulldog appear to have particular difficulties resolving problems.
So, today, we demand firm action by regulators to force these companies to end the shambles. Some of the main problems you highlight include:
• Bills for a service for which you have not signed up;
• Phone calls which are not returned, as promised;
• Engineers who fail to keep their appointments;
• Confusing electronic switchboards which result in you being passed from department to department;
• Being left on hold for extended periods of time;
• Staff who cannot understand that you are not a technical expert, but need simple, basic assistance, and;
• A failure to take complaints seriously, or even acknowledge there is a problem.
You might feel stuck in no man’s land, where the phone or broadband provider holds all the power. But you do have some basic rights:
• If your wrangle has dragged on for months, you can move to another supplier, claiming they are in breach of contract. They should not charge you an early cancellation fee;
• You are entitled to have them fix your problem for free if it isn’t your fault, though getting their engineer to admit a problem is their fault can be hard;
• If you are left without a service, then any claim will depend on your individual contract. Business customers are able to get compensation for loss of service, but normal consumers often are not;
• If you have been overcharged, you are entitled to deduct excess charges from your bill.
Pay what you think you should be charged and then write to both the customer services and the billing departments.
Joanne Lezemore, senior solicitor with Which?, warns: ‘Customer services staff and billing staff often fail to communicate with each other – so while one knows that the customer is disputing a bill, the other will not have been told. ‘This can end up with the customer getting a bad mark on their credit file.’
The ace up your sleeve is the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, which states that services must be provided with ‘reasonable care and skill and within a reasonable period of time’. This not only covers the service you receive – but the way your complaint is handled.
For instance, if you have been stuck without broadband for months, then you could argue that the company has not given your problem reasonable care in reasonable time. However, you must take all the relevant steps to ensure that the company can provide you with the service – such as following the instructions on introductory computer disks that are sent to you.
A spokesman for TalkTalk says: ‘Is the service of telecoms companies as good as the best examples in other industries? Frankly, it is not. One of the major obstacles is that if something goes wrong then we are often dealing with a bit of copper wire buried beneath your house. However, we are doing everything we can to improve service and seeing what more we can do.’
BT says it judges its service against competitors and other industries such as banks. A spokesman says: ‘We regard customer service as one of the primary ways we can persuade customers to stay with BT or join. The cost of poor customer service is very high, as the business needs to pay more to sort out the issues that should have been dealt with properly in the first place.’