How to Complain about telephone services

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. 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.

The problems run throughout the industry, from giants such as BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk to smaller players including 3 and the Post Office.

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.’

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  • I have had two contracts with bt but they say their router are better but guess what they are not they still disconnect by freezing up also loss on connection so i do not know how they work the t.v advert out when it say no loss off connection also the price off contract rip off also the bt service are no better all they want me to do is ring a engineer when its not the PC fault its the router messing about low signal no connection on my laptop. also my PC is new with warranty looks like i am looking for a new contract and guess how its not going to be ?

  • I am 56 year old graphic designer who has to work to deadlines that are often within hours, even minutes on occasionally, this has always been the way all through my whole career, all 40 years of it, thats business innit.

    What I just cant understand is in this country in the 21st century, where in times gone by we led the world in technology, service and speed, yet its 2010 we have telecoms organisations (BT & co) that in my opinion could not organise a "booze up in a brewery"…

    Who's BT complaints manager openly admits that the three broadband helpdesk engineers that I have spoken to in the last week (unnresolved BT broadband speed fault) did not do their job correctly…?

    Who send out phone engineers to fix a fault they cant find, yet 5 days later the next engineer finds in moments…

    Who happily offer a so called help service using people in another country who act like robots, speak English as a second language and treat their customers like they are idiots…

    Who happily think its OK to keep customers waiting days, weeks and on occasions months to get their service up and running or to fix faults…

    Who's help services make it as good as impossible to speak to the same person twice…

    Who offer only time lost without service as recompense, with nothing for the total and utter frustration, the loss of business or for the mental anguish and physical damage done banging your head against the wall of inefficiency and total lack of customer care…

    Who offer you their fantastic up to 20 mb broadband speeds and give you under 1.7mb as average and often less… its like offering a Rolls Royce and giving you second hand rusty mini…

    Who offer their fantastic NEW fast Home Hub thats slower than the previous model and is less than twice as fast as dial up…

    Who blame where I live for the lack of speed… like its my fault, why not sell me fantabulous upto 2mb speed at a realistic price…

    Where the so called powerless regulatory service is a toothless wimp and grovels to BT & Co…

    BT you should be ashamed of themselves… and from what I gather (thanks probably to BT's network) so should all the other telecoms suppliers…

    UK banks, estate agents and telecoms companies, I wouldn't p— on them if they were on fire…

    Only in the UK… for G–s sake give us a bill of rights so that the people have the power not the kin Banks and big business….

    Sorry everybody but I think I blew a fuse… its what happens dealing with BT… now wheres my doctors telephone number, oh bugger the phones not workin…

  • bt missed 5 times engineer appointment!!!! I waiting home five days morning time!!!! nobody come at all!!!!and everytime I got promise and confirmed answer. disappointment again again and again!still not deal with mt bt broadband problem!! bt should ashamed themselves!

  • Phone cannot receive incoming – an engaged signal- or outgoing calls. Tuesday 13th October fault on the line diagnosed; told it will be put right in three days. Reported nothing had been done Friday 16th Oct. Told it will be done Monday18th Oct or earlier. Here we are Monday evening 10:10 pm nothing and quite a few sick friends and relatives to check on using a pay as you go mobile which has suited my life style till now. Bracing myself for tomorrow.

  • I have been waiting 3 months for a BT line to be connected same problems with Indian call centers keeping me on the phone for hours telling lies,wasting my valuable time all unpaid,i have to date had 4 missed appointments and still no broadband,i was offered £40 compensation which would not cover the phone calls let alone loss of wages,will inform the site on what happens next.

  • hello, im trying to contact someone from the UK complaints dept but bt india just deny that there is such a number and cut me off, im not prepared to listen to the same hum drum i cant even understand.
    they do not know that they are dealing with an IT engineer?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Seems like the same old story to me.. another British company that gives less than a shit about it's customers, pack the "customer service" off to India, let us all complain about 'that' and hopefully we'll accept that excuse instead of BT being set of ********…!!!!

  • i am still waiting for a payment for cancelling my bt land line as i have moved and since feb 2011 untill now i have been promised a cheque. like previous comments it would be nice for a british company to help instead of indian customer service, also if i owed tehm money would they wait so long i think not my line would be cut off and them i would have to pay them………………
    disgusted of kent

  • I am a Belfast BT customer

    We took up our current BT line in 1994 and the bill was paid diligently by standing order until Feb 2011 when following a change in family circumstances the standing order was cancelled and my elderly mom (who is disabled and 82 years old) switched to direct billing. Unfortunately BT did not change the account to her name, despite our request, and so her bill was mail forwarded to me, as I am frequently abroad.

    When this happened after the 1st quarterly bill (May 2011) she was immediately cut off. BT were again told to change the name on the account because my mail was being forwarded. They failed to do so and this has happened again (Aug 2011)

    BT insist on full payment to reinstall and a substantial late payment and reconnection charge, even though the line has not actually been disconnected, only barred.

    This has led me to look at the BT account. We have an unlimited weekend plan which is actually deducted 3 months in advance. In short, given that the actual bill on the phone is very small, it is doubtful if my mom actually owes BT anything as what they are actually billing her for is the 3 months package charge, which is deducted 3 months in advance.

    Looking again at this I can see that this package is actually grossly inappropriate for my mom because she makes so few paid calls. Yet BT agents pressurised her to make this change to a package even though she would be much better off financially paying just line rental and her bill as it comes.

    Can anyone advise me of who in the complex BT system to go to to complain?

    Terence Duffy
    02890 482808

  • BT Customer Services are a complete joke and providing appauling service.
    Firstly, BT do everything they can from actually talking to the their customers with a myriad of IVR options announcements referring to atheir website and then very long waiting times for someone to answer.

    Secondly, when you do get to speak someone they are completely useless typically off shore in a foreign call centre, bearly understandable, with absoloutely no intelligence or skills whatsoever, there training appears to be just follow an onscreen script, even if the caller has already gone through the same script with a previous agent.

    Thirdly, just because they do a line test and can't find anythign wrong doesn't mean that they have fixed the problem or that its the customers own wiring/equipment fault, so why do they immediately close the fault.

    Is this reaally what Customer service is ?????

  • BT customer services and technical department are inept.
    Have finally got contact details of UK customer services manager – Nick Stubbs 0121 232 7104 or 7220
    Alternatively try 'escalations manager' Susan Stubbs 0121 232 7166
    Another one to try is 0800 328 9393
    BT are a disgrace and do not deserve to be in business

  • i changed from talk talk to bt to save money.i went live feb 8th.turns out i can phone out but people cant phone me.spent two hours on my mobile(witch i have to pay for)engineer coming out t,morrow.have to take time off work(unpaid) and could have a bll of up to £120.not good.

  • We have had exactly the same problem. We did not realise for days that incoming calls were not reaching us – the bell did not ring. I tackled the "press this" "tell us why you are calling" "please wait"…..zzzzzzz….."hello India" system half a dozen times and was assured there was nothing wrong, the line tested ok it was our equipment and I should "do some tests"
    I am an arthritic 75 year old and I had to move a heavy desk and crawl on the floor to remove the front plate and use the test socket – which did no good at all. So an engineer was booked.

    Meanwhile I happened to speak to a neighbour who is a BT engineer and he said is was almost certainly a fault at the local exchange, and he suspected that the signal was not being augmented sufficiently to create a ring tone. Calls were getting through but there was no way to tell when there was one there unless I happened to lift the phone just at it came in.

    Now we have to wait in for an engineer and you can put money on him not arriving. And they cannot call me to say so and re-book because their exchange is not working properly!! Back on the merry go round

    I must say the Indian operatives were as helpful as they could be and one gave me a code number for my specific complaint which meant that when I called back again, and again, and again I quoted this and each new operative was able to look it up. NOTE: ALWAYS ASK FOR THE LOG NUMBER OF YOUR COMPLAINT FOR POSSIBLE LATER USE.

  • 15 days without a phone due to an external fault on the line, 5 engineers all desperately trying to find an internal fault, one stayed for 3 hours, all then say it's an external fault, just waiting for engineer no.6, promised for day 17. Sixth day off work. BT are a shambles and a disgrace.

  • I decided to change provider and how I have been treated by BT is beyond me… my advice is to keep a record of every conversation as they will go back on their word or 'not have recordings' of that conversation. They are bullish and I regret being their customer for 20+ years I wished I had changed provider years ago.

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